Simca Talbot Information Centre
Introduced in April 1980 in continental Europe, and two months' later over in the UK, the
Solara was the first car to reveal Talbot's planned move upmarket, saloons being seen as
more prestigious than hatchbacks at that time. It also was the first car to appear with
the familiar T roundel on the radiator grille and the last new car to carry the Simca
badge at the rear, although this was substituted by a Talbot badge on UK models.
The Solara was a clever piece of styling because its side and rear profiles were quite different
to the Alpine on which it was based. All panels from the front up to and including the
rear door were identical. From that point, the car was all new, and was X inches longer
than the Alpine, with a very generous boot. The Solara had an elegant appearance, and was
a fitting successor to the Simca 1301/1501 models. Being based on the Alpine, there were
no mechanical surprises, with the 1294 cc and 1592 cc engines being used on UK built cars,
while most European countries started with the 1442 cc engine, and then the 1592 cc unit.
Trim levels were the usual LS, GL, GLS and top of the range SX which came with
the Talbot Trip Computer, a feature several years ahead of its time. UK versions of the
GLS and SX were fitted with vinyl roofs for the first two years, but buyers the other
side of the Channel fortunately escaped this feature, as it invariably led to rust
forming in the roof underneath the vinyl covering. As with the Alpine, GLS and SX models
initially were supplied with the Citroen CX 5 speed gearbox, while the other models used
the faithful Simca 4 speed gearbox. An automatic gearbox option was also available.
European sales of the Solara were initially very encouraging, but many were at the
expense of the 1510 hatchback (Alpine in the UK). By 1982 it was not proving economic to
build the 1510 in France and it was discontinued that summer, while demand for the Solara
was still quite strong. In the UK Solara sales were slower, and Talbot were very
disappointed that the car failed to crack the all important fleet market despite being
assembled in Britain.
1982 saw the launch of the only Solara limited editions on both sides of the Channel.
British buyers were offered the Solara Sceptre in June which was based on the 1.6 GL but
had two tone paint and a sliding steel sunroof as standard. This was followed that Autumn
by the Solara Vogue, yet another former Rootes name, but only distinguished by standard
auxiliary driving lights and an uprated interior trim. No examples of either model are
known to Simca Club UK. In France buyers could choose the Solara Pullman, which like the
Sceptre came with two tone paint. It also featured alloy wheels, velour upholstery
throughout, and body coloured bumpers, and was certainly the most attractive of the three
limited editions. Fortunately at least two of these cars have survived and been seen at
European Simca Club meetings.
In October 1982 a wide range of modifications were made to the Solara. The Simca and
Citroen gearboxes were replaced by the new Peugeot BE1 gearbox, with 5 speed being
standard across the range with the exception of a new base model, the 1.3 LE, designed
for the fleet market. This LE model was also available as a 1.6 with 5 speed box. The LS
slotted in above the LE, with the range progressing through the well equipped GL to the
very comprehensively specified GLS, which boasted new "pepperpot" style alloy wheels and
two tone metallic paint. The UK cars were branded "Series 2" and carried decals saying
that and "5 Speed" on the rear of their boot lids. The French cars received the same
mechanical changes but the model line up remained the same with the SX at the top of the
Two years later the UK range was reduced to just two models, the Minx and Rapier.
Officially these names replaced the Solara name which disappeared from the price lists,
but Talbot continued to put the Solara badge on the boot lid. This sort of confusion did
not help sales. The Minx was basically a Solara LS with a Peugeot 305 steering wheel and
column stalks instead of the Simca derived ones. The Rapier had the same interior changes
and was based on the former GL, but with alloy wheels as standard. Both models had a new
three bar radiator grille. Features such as central locking, electric windows and
automatic transmission were dropped. Production of these cars finished at Ryton in
Summer 1985, although sufficient stocks remained around the country to see some cars
registered early in 1986.
In France for the 1985 model year the range was trimmed by the deletion of the GLS
but the LS, GL and SX continued with a number of enhancements. As with the British cars,
the new radiator grille, steering wheel and column stalks were fitted. All three models
were given black window surrounds instead of bright metal, deeper bodyside mouldings, and
the bumpers were painted in the body colour. The SX was given a new and much improved
trip computer, and automatic transmission remained as an option on both the GL and SX.
Pepperpot alloys were an option on the SX.
Although production of the Solara ceased at Poissy in the summer of 1985 to make
way for the Peugeot 309, the GL and SX models remained on sale in France and some other
European markets for another year, the cars being built in the Spanish factory at
Villaverde. The Solara range for the Spanish market included a diesel with the 1905 cc
Peugeot unit, but this was not sold outside Spain. One of the 1986 Spanish built Solaras
for the French market appeared at the International Simca meeting in Germany in 1996.
Final production figures for the Solara were 184,976.
Only around 10 Solaras are owned by members of Simca Club UK, but many more can be
found in the Dutch, Danish and German Simca Clubs.
Dick Husband has some spares for Talbot Solaras. Please contact Dick at CB Motors on
02476 325577 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colin Hill specialises in parts for Talbot Solaras. Contact him on 01473 737325 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Click here for the next chapter in the Talbot story.
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