The Matra Rancho was another of those innovative products that might have initially looked like the answer to a question that no-one had asked – but actually worked very well’
It ended up selling in substantial number – 56,700 between 1977-1985. The Simca 1100 VF3 van was the unlikely starting point for Matra’s pioneering Rancho – a brilliant idea that has since gone on to become a popular sector of the market: the ‘urban on-roader’.
The faux off-roader was sneered at by the press at the time, but customers loved them, and the Rancho became established street furniture. Rough and tough, with big plastic bumpers, it was perfect for mean city streets, but the 1.4-litre Simca engine struggled to haul the large body on the motorway.
Engines became rattly almost the moment it left the factory, and rust set-in soon after – the rear section was glassfibre, so at least some of it would survive unscathed.
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The 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho is one of those wonderful cars that made more of an impact than anyone realised at the time of its launch. Today, no-one would bat an eyelid if a manufacturer launched a chunky-looking van-based lifestyle vehicle with looks that hinted at off-road ability– but back in the late 1970s, this was radical stuff. Here’s its story.
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