Simca Talbot Information Centre
Talbot Matra Rancho
The Rancho occupies a significant place in the history of late 20th century car design,
as it created a new market for rugged looking vehicles which had saloon car comforts but
cost less than half the price of a Range Rover.
Following the good reception the Matra Simca Bagheera enjoyed from its launch in
1973, Matra and Simca were keen to produce another car. As with the Bagheera, the
intention was to keep costs down by using as many existing Simca components as possible.
Matra decided to develop a utility vehicle capable of off-road work, but without the
expense of four wheel drive.
Matra's engineers took as their starting point the Simca 1100 pick-up and
lengthened the chassis to accept a roomy estate car body produced in glass fibre and
polyester. The front bonnet, front wings, doors, and windscreen of the 1100 were all
used, although the rugged appearance of the vehicle was achieved by adding heavy plastic
mouldings round the wheel arches, and similar mouldings along the bodyside. A split
tailgate was fitted, so designed that when the top part was open, it provided shelter
from the rain when loading. The lower tailgate folded flat to facilitate loading awkward
Matra selected the 1442 cc engine used in the Chrysler Alpine which developed 80
bhp and provided adequate power for the Rancho. Top speed was around 90 mph, good for
such a bulky vehicle. Independent suspension font and rear using torsion bars,
longitudinal in the front and transverse mounted at the rear, was taken from the Simca
1100 and provided an excellent ride. Also taken from the 1100, in particular from the GLS
model, were the front seats with head restraints and the complete dashboard and
Since it was only font wheel drive, the Rancho's ability as an off-road vehicle
was limited, but the generous ground clearance ensured that the underneath of the car
remained clear of mud when crossing rough ground. Chrysler France launched the car in
1977 and it quickly became a strong seller in Europe. It reached 4th place in that year's
Car of the Year competition, the top 3 places being taken by the Porsche 928, BMW 7-
Series and Ford Granada Mark II.
Imports into the UK did not start until May 1978. British versions of the car
were supplied with two moveable spotlights mounted on top of the scuttle panel, a move
which was to accelerate the arrival of rust, but made the car look even more purposeful.
The Rancho captured the imagination of those members of the British public who wanted a
Range Rover, but probably because of the expense had not bought one. It was tested by
both Autocar and Motor, and both magazines were impressed. At £5,670, The Rancho was
quite expensive by 1978 standards, but the Range Rover was £9,815. Unlike today, there
were no other similar vehicles available, so it was little wonder that the Rancho had
With the introduction of the new Talbot marque, the Rancho's pricing in the UK
was made more attractive, virtually freezing the price at £5,939 in 1980, while the Range
Rover by then was twice that sum. The car was now known as the Talbot Matra Rancho and
updated with electronic ignition and an economy carburettor. Its usefulness was further
enhanced by fitting an extra row of rear-facing seats, primarily for children.
By this time in mainland Europe, a range of Rancho models were available. The
simply named Rancho was the basic model. Next was the Grand Raid, which featured an
electric winch mounted on the front bumper, and a roof mounted spare wheel. Then there
was the Decouvrable, which was an open version of the Rancho. The top rear section of the
car was replaced by a basic frame to which was fitted roll up fabric and flexi glaze
screens to keep the rain out; in good weather these were rolled up out of the way to
reveal an open Rancho. This model was only produced for a short time and is very rare
today. Top of the range was the Rancho X, which had alloy wheels, velour upholstery, a
more comprehensive instrument panel including a tachometer, and metallic paint.
While no further changes were made to the UK model, the Grand raid was deleted in
1982 and replaced with the Rancho AS. This car was not fitted with rear seats, so
allowing it to be exempt from the French equivalent of car tax. Such vehicles were quite
common in France, and AS versions of the Simca 1100 and Talbot Samba were also produced.
When Peugeot sold the shares it had in Matra, it was clear that the Rancho would
not survive for long, and it last appeared in a UK Peugeot Talbot price list in January
1985. The last vehicles were made early in 1984. But the Rancho had been a great success;
it had been intended to make only 20,000, but total production was 57,792. Matra's
replacement for the Rancho, the Espace, was to become even more successful and accelerate
the MPV revolution started by its predecessor.
For more information on the Rancho, click on the link to the Matra Enthusiasts Club.
Click here for the next chapter in the Talbot story.
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