Italy + France: 1969 Simca 1118

Here’s an unusual one; go figure, coming from me. This t-square special is a 1969 Simca 1118. What a sexy name! 1118! If you’re dead-set against square cars, this one isn’t for you, this car defines the “three-box design” better than a lot of cars do. This little French wonder is on craigslist with an asking price of $3,000 and it’s located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, California.

I absolutely love the front of this car, there’s just something about it that gets to me. I wish that the designers, which had roots in Italy as well as in France, had carried out that funky coolness throughout the rest of the car. The Simca 1000 was marketed in the US as the 1118, for its engine displacement.

The back end is.. no wait, this is still the front end.. just kidding. The Simca Mille (1000) is a light car, weighing about 1,600 pounds (730 kg) with only 35% of that weight being in the front. Yep, this is a rear-engine car, and luckily it’s a rear-wheel drive car so as far as traction goes it should be snow-country-friendly. This car weighs over 100 pounds less than a VW beetle does, for a comparison. Inside the “hood”, which is actually the “trunk“, or boot, looks good, although the battery appears to be missing, for some reason? Maybe it’s on a trickle charger or something. And, it’s wet in there, hopefully the hood/trunk seals are good, I’m not sure why it would be wet in there?

I see a lot of Fiat in this car, and in fact, the president of Simca at the time of this car’s design was born in Italy and had known Fiat’s founder. Fiat held the majority stake in Simca until 1963. The Simca Mille, or 1000, was made from 1961 all the way to 1978 and 7,776 of them were made in 1969.

You can see that the door panels are missing, that can’t be good. The seller mentions that this car “drives, stops, current reg in my name. The main seal leaks oil but I have new seals and some other important parts.” I wonder if any of those “important parts” are the door panels? There are two other interior photos, one of the dash and one of the transistor radio, both of which look to be in nice condition. I think the seats have been recovered, too, not that anyone would buy this car in hopes of restoring it for Pebble Beach with the exact interior fabrics and patterns.

Here’s the rear-engine powering this little Boîte (box): a 1.1L, 1,118 CC inline-four with around 56 hp. There will simply not be any tire-screeching with this car, other than maybe on some tight corners. If a person were looking for a highly-unusual car and knew a good, French mechanic, this could be a good one to check out. There doesn’t appear to be any rust on the car and other than an oil leak and it needing door cards, it would be an interesting car for jaunts around the city.


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  1. RayT Member

    My memory’s a bit hazy on these, but I recall stories of them being more prone to wag their tails during cornering than Beetles or Corvairs. They may not have been speed demons, but could go fast enough to swap ends….

    As for performance, I would note my later Renault 5 only had 56 hp as delivered, weighed a couple hundred pounds more, but was plenty quick for my needs. (Not, I will add, as satisfying as my second R5 which had a 93-horse Alpine engine, but that’s another story.)

    Carlo Abarth did neat things with rear-engine Simcas, but since this car isn’t one of them, $3K is a bit pricey for my taste. Would be fun to drive briefly, but don’t know if I could live with it.

    Like 1
  2. Rustytech Member

    Hazy? I have no memory of these. Don’t know why, but I like it.

  3. Blyndgesser

    For the man who finds Renaults insufficiently quirky.

  4. LD

    Electric conversion? Good starting weight!

    • Georgemia Member

      Amazingly, when I was in high school, a friend of mine in fact did an electric conversion on one of these.

      When these were marketed in the US they were sold by Chrysler which of the time owned Simca.

      At one point, Simca was actually Ford of France, became part of Fiat, and then became part of Chrysler so it has a complicated history.

  5. Larry K

    I love square cars. Great for bombing around in my city. Lots of roundabouts here.

  6. Dan

    Amazing how many cars borrowed their look from Corvair.

  7. Alan (Michigan)

    When you see Simca, Latka can’t be far away…

    Like 1
    • Mike H. Mike H

      Great reference!

      Like 1
      • DayDreamBeliever Member

        Mike H I didn’t recall you finding that photo, LOL!

  8. Bob

    Simca (Société Industrielle de Mécanique et Carrosserie Automobile) was indeed created by FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) before WW2 to sell cars in France.

  9. rustylink

    totally right about the styling on these – I love the front end/grill but when I saw the rest of the car I yawned, as the rest of the car looks like styling from an early Fiat 128 4 door..

  10. Dolphin Member

    A face only a mother could love.

    • Howard A Member

      Looks angry.

      • JW454

        That’s the sixties version of what is today’s “Sinister” look IE: Camaro, Challenger, Charger, Etc. LOL

  11. Jim

    The first car I ever drove was a Simca! It looked just like this one. I was 13 and our neighbor across the road had one. He let us boys drive it around in his pasture. :)

    • Tony Geloso


      Glad to see somebody else knowledgeable and intimate with these little beauties.

      This was my first car, and was called a 1000 as I understood. It was either a 66′ or a 69. That was in 1970.

      I’ve hoping that there’d be one of these to show up eventually, and I finally get the thing to materialize. If I had the money I just might buy it, but $3K is quite a bit too much for my blood.

      As to performance… maybe I’m old, but it’s just transport. Involving ones ego to the point where it could be used to sell a unit that one really doesn’t need because of price, excessive gadgetry, etc. just doesn’t interest me.

      Something cheap and easy to fix to get one from A to B in relative comfort is all that one really needs. To ‘jazz’ and Gussie something up is stupid and wasteful in more ways than one.

