Our younger readers may not be aware of the car manufacturer that’s highlighted in this week’s Rewind, but those of you who were happily jiving to Bohemian Rhapsody when it first came out, you’re certainly old enough to remember Simca (Chrysler owned). However, before we get into that, let’s review what happened in 1976.
It was an eventful year for transport, and not only on the road; Concord made its first commercial flight in what was one of the highest profiled product launched of its time. For those of you who were around in ‘76, one word describes the summer, HOT! An unusually intense heatwave hit the UK, leading to one of the worst droughts in history. In the first week in July, temperatures in Cheltenham reached a sweltering 35.9°C (96.6°F).
In entertainment, one band dominated the charts all year, ABBA. They had 3 number one singles, Mamma Mia, Fernando and Dancing Queen; songs that are still butchered by people like me at weekend Karaoke bars. In 1976 it was the first time we saw David Jason play a lead role in a UK comedy, as Open All Hours was show on BBC2. The comedy classic was fronted by the great Ronnie Barker.
In sport, Sir Chris Hoy was born in 1976. Sir Chris has become one of our most outstanding athletes and has won 6 Olympic gold medals. Finally, it wouldn’t be right to not mention the Formula 1 season from that year as it was full of excitement and drama. It was the year Britain’s James Hunt claimed his only world title after a long fought battle with Niki Lauda. The season will always be remembered for Lauda’s accident at the Nurburgring which cost him the championship, but more importantly, almost cost him his life.
To the car stuff…
Not the most common name in the automotive world, but Simca has actually had two winners of the European Car of the Year award, one of them being the Alpine. Chrysler took over Simca in 1970, and the Alpine was their answer to Europe’s ultimate family car.
The model was judged to be an excellent car for all. It was attractive, it had a practical layout, and it had room to accommodate passengers and luggage. The Alpine also managed to find the balance between good driving pleasure and safe road behaviour.
However it wasn’t all positive as it was marked down on performance as fuel efficiency was effected by their below par push-rod engines.
The popularity of the car was reflected during its 11 year production cycle and was retailed more than any other model the manufacturer sold. The Car of the Year contest in ‘76 was a fairly close one as the BMW 316 finished only 48 points adrift in second place.
You’ll be very lucky to see any of these on the road today, but when they were around, they weren’t bad at all.
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