Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Rancho By Any Other Name.

Recently I was digging through some old photos I had stored in a folder on my computer, and came across a rather interesting vehicle I had almost forgotten about. I remember exactly where I saw it and stopped to take pictures, even thought it was around 6 years ago. It really caught my attention at the time, and since then I don't think that I have seen another one.
The name 'Talbot Matra' was plastered across the front and 'Rancho' across the back, so it was easy enough to look it up online. What I found out is that a little over 55,000 units were produced between 1977 and 1983. It was created as a partnership between the two automakers Simca (originally a Fiat brand created specifically to build cars in France) and Matra (a diverse French industrial company that included an automotive division).
But wait, why does this vehicle (more on it later) have the name Talbot-Matra on the hood? Talbot was another French brand that started back in 1903, and existed up until 1992 (albeit after an 18-year hiatus in the 1960s and 1970s).

How many names does one vehicle need???

In the end it is easy enough to understand: Matra Automotive (which would become affiliated with Renault from the mid 1980s until the mid 2000s, before folding) worked with Simca (which at the end of the 1970s was no longer part of Fiat and was instead a Chrysler brand) to build this new 3-door sport utility vehicle (before the SUV craze even existed). It used a Simca platform, Chrysler-Simca motor, and a unique rear compartment designed by Matra...
Okay, so not so easy. And it gets even messier! Right around the time the Rancho hit the streets, Chrysler Europe collapsed, and the Simca name was sold to PSA, the parent company of Peugeot and Citroen. The Matra-Simca Rancho would exist for three years before PSA decided to axe the Simca brand name, and resurrect the Talbot name. The cobbled-together utility vehicle was then sold until the end of its short life as the Talbot-Matra Rancho.

I even have the mathematical formula, if that helps...

(((FiatSimca-Fiat)+Chrysler)/Chrysler)+((Matra*PSA)*PSA^(-1)) {where Simca-->Talbot} = Talbot Matra

Voila! Clear as mud, right?
Identity crisis aside, the Rancho has a bit of a cult following. It is not as collectible as the Renault Rodeo, Citroen Mehari, VW Thing or Mini Moke topless beach buggies, but still has enough of a unique, rugged look and quirky appeal to earn its place on an automotive fan's wall of fame. It lacked a 4x4 system (it was front-wheel drive like the Simca 1100 it was based on), so it wasn't a true off-road vehicle, but it still had decent ground clearance and some Jeep-like touches (roof rack, external spare tire, spotlights) that appealed to those that like to get their vehicle dirty on the weekend.

Sorry for the headache, but I hope that you all find the Rancho and its name evolution history as interesting as me!


  1. Can't stop thinking about this, I'd love to outfit one as a mini camper...

  2. Found a great Facebook page dedicated to the Rancho:

    There are even more fans of this car than I imagined, long live the Rancho!!!


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