Simca Special

Beau Hickory's Changes to the Simca Special

Over the years, Beau Hickory installed a different roof, windshield, wheels, and engine.
Over the years, Beau Hickory installed a different roof, windshield, wheels, and engine.

Neither Exner nor the Simca Special's current owner, Beau Hickory, know precisely its history from when Exner sold it to a car dealer until the winter of 1964-1965 when Hickory spied it parked on a side street in Daly City just south of San Francisco.

However, somebody had taken enough interest in it during the interval to replace the relatively thin sheet aluminum floor with a chrome-plated piece of 1/8-inch-thick checker-plate. They also chromed the wire wheels and installed chrome-plated wheelhouses. Hickory later discovered that blue lights placed in these mirror-like wheelhouses and under the chromed floor pan cast an eerie glow at night.

Hickory was a long-time car enthusiast who owned the Sports Race Car Lab in nearby Colma, California. He built SCCA race cars and manufactured Formula V cars, so he immediately recognized the car from the Road & Track article.

The Simca was in pretty sad shape. The acrylic canopy had disappeared, and the interior had obviously suffered several years of exposure to the Bay Area's rain, fog, sun, and salt air. Still, he resolved to find the owner and make an offer.

But he couldn't make contact; he found the car parked in different places each day, sometimes in different neighborhoods. The owner seemed to be evading him. Actually, he was evading the Walnut Creek car dealer who sold it to him on credit and was trying to repossess it. Hickory finally traced the dealer through the license plate number and struck a deal to pay off the delinquent loan and repossess the car for himself.

Hickory then set out to make the car fully streetworthy and licensable. The windshield probably constituted his most important contribution. Fortunately, he spent a great deal of time drawing windshield and roof profiles while second-guessing Exner's aesthetic intentions and speculating about what Exner would do under the circumstances.

He guessed that the high point of the original canopy, as shown in the magazine article, was too far forward and curved too abruptly. Indeed, because of the capricious variables involved in forming such pieces, it did not match the canopy of the 1/4-scale model as Exner had expected.

But, again, Exner didn't have enough time before going to Korea to have another one made. Hickory knew none of this, of course, because he had been unable to contact Exner for direct input (as it turned out, he didn't contact him until 1994).

Determining the profile turned out to be the easy part. Finding a piece of glass with just the right dimensions and shape, which turned out to be the backlite of a 1959 Opel coupe, took much longer. He also fitted windshield wipers and added two small grilled air outlets just ahead of the windshield to solve an engine cooling problem.

Hickory then affixed a carefully fabricated T-top structure with removable roof panels to complete replacement of the canopy. He extended the ribs alongside the T-bar down the fastback in order to further integrate the roof visually, and made frames for gullwing-type side windows that disappeared somewhere along the way.

While the new roof succeeded aesthetically in completing the profile he thought Exner would have approved, it aggravated the rearward vision problem; the ventilation/rear-vision gap of the original canopy no longer existed.

To fix this, he cut an opening in the fastback section behind the cockpit. In order to retain as much of the original look as possible, the opening matched the width of the T-bar and lined up with it. It also happened to approximate the width of the blue racing stripe of Exner's original paint scheme. If the dark stripe were eventually restored, the window might virtually disappear.

Hickory drove the car on a daily basis for some time. He exhibited it twice more at the Oakland Roadster Show and at a few other venues. For a while, it served as a photo prop for a well-known British fashion designer.

For that purpose, Hickory refurbished the car a second time; "It became a real cream puff," to use his words. The passenger side of the cockpit had makeup mirrors, high-intensity lamps, and two boxes containing miniature Avon cosmetics that swung out from the dash.

About that time, a Ford dealer proposed putting the body in limited production on Mustang chassis but never got past the planning stage.

Learn about yet another owner's changes to the Simca Special in the next section.

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