When the Range Rover came out in 1970, it changed the face of the car industry and buyers embraced the off-road vehicle trend. Many companies looked to capitalise on the trend, with French marque Matra being among them. In partnership with Simca, Matra produced the Matra Rancho, a vehicle that provided an off-road experience at a lower price than a Range Rover. We’re looking into the history of the Rancho to see if it was able to build on the legacy of the Range Rover.
The designer of the Rancho, Antonis Volanis, based the car on the pick-up version of the Simca 1100. He used the chassis and and combined it with Matra supplied fibreglass and polyester to create a sturdy body. In contrast to other off-roaders, the Matra-Simca Rancho had a front-wheel drive instead of an all-wheel version. A 1442 cc Simca Poissy engine powered the Rancho and it retained the 1100’s dashboard and front seats. However, the Rancho might have looked like an off-roader, but it didn’t handle well when taken off the road.
Financial problems occurred with Simca’s parent company, Chrysler Europe, which sold to PSA in 1978 and was rebranded as Talbot in 1979. The Matra-Simca Rancho became the Talbot Matra Rancho. Despite the issues, the Rancho became a popular model, with 58,000 cars being sold.
An innovative design
Durings its production life, several versions of the Rancho were put on the market. This includes the Grand Raid, which featured an electric winch on the front bumper, undercarriage protection and bronze tinted windows. There was also the Rancho X, a luxury model with metallic paint and alloy wheels. The commercial version became the Rancho AS, which had no rear seat, making it exempt from French tax on passenger cars. The Rancho was produced until 1984.
One of the most important aspects of the Rancho is that it ushered in the SUV and MPV sectors, as seen from the creation of the Renault Espace. Matra wished to replace the Rancho with a prototype called the ‘dessin orange.’ The basis design came with three doors. At the time, Peugeot controlled the company and they thought it was too expensive to produce. Undeterred, Matra went to Renault with the concept and the Espace became the first European minivan.
The Rancho is an example of a vehicle that became far more successful than anyone expected. This is likely due to the Rancho appealing to buyers who wanted an off-road vehicle at a reasonable price.