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Chrysler Alpine and SIMCA 1307/1308


This striking new car was first unveiled to the press in July 1975. In the UK, it was called the Chrysler Alpine, and the Sunbeam Rapier based Alpine fastback was discontinued to make way for it. In France and most of Europe it was known as the Simca 1307and 1308, but in Spain it was sold as the Chrysler 150. Despite this complicated identity, the car was to be a great success in most markets in its first few years.

Like Concorde, the Alpine was a good example of Anglo-French co-operation. It was based on the very popular Simca 1100, but with an extended wheelbase and coil springs at the rear instead of torsion bars. The engines were modified Simca 1100 units of 1294 and 1442cc. All the mechanical design was done in France, while the body was styled in the UK, by Roy Axe, who a few years earlier had styled the Hillman Avenger. His five door hatchback styling was both simple and practical. Those who had written off Chrysler as a force in the UK market had to admit that they liked the clean styling of the Alpine, with its sloping tailgate, and integral plastic bumpers (then very unusual). Interior styling was also attractive, and the dashboard looked futuristic in 1975.

Although the Alpine was displayed at the 1975 Earls Court Motor Show, UK sales did not start until the end of March 1976. In France and in its Simca guise, sales started in October 1975, and it soon became apparent that Simca had a winner, with over 250,000 cars built by mid 1976. The 1307 had the 1294cc engine, and the 1308 was fitted with the 1442cc unit. In the UK these models were known as the Alpine GL and the Alpine S respectively. All UK Alpines sold before October 1976 were built at the Simca factory at Poissy, but from that point CKD kits were sent to the old Rootes Group factory at Ryton near Coventry to facilitate UK assembly, which continued for the rest of the car's production. The car won the Car of the Year award in 1976, the first Simca to do so.

The UK range was boosted by the launch of the Alpine GLS in October 1976. This boasted such luxury items as headlamp wash/wipe, electric windows and velour upholstery, with the same 1442cc power plant. In France a similar model was called the 1308 GT. Sales of the Alpine were good in the UK, but it was in France where it enjoyed runaway success, and by the time the Chrysler era ended in 1979, 778,240 cars had been sold. 1979 saw the introduction of an automatic version of the car in France, called the Simca 1309 SX, which had a bored out version of the 1442cc engine which took it to 1592cc. At least one UK version of this car was built, but it was not until 1980 that this engine was to be available on the UK market, by which time the Alpine had been face lifted and had a new identity. Also in 1979 a limited edition of the car was introduced in France, called the 1308 Jubilee. It was based on the 1308 GT and featured two tone paint, alloy wheels and a sliding sunroof.

For spares try Dick Husband, CB Motors on 02476 325577.

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