Classic cars: A rare 1962 Simca Aronde
This 1962 Simca Aronde has been in the same family all its life. Yvette Crombie’s father bought it new, passing it 18 years later to Yvette and her husband, Gerard.
Simca was a French car maker founded in 1934 by Fiat. For a while it was one of France’s biggest vehicle manufacturers. This Aronde was its first model not based on a Fiat: later the brand had other links, it owned Ford’s French activities for some years — during which it built the Vedette, powered by a V8 Ford motor — then came under Chrysler control. In 1978 it closed for good after sale to PSA Peugeot Citroen.
Simcas were built in small numbers at NZ Motor Bodies in Mt Wellington from 1960 – starting at a rate of 1.5 per day – and this was one of them, which meant it could be bought without overseas funds. Not many survive, with only six Arondes – also known as Etoile – four Vedettes and one Ariane still registered, plus a smattering of other models, including two Bagheeras.
Yvette and Gerard Crombie love their 1962 Simca Aronde. Pictures / Jacqui Madelin
This was the first new car Yvette’s family owned, and her dad used it to get to work.
She was 12 at the time, and a few years later, “I wasn’t allowed to get my licence in it, dad had a Ford Thames van with floor shift, and I learned to drive and got my licence in that – I was only occasionally allowed to drive it until they got another car!”
After Yvette and Gerard married, they had the one car and Yvette would take Gerard to work in it, then collect him later.
So her dad gave them the Simca to use, and when Gerard got a company car, they kept it.
“It became sort of a keepsake car, and eventually our oldest used to take the three other kids to school each day in it.”
It’s never been off the road for any great length of time.
“Though there were times it went for a run only because it hadn’t been used for a while.”
Their car has averaged only 1600 miles a year (2575km) and is very original, including a working radio – standard at a time when they were extras in many cars, though Gerard has installed an MP3 plug, and changed the crossply tyres for radial.
“That was like upgrading the whole suspension, the rubber was so hard – we should have changed it years ago.”
As for the heater, also standard, they rarely use it as the switch is under the bonnet, so they have to stop and get out to turn it on.
The original car had no engine-temperature gauge, so there’s now one discreetly tucked beneath the dash, as Gerard split the radiator hose, and inserted a collar with a temperature probe. “It’s had some rust taken out and some repainting done,” though that was confined to lower panels. The car used quite a bit of plastic – including for inside door trim – which like the rest of the cabin is original, and in great condition apart from the steering wheel collar, which has shrunk.
The writing on the speedo looks very, um, wobbly, too. Gerard thinks it came like that and assumes the French km/h was replaced with New Zealand mph at the factory.
Yvette’s dad used to do all his own maintenance.
“Back then boys grew up with the ability to do it.”
He had a big garage space, and built a pit to get beneath it, even though he was an electrician, not a mechanic.
Then Gerard took over the maintenance but he now sends it to a mechanic.
There’s no problem getting parts, “It’s surprising how many new-old spares there are. It needed bearings two or three years ago and we managed to source two sets, one from Christchurch via Wanganui, and the other direct from Wanganui.”
The car’s 1290cc in-line four-cylinder motor and four-speed transmission with column change mean it cruises comfortably at 80km/h, “We don't tend to push it very hard. If need be, we pull over.”
They used to take turns driving it, but since Yvette had knee surgery she leaves the driving to Gerard,
“I used to love driving cars. An auto is just steering cars. We insisted all our kids learn to drive in a manual.”
There’s no club for Simca here – the couple joined the Australian one – which is why they’re in the Humber car club, thanks to the 1960s Chrysler connection when that brand owned Humber and Simca.
The car is regularly used for club runs, to Raglan and Whangarei, Dargaville and Waihi,
“We do enjoy going to shows – it’s always the only Simca, except for once, at a show in Wanganui.”
Not surprisingly, given its rarity, they’ve never seen another in Auckland, but there must be folk with plenty of Simca memories.
They still recall their first trip away in the car, when it belonged to Yvette’s dad, and hit roadworks. “There was a big boulder we couldn’t avoid, the car leaped in the air, landed on all four wheels – and no damage was done!”
They built them solid in those days ...