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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides classic talbot is a simca or matra and always a rancho

Today’s Rare Ride was inspired directly by this 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]

Join the conversation
2 of 16 comments
  • 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.

  • Bof65705611 Yearly inspections is overkill. Ontario requires safety certification only when vehicles change hands. This makes sense because as cars age and become more iffy, they are flipped more regularly.
  • 56m65711446 Well, I had a suburban auto repair shop in those days.
  • Dukeisduke Yikes - reading the recall info from NHTSA, this sounds like the Hyundai/Kia 2.4l Theta II "engine fire" recall, since it involves an engine block or oil pan "breach", so basically, throwing a rod:"Description of the Safety Risk : Engine oil and/or fuel vapor that accumulates near a sufficiently hot surface, below the combustion initiation flame speed, may ignite resulting in an under hood fire, and increasing the risk of injury. Description of the Cause :Isolated engine manufacturing issues have resulted in 2.5L HEV/PHEV engine failures involving engine block or oil pan breach. In the event of an engine block or oil pan breach, the HEV/PHEV system continues to propel the vehicle allowing the customer to continue to drive the vehicle. As the customer continues to drive after a block breach, oil and/or fuel vapor continues to be expelled and accumulates near ignition sources, primarily expected to be the exhaust system. Identification of Any Warning that can Occur :Engine failure is expected to produce loud noises (example: metal-to-metal clank) audible to the vehicle’s occupants. An engine failure will also result in a reduction in engine torque. In Owner Letters mailed to customers, Ford will advise customers to safely park and shut off the engine as promptly as possible upon hearing unexpected engine noises, after experiencing an unexpected torque reduction, or if smoke is observed emanating from the engine compartment."
  • Dukeisduke In an ideal world, cars would be inspected in the way the MoT in the UK does it, or the TÜV in Germany. But realistically, a lot of people can't afford to keep their cars to such a high standard since they need them for work, and widespread public transit isn't a thing here.I would like the inspections to stick around (I've lived in Texas all my life, and annual inspections have always been a thing), but there's so much cheating going on (and more and more people don't bother to get their cars inspected or registration renewed), so without rigorous enforcement (which is basically a cop noticing your windshield sticker is out of date, or pulling you over for an equipment violation), there's no real point anymore.
  • Zipper69 Arriving in Florida from Europe and finding ZERO inspection procedures I envisioned roads crawling with wrecks held together with baling wire, duct tape and prayer.Such proved NOT to be the case, plenty of 20-30 year old cars and trucks around but clearly "unsafe at any speed" vehicles are few and far between.Could this be because the median age here is 95, so a lot of low mileage vehicles keep entering the market as the owners expire?