  12. Paul B

    Unstable, noisy, rubbery shift linkage, annoying little cars to drive. We test drove one new in ’67 and my mom pronounced to my dad that she would not be subjected to such a thing. It was somehow just too far down to sink. I was sitting in the back seat with the engine idling high and moaning loudly, becoming more alarmed as we progressed down the street. Dad turned around, and for a bit more cash we bought a Sunbeam Minx from the same Chrysler import dealer. It proved a very solid and comfortable car. This Simca model sold in strong numbers in Europe, which I never could understand. The R8 Renault was a much better and more comfortable vehicle. Even the Citroen Ami 6 had this thing beat for comfort and stability, though with 400cc fewer displacement. Maybe it was price. The Bertone coupes are nice at least. Someone into French cars should buy this but then what would they do with it other than preserve it as history? I’d reach for the keys to almost anything else in my garage if I had to actually go somewhere.

    Like 1
    • njsimca

      In my case it was just the opposite. Mum drove a 1964 Simca 1000 right into the 1970’s before she would give it up. She drove everywhere in all kinds of weather, and we kids loved it too.
      She was loaned a VW Beetle once and an Austin America once when the Simca was in for repairs. She said, “never again, those little cars are crap.” LOL!!!
      Should have introduced our moms!!
      Oh, and I drive a ’65 myself.

  13. Joris Wijnker

    Where is the battery? For a better weight distribution the 1969 models had the battery moved to the front compartiment (under the hood / bonnet….), so therefore you may miss it in the engine bay.

    • Al

      The battery is missing from the front compartment. Terminals are hanging loose.

  14. brakeservo

    I owned a Simca 1000, 1964 model in 1971, or so I think. Was much closer to 950cc though than this “big block 1118” version. Great fun for a high school kid – not fast enough to get in serious trouble (although I did manage to park it on it’s roof while fooling around in a parking lot). Easy to work on – and that was a good thing as it always needed something. Mine had a centrifuge oil cleaner built into the crank pulley – and if the seals for that go, you may lose all oil pressure, which I did on the Ventura Freeway. As I saw the (aftermarket) oil pressure gauge drop to ZERO I knew what happened, I also knew that the parts weren’t available and the end had come – I down shifted into third, revved that little five main bearing four-banger mill as fast as it would go and then “BOOM!” A rod let go, broke through the block. knocked the starter motor hard enough to break it and a chunk of bell housing away, it fell on the hot exhaust system where the battery cable touched ground and started to arc, hot oil whipped through the hole in the side of the engine hit the even hotter muffler, and was ignited by the arcing battery cable. There was nothing left – virtually all the body panels had been bent and dented when I rolled it several weeks earlier and mechanically it was pretty well destroyed – the block was grenaded, pieces of piston embedded themselves in the aluminum head, the broken bell housing was part of the transaxle assembly so nothing to salvage there either.Would love to have another, but not for the price of this one!

    Like 1

      Holy crap!

  15. Pierre Stievenart

    Just like the equivalent NSU and Hillmann/Sunbeam Imp, the Simca 1000 was inspired by the Corvair (shape, rear engine). It’s a squeezed down Vair with a handling worse than the Nadermobile. I had a Imp: small but nervous engine, alas no brakes.

  16. Ernie the Dancing Weasel

    Remember them? I actually rode in one (okay, it was a body shell) at the Chrysler exhibit ’65 New York World’s Fair. Production line ride. That and sweet, sweet Turbine cars…man, that was an awesome time…

    Like 2
  17. Rustytech Member

    I was at the 1965 NY worlds fair, still don’t remember these, though I never forgot a ride very much like this in a 1965 Mustang! Amazing what can stick in the mind of a 12 year old.

  18. Jubjub

    Wonder how it ended up in the US. No side markers and every one I ever saw had the earlier round taillamps. Cool little car.

  19. Joe

    I had one around 1974-5 for about a year. Beige/beige, 4 spd. Perfect condition with very comfortable seats. Never gave me one problem. It wasn’t fast, but I think it could get up to about 80 mph. It was a “momentum” car and I ran it flat out everywhere. I would love to have another one, but in better cond. than this one.

  20. G 1

    We had a 65.Would smoke a VW but a Mini Cooper was a good race.

  21. Vince

    My friend had one. It was his second one. He loved them.

  22. Jim Mardis

    I had three of these. My first car was a Simca 1000 that I bought for $75.00 in high school. Kept overheating,. Rebuilt the engine with JCWhitney parts. Still ran hot. Dealer could not figure it out. So, I went to the shore with a gallon or two of water in jugs and the heater running. Engine froze a bearing to the connecting rod and I tore it down again. This time I found the issue. An “oil slinger” issue. A bevel shaped cone on the front of the crank shaft had become infused/clogged with a gelatinous black tar. Apparently it was supposed to be cleaned on a regular basis. Centrifugal force would send dirty oil to the outside of the slinger and clean oil would enter the crankshaft. (supposedly). Anyway, clean that and never had another problem. I always kept a second or third 1000 on hand for parts. Once I found a 1118 in a junkyard. Guy sold it to me for $10.00. Cut the wires, undid three bolts and dropped the engine on the ground right there in the woods. Turned the car over(with the help of a friend) and threw the engine in the back of his truck. Installed it in the 1000 and it was the best engine I ever ran in it. Had it painted at Earl Scheib’s. I loved that car but it truely was a piece of garbage. Great seats though. I could bore with you many more Simca 1000 stories. I knew them inside and out. My first engine tear down. BTW: You do NOT want to get into an accident in one of them. You won’t win.

    Like 1

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