Wednesday 5 December 2012
The Simca Vedette is a large car, manufactured from 1954 to 1961 by the French automaker Simca, at their factory in Poissy, France. It was marketed with different model names according to trim and equipment levels. The Vedette was Simca's largest model at that time and it spawned a more economical version, the Simca Ariane.
Simca acquired the Poissy factory from Ford France (Ford Société Anonyme Française, the French subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company), along with the model line, in 1954. The Vedette was therefore initially still marketed as the Ford Vedette.
The Vedette was manufactured in Poissy until 1961 and the Ariane until 1963. After that, production continued in Brazil, where the Vedette finally evolved into the Simca Esplanada, following Simca's takeover by Chrysler.
In the early 1950s, Henri Théodore Pigozzi was looking to expand the manufacturing operations of his Simca company, which was enjoying much success at the time, thanks to the popular Aronde. At the same time, Ford was seeking to divest itself of its French subsidiary, Ford SAF, which had a factory in Poissy, close to Paris, where it had been manufacturing a large car called the Ford Vedette. The Poissy plant was large and there was capacity for further expansion. The Vedette was a larger car than anything that Simca had on offer at that time. These points attracted Pigozzi, who decided to take over the entire factory, along with the rights to the cars manufactured there.
The acquisition by Pigozzi took place in July 1954, just when Ford was poised to launch its new, modern Vedette, with a four-door saloon body of "American" style, much like the contemporary British Fords or Vauxhalls. The car was powered by an unusually small 2,351 cc sidevalve V8 engine called Aquillon in France, derived from Ford's Flathead engine family, the dimensions of which put the car into the "13 CV" French tax class. Equipped with a two-barrel Zenith-Stromberg 32NX carburetor, it produced 75 to 84 hp (56 to 63 kW). Power was transferred to the rear live axle through a three-speed manual transmission with column shift. The Vedette had independent front suspension (by MacPherson struts) and drum brakes on all four wheels.
As with the Aronde, Simca marketed different trim levels of the Vedette under different model names, this time with references to the grand period of baroque in French history. The basic version was called the Simca Vedette Trianon, the mid-level was the Simca Vedette Versailles and, at the top of the range, the Simca Vedette Régence. An interesting option on all versions was a large glass moonroof that slid into the roof, called Vistadome The Vedette range was still marketed under the Ford brand in some markets, including the Netherlands and Germany, until 1956. As the new model caught on, Simca was able to increase production from the 150 daily achieved during Ford's ownership of the factory to 250 cars a day.
Pigozzi maintained a schedule of year-to-year model revisions, much like American manufacturers. For 1956, an estate version called the Simca Vedette Marly joined the line-up and the whole range was revised. A new license plate holder was added to the front bumper and the rear license plate now concealed the fuel tank filler. A peculiar addition was a pedal-operated windscreen washer, while other more ordinary changes included a second odometer, also known as a 'trip meter', for measuring partial distances. The Versailles and Régence were made even more comfortable with the addition of central armrests (Versailles in the rear only, Régence in front and rear), while the Trianon was simplified, losing bumper guards and chrome windscreen decor. In 1957, an option of the Gravina automatic clutch was added, along with better brakes and more direct steering. The Trianon regained the chrome decor around the windscreen, while the other models acquired slimmer tail lights and the front ornament was replaced with a new design. Fender-mounted V8 badges were introduced but, although the whole range featured the same V8 engine, the new badges appeared on the fenders of only the Régence and Marly.
- engine: V8
- capacity: 2351 cc
- horsepower: 84 HP
- gearbox: 3+1
- top speed: 145 km/h