19 June 2018
More than an old car #72: Talbot Solara
Car spotting has been quite therapeutic for me, as I can just forget about my issues at hand and focus on hunting old cars. It has been a journey full of surprises along the way, as I have come across a few obscure/unlikely vehicles. Somehow, scrappy-looking cars really attract me as it really shows off its age, and that one rarely see cars that are in such poor shape due to annual inspections. Although most of the time, they have been left there to crumble just like this 1981 Talbot Solara SX...
Talbot was a London automobile maker which was established in 1903 by Charles-Chetwynd Talbot, the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury. It was later merged with some other companies to form STD Motors Ltd. [Sunbeam, Talbot and Darraq]. In the meantime, there were different subsidiaries formed under the Talbot name, but all of them collapsed financially. It was sold to SIMCA [Société Industrielle de Mécanique et Carrosserie Automobile], a French automaker founded in 1934. Simca itself was bought over by Chrysler Europe, who had wanted to advance into the European market. Shortly afterwards in 1978, the conglomerate PSA Peugeot-Citroen bought over Chrysler Europe [which included the Talbot brand]. The Talbot name disappeared in 1994; a comeback was considered in 2008 but nothing materialised in the end.
As you can see, the car industry can be pretty complicated, with many acquisitions here and there. In fact, most of the brands we are familiar today are a result of numerous mergers: about 15 main groups control almost all of the car brands.
The Solara was a sedan version of the Simca 1307 hatchback which had enjoyed moderate success in Europe. Its name was chosen back in 1978 and after Chrysler Europe was sold to PSA, the Talbot brand was resurrected. It was exhibited to the press in 1980 where it received rave reviews: many people preferred a conventional sedan compared to the hatchback and it was aesthetically pleasing to look at. It was one of the first cars to feature an on-board computer, which recorded the car's mileage and indicated the fuel level. However, the Solara was deemed somewhat dated and due to competition with popular cars such as the Peugeot 305, it did not sell very well. A few trim levels were produced, and the top-of-the-line SX was powered by a 1592 cc Simca Type 315 i4 engine: the car could reach a top speed of 167 km/h, with an acceleration of 12 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4392 mm long and weighed 1040 kg.
Production ended in 1986 with 184,976 made, and this seems to be the last one on our roads! It turns out that there were quite a number of them here in the 1980s, as seen in various archived newspaper ads during that time. That said, it was not a common car to begin with. Here is an article describing the car when it appeared in Singapore in 1981. The last advertisements for used Talbot Solaras appeared in 1992, showing that they were unable to stand the test of time.
I'm pretty sure most of you have never heard of this brand before until today--even I was surprised to come across this obscure vehicle! From my observations, this unit has been abandoned for quite some time and is in need of some TLC. It still has original registration plates, along with stock wheels. Its licence plate border hints at its Peugeot ties, despite the cars being distributed by Reliant Motors, a local dealer. If you take a closer look at the lower left corner of the windscreen, you can see the plate number embossed on it: this was a common feature for cars up till the late 1990s. Furthermore, it was converted to the classic plate scheme some time ago, so the owner hasn't forgotten about it yet. Hopefully, the owner will still keep it on the road for others to see this obscure vehicle for themselves!