Rare Rides: Classic Talbot is a Simca or Matra, and Always a Rancho

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Today’s Rare Ride was inspired directly by this comment on the Question of the Day, where I asked which car brand you’d bring back from the dead if given the chance. Commenter Menlo suggested the oft-forgotten Talbot, and specifically a unique vehicle they used to make.

Now we can all learn about the Matra Rancho.

First, a short dissertation on branding and business. Matra was a French engineering company that produced cars, bikes, planes, and weapons from 1964 until its closure in 2003. The company branded vehicles under the Matra, Simca, and Talbot marques depending on geography and time of day.

Matra also developed the segment-defining Espace (which then-owner Peugeot declined to make, so the company took it to Renault) as successor to the Rancho we see here. When the hammer came down in 2003, Matra had recently completed one final project: a big MPV which would eventually become everyone’s favorite Renault (speaking of future Rare Rides ideas), the Avantime.

Matra’s automotive arm began to wind down in the early 1990s, after the company was made a part of a larger conglomerate. Matra, Hachette & Lagardère (now known simply as Lagardère) was formed in 1992 and gradually narrowed its focus. Attention moved from engineering pursuits to publishing, travel, sports, and entertainment. You’ll notice cars aren’t on that list. Console yourselves with this photo.

In production from 1977 through 1984, the Matra-Simca Rancho launched at the beginning of the new personal off-road vehicle market created by the Range Rover. There appears to be a very French suspension access mode on this example, to assist in loading.

Matra took its offering in a different direction, marketing the Rancho as a low-cost Range Rover alternative to the masses. To that end, it was front-drive only. As the Rancho launched in 1977, Simca was owned by Chrysler Europe. Financial woes forced the company to sell the entire division to Peugeot PSA in 1978. At that time, Simca was rebranded as Talbot, and the model became the Talbot Matra Rancho.

There were a wide range of options for the Rancho. An electric winch, roof racks with spare wheels, or a limited-slip differential were available. There was also a variant with removable fabric panels at the rear, turning the vehicle into an open-air exploring machine. This one has some lovely plaid seats.

While not equipped on this specific 1983 example, a third row seat was also an option, making this a seven-seat family vehicle.

According to Wikipedia, Matra produced nearly 58,000 Ranchos. While that production figure sounds fairly high, we’re talking about a very old French car, with no examples sold in North America. Learning about this Talbot makes me think we could use a Ford Transit Rancho right about now.

As a side note, KGF Classic Cars has a link on their page to many high quality Flickr images and video of this vehicle – I thoroughly recommend you check it out.

[Images: KGF Classic Cars]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • ZCD2.7T ZCD2.7T on Jun 22, 2017

    I was on a foreign study program in Caen, France (eh oui!) in 1981, and my host family owned a Rancho, along with a Citroen BX "Break" (wagon). The Rancho seemed to me at the time to be a great idea - practical room for people and stuff, some pretense of off-road capability, and actually fun to drive. I've often thought since then that something like it would have done well in the US market. In many ways, it was a precursor to the flood of SUV/CUVs that followed.

  • Spreadsheet monkey Spreadsheet monkey on Jun 23, 2017

    Glad you find KGF's showroom interesting from your side of the pond. KGF sells a few classic Porsches and 1960s/70s British sports cars, but specialises in ultra low mileage mundane cars from the 1980s and 1990s at strong prices.

  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM "Research" labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He had no objection from GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. (basically he goofed off two entire afternoons out of the five) He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!
  • 3-On-The-Tree I only buy Toyota cars. But if the Chinese cars are cheap people will buy them. They don’t care about the above issues that were stated in this forum.
  • Tassos Ford models are like dumb Hollywood movies. The original is far better than their god damned sequels. This was true of the Mustang vs the II, AND the Capri vs its second gen, and their BEV PORKER atrocities many decades later
  • Jeff I would not buy a Chinese car with the current global situation with Taiwan and Ukraine but I believe eventually China will become the number 1 producer of vehicles globally. Lou brought up a valid point that much of the content of new vehicles has components made in China. Even many of the tires that are sold are made in China. Try buying a small appliance or electronics that are not made in China. Many of the electric motors that go in power reclining furniture are made in China. Many auto parts especially replacement parts are made in China.