Matra-Simca Rancho

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Matra-Simca Rancho

1977 - 1984
4 cyl.
1442 cc
80 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
Number Built:
3 star
When we started researching the Rancho, our first thoughs were that it appeared like a flamboyant rival for the more stylish and prestigious off-road vehicles such as the Range Rover or the Jeep Cherokee, but we soon realised that appearances can be deceptive.

The transversely mounted, 1442 cc, four-cylinder engine came from the French Chrysler Alpine, as did the gearbox and drive train, although admittedly the latter components were modified somewhat for a harder life. The floor pan and the suspension units were from the Simca 1100 range, and so the Rancho was endowed with a compliant and tough suspension by front wishbones and longitudinal torsion bars, with anti-roll bar, and trailing swinging arms with transverse torsion bars at the rear.

That meant that, mechanically, the Rancho was a conventional front-wheel-drive sedan underneath its extravagant superstructure, but of course it was the body which created the most interest in the vehicle. While the front was metal, the rear was fabricated in weight-saving glassfibre, and this helps to explain how the relatively small, 1.5-liter engine that produced only 80 bhp at 5600 rpm could haul what was, by European standards anyway, a large body around at speeds up to 90 mph.

Considering the obviously less than optimum coefficient of drag of the Rancho, the 0-60 mph acceleration time of 14 seconds was particularly creditable. Again an initial reaction was to think that performance figures like these were largely irrelevant as the Rancho looked like it was designed for use on the farm, ranch, or even safari, where. points like ground clearance, four-wheel drive, and good torque might be considered more important.

Unfortunately it was in an off-road context that the Rancho was found lacking; its good ground clearance of nearly 7 inches was a major plus factor, as was the robust suspension which strengthened a general suspicion that most French sedans' suspension was designed with off-road use in mind. In other respects the Rancho was not able to compete; a small engine and front-wheel drive alone put the car at a disadvantage in heavy going.

During its life, the Rancho was offered in several versions. Apart from the basic Rancho, there was the Grand Raid, fitted with such "off-road" extras as an electric winch on the front bumper and the spare wheel mounted on the roof - as well as a limited-slip differential. The Rancho X was the upscale model, with additional standard items such as alloy wheels and metallic paint. The Découvrable model's rear cabin consisted of an open frame with roll-down fabric covers, which could serve as an "open" car during good weather. Finally, the Rancho AS was the commercial version, with no rear seat, making it exempt from the French tax on passenger cars.

The vehicle that Matra proposed to PSA as a replacement for the Rancho (which had been available with two extra, rear-facing seats) was a "monospace" (single box shape) concept, with flexible seating, which was ultimately rejected by Talbot's parent company. However, Matra managed to sell it to Renault and it became the Renault Espace.

Matra Rancho Quick Specifications:

Engine: Front; transverse mounted, in-line, four-cylinder. 76.7 mm (3.02in) bore x 78mm (3.07 in) stroke = 7442cc (88cu in). Maximum power (DIN) 80 bhp @ 5600rpm; Maximum torque (DIN) 87tb ft at 3000rpm; cast-iron cylinder block and light-al/oy head. Compression ratio 9.5:7. 5 main bearings. 2 valves per cylinder operated via rockers and pushrods by single block mounted camshaft. Single Weber 36 DCNVA downdraught twin barrel carburetor.
Transmission: Single dry plate clutch and manual four-speed gearbox. Ratios 1st 3.900, 2nd 2.312, 3rd 7.524, 4th 1.080, reverse 3.769. Cylindrical gear final drive, ratio. 3.706:1.
Steering: Rack and pinion. Turns from lock to Jock 3.75.
Brakes: Discs front and drums rear.
Wheels: 5.5in x 14in.
Tires: 185/70SR x 14 inch.
Body/chassis: 3 door, Integral.
Dimensions and weight: Wheelbase 99.21 in; track-front 55.51 in rear- 53:15in; length 169.68in; width 65.35 in; height 68. 71Jn: ground clearance 6.57 in; weight 2492Ib; turning, circle 36.1 ft: fuel tank capacity 73.2 gal.
Performance: Maximum speed 90 mph: acceleration 0-60mph 14.2 scs; fuel consumption approx. 25mpg.
Matra-Simca Rancho

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