When You Have More Balls Than Sense: Road Racing a Dead-Stock 1971 Simca 1204
When you’ve driven your $500 Citroën ID19 race car from San Diego to Miami and raced a Mini Moke-based Apollo Lunar Rover, where do you go from there? Why, you buy a furiously underpowered, 40-year-old Chrysler of Europe product and race it for 24 straight hours at a high-altitude road course packed with BMW E30s and V8 Detroit bombs. What else could you do?
The Henri ‘Cuda started out life as a 1971 Simca 1204. Chrysler, unable to manufacture a Detroit-designed subcompact that anyone in America would buy, was busy importing rebadged Mitsubishi Colt Galants and Hillman Avengers at the time, but they decided to throw some Simca 1100s onto American showroom floors as well. Simca wasn’t quite a household name in North America at the time, and sales were weak to put it mildly. The ’71 Simca 1204, as the American version was badged, packed 62 horsepower in a 1,204cc front-wheel-drive package (yes, MG fans, that’s the exact same rating as the 1,800cc engine in the ’71 MGB) and sold for $1,693. That was $139 more than the 1971 Fiat 850 sedan, but 222 fewer bucks than the ’71 Plymouth Cricket. Even a Pinto would set you back $1,919 in 1971, so the Simca was quite a deal.
However, the Simca was also a genuinely terrible little car, making even the purgatorially bad Pinto seem solid and luxurious by comparison. That means, of course, that a Simca 1204 starts a LeMons race with a huge advantage in the Index of Effluency trophy race; all a Simca team needs to do to grab LeMons’ top prize is to finish in, say, the top half of the field.
At the Sears Pointless race in March, the Henri Cuda took quite a while to get through the tech inspection and hit the track a bit late in the game. To be honest, it hit the track during the race’s final lap. Spank and his crew had high hopes for the Goin’ For Broken race.
Since it’s not possible to get any replacement parts for a Simca 1204, the Henri Cuda still had its 30-year-old ignition points, factory shocks, and everything else. In fact, other than the addition of a roll cage and a kill switch, the car was painfully, gloriously stock. That meant that the car was going to have a few reliability issues during the course of 24 straight hours of racing. Shift linkage problems and electrical woes required the services of the wrecker on occasion.
Eventually, the Race Director got tired of dropping full-course yellow flags in order to drag the Simca back to the paddock, and issued an ultimatum at about 2:30 AM: One more tow-requiring breakdown and that’s it. Spank and his crew decided to bench the car for a while, but eventually convinced the man in the tower to let the car back out.
It was by far the slowest thing on the track (its quickest lap of 3:44 was nearly a minute slower than the Killer Bees MGB’s best lap, so we’re talking serious slowness), but it also got the most respect from the crowd. Only 35 laps total; not enough for an Index of Effluency this time, but we can count on a strong IOE performance at the next race, now that most of the Henri Cuda’s bugs have been worked out. Well done, Team LeMopar SIMCAcuda!
Writer d'Elegance Brougham Landau.
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