The curious story of Captain Baker’s Simca 500 Montecarlo


Recently we’ve had the pleasure of catching up with Norton customer, Captain Kelvyne Baker, who is the proud owner of one of only three known 1965 Simca 500 Montecarlos in the world.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Simca, you’re not alone. Even Kelvyne himself didn’t realise what he had sat in his garage until decades after he first purchased it. When he did realise, it took him on a fascinating journey to learn about and restore this little rarity.

A voyage of discovery

‘I bought this car in the summer of 1993 from a Dr Kelloway in Bournemouth. Knowing that Simcas were built as Fiats, and as a Fiat enthusiast, I mainly bought it for spare parts. It had no engine or gearbox, and it lived in my workshop until two years ago when I decided to close it. Of course, this gave me an opportunity to wipe away the cobwebs on this little oddity, and since it hadn’t been used for spares like I’d originally planned, I figured it would be better to rebuild it rather than scrap it.’

Rear view of Kelvyne’s restored Simca

Kelvyne didn’t realise at the time what a good decision this would be. The diminutive motor from his workshop was one of the only potentially three usable Simca 500C’s left in the world.

The problem, however, was that when he came to start the restoration, there wasn’t much information around to give him a good place to start!  

Simcas in Malta

As it turns out, the Simca 500 Montecarlo had absolutely nothing to do with its glamorous namesake. They were originally commissioned by the Maltese tourist board to get people around – from airport to hotel to town and back.

At the time, Simca was a part of the Fiat empire, which is why the Simca 500 looks like a Fiat 500. Around 10 of the right-hand drive curiosities were built in the Northern Paris factory for Malta, until they were abruptly decommissioned.

The law in Malta at the time stated that all driven automobiles had to be fitted with column gear change, but this wasn’t a possible conversion on this car. The Simcas didn’t fit the bill, so they were  sold off almost immediately. Some were purchased by people in the Armed Forces who were stationed in Malta at the time. As of today, only one wreck is currently located on Malta (from the records of the Maltese transport office). There is one other in poor condition in Limassol, Cyprus.

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The story of Kelvyne’s Simca

After deciding to restore rather than scrap the Simca in his garage, the hard work really started for Kelvyne – and we’re not talking about the hard work that goes into a restoration. It made sense to restore the Simca as close to its original condition as possible, since it was such a rare vehicle. This meant a lot of research, a lot of writing, and a lot of dead ends.

‘My vehicle was the first of the chassis numbers, and was imported to Rob Walker’s Fiat dealership in Bournemouth. It was from there that Dr Kelloway purchased it and kept it until 1993,’ explains Kelvyne.

‘Frustratingly, we don’t have the records of how it arrived on UK soil, but we’re assuming it was something to do with the military. In 1965, the Simca was registered with Bournemouth City Council with a new registration. In my research I learned that the original registration actually featured my initials (talk about meant to be!), but unfortunately since the car pre-dated the DVLA, the original registration was rendered unusable as it was technically in use according to their records, and so an age related UK registration was issued’

Restoration efforts

The restoration itself was full, and sometimes complicated. A fire in Turin meant that some original records of Simca were lost, which made tracking down information on the original Simcas more difficult. But with a lot of determination, many letters, and a little travelling, Kelvyne tracked down most of the parts he needed with the help of the Paris records office.

Almost everything has been replaced or upgraded including the engine, gearbox, suspension, wheels and switches. This was done using original parts where possible, and parts as close to original where not.

The interiors, however, were a different matter. The seat frames were weak when the Simca was bought, and when it came time to replace them the originals were not available to buy.

One thing Kelvyne was sure of was that he wanted to replace the seats with wicker ones