How many cars can you name that were far ahead of their time, carried the name of no less than three now-extinct car makers, and paved the way for another revolutionary vehicle - only to be almost completely forgotten? Not many I bet.

And yet, that was the fate of the Matra-Simca Rancho (later to be known as the Talbot Rancho). Matra was (and still is) a French Engineering group who sometimes dabbled in cars. They saw the success of the Range Rover in the 1970s and quickly realised that while most people liked the off-road look, few people actually needed the 4WD capabilities.

How about then taking the mechanicals of a cheap econo box, add some rugged looking body work, jack it up a bit, and create a faux wheel drive for the masses? Sounds very familiar today, but it was a brand new concept in 1977. You could even opt for a third row of seats.

The off-road looking bits were made from polyester and fibreglass and bolted onto a Simca 1100 pick up chassis. Voila - there's the world's first soft-roader.

Advertisement

The polyester body construction method was later used on the Renault Espace - which was also developed by Matra - but that's another story.

They produced about 57,000 Ranchos until 1984 - but today, there are hardly any left. Unfortunately, the bits that weren't polyester rusted rather quickly, and after Simca-Talbot folded, the cars had pretty much zero resale value.

Advertisement