One man’s lack of mechanical skills is another man with better mechanical skills’ good fortune.
That was the basic message behind Paul Phillips’ story when it came to his 1963 Simca.
The car was previously owned by a woman who had a mechanical problem with the car shortly before she moved to New York and found romance. The woman stayed in New York and sold the Simca to the first person who wanted a French car that didn’t run as a pet project.
The guy who bought the Simca ran headlong into the Dirty Harry credo that clearly states that a “man has got to know his limitations”, a message that was not lost on a shade tree mechanic with a very limited skill set.
Luck was on Paul’s side because he was in an early search for a practical little car that could haul his young family around at a reasonable cost when the Simca crossed his path. Paul wanted an original car and a little French import that was untouched by any custom or resto-mod game plan was right up his alley.
Paul is a restaurant owner but he was clearly ahead of the mechanical curve when he discovered that his 49,000 mile (80,000 km) Simca had fuel and ignition issues. Most gear-heads will look for the usual suspects when an engine won’t fire because they need a spark and fuel to make explosions in the piston chambers.
It is that simple and it is also that complicated because they have to track down the causes when an engine refuses to fire for a car guy. Paul found an unconnected ground wire in the distributor was the last piece of the puzzle and the Simca roared back to life in a small four cylinder engine kind of way.
The Simca is not exactly a speed demon and Paul has found that the car likes a maximum cruising speed of about 55 mph (90 km/h) when Paul and his family hit the road.
The Simca has a four-on-the-tree manual transmission that was fairly common in European cars in a bygone era. First gear in the Simca is essentially the car equivalent of our old truck stump-buster, bull-low first gears found on the floor-mounted 4-speeds that were common is an earlier era of pickups from Detroit.
Few drivers would likely bother to start their vehicles in first gear in either the European cars or the North American trucks from the past because it was a waste of time, given the extremely low gear ratio in first.
We ran into Paul and his family many times at shows during the summer of 2012. The little Simca was a regular visitor to our town’s weekly drop-in show, plus Paul and his crew traveled further afield to other towns in the little French sedan.
The Simca was a very practical purchase for Paul because he has been able to jump into the collector car world with a very unusual little car that attracts a lot of attention at shows.
You just do not see many Simcas at car shows and we jumped at the opportunity to interview Paul when he first appeared in his French family-hauler at a car show.