Without a doubt, 1961 was one of the most prolific years, maybe the most prolific — for totally new cars.

I’m not talking about mildly face lifted models, such as the EK Holden or Riley Elf. 

I mean new cars. 

In this multi-part series, I cover this incredible year of automotive history. 

Part one begins in France.

 

Citroen Ami

Only Citroen could let this car escape its styling studios. 

The Ami was built on the 2CV frame. 

Power came from a 602cc twin-cylinder engine. 

Sliding windows kept the price low, but it was still 30 per cent more than the 2CV. 

The reverse angle rear pillar and window has always required a deft styling hand to make outcome look right. 

The Ami was not one of those cars on which such deftness was applied.

The shape kept the buyers away. 

When it was discontinued in 1978 only 720,000 had been sold.

Along with the 1960 Ford Taunus 17M, it pioneered oval headlights.

 

Renault 3/4

The 3/4 was Renault’s first front-wheel drive car and marked the beginning of the transition from the company’s rear engine models.

Sharing the same body, the el-cheapo 3 had a 603cc engine, while the better equipped 4 boasted a 747cc unit.

Replacing Renault’s 4CV model, the 3/4 was unashamedly based on Citroen’s Ami/2CV. 

The hatchback’s practicality and simple styling led to over 1 million sales in just four years. 

The 3 was withdrawn in 1962. 

Production of the 4 concluded in 1992 with 8 million sold. 

The 21st century hatchback owes its layout to this car.

 

Simca 1000

The Simca 1000 was the company’s only rear-engine car. 

A Corvair clone, it was originally one of the alternative design proposals for the Fiat 850. 

Fiat was Simca’s major shareholder until 1963.

I reckon the 1000 is one of the smartest looking small cars of the early 1960s.

It has the appearance of a smaller Fiat 1300/1500, which is not surprising, considering Fiat-Simca ties.

And, the 1000 is what a four-door Hillman Imp might have looked like, had Rootes decided to develop such a car.

More than 1.9 million were built until 1978, when both the model and the Simca name were discontinued by Chrysler, who’d acquired the company during the 1960s.

David Burrell is the editor of Retroautos.com.au

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Burrell

David Burrell is founder and editor of Retroautos.com.au, a free online classic cars magazine. Dave has a passion for cars and car design. He's also into speedway, which he's been writing about since 1981. His first car was a rusted-out 1961 Vauxhall Velox. His daily driver is a Pontiac Firebird. Prior to starting Retroautos, David was an executive in a Fortune 500 company, working and living in Australia, NZ, Asia, Latin America and the UK.
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