Motoring Trailblazers - Matra-Simca Rancho

Sat 10th Nov 2018

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Matra-Simca Rancho
When Range Rover sparked a trend for off-road vehicles in the 1970s there were many keen to imitate, though the success of the copycats was varied.

Even today, there are many vehicles that suggest off-road capabilities, when in reality they are just a bigger car, with bigger wheels. These MPVs or SUVs are as popular as ever, but not many showroom assistants would ever suggest driving up a mountain in them.

In 1977, a French company Matra, produced what many might see as the forerunner of an SUV or MPV, it looked like a Range Rover, but had few of its abilities, but the upside was that it didn’t come with the large price tag either.

Matra partnered with Simca to build the Rancho, one of the most endearing vehicles of its generation.

Designed by Antonis Volanis, a Greek who would later inspire a bonafide MPV, the Renault Espace, the Rancho was essentially a ‘pick-up’ version of Simca’s supermini, the Simca 1100. Volanis used fibreglass and polyester designing to make the larger vehicle look more sturdy, a design element which Volanis would put to use later in his career with the Espace. The Rancho also had increased ground clearance, but unlike most off-roaders of its time it did not have all-wheel drive.

When Chrysler owned Simca was sold to PSA the car was rebranded as the Talbot Matra Rancho from 1980 to 1984, but this didn’t affect sales, with a total of 57,792 sold in its seven year run.

Volanis had hoped to expand on his plans for the MPV capabilities of his Rancho, but Peugeot opted against the development and thus the Greek designer took his designs to Renault where the Espace came to dominate the future of people carriers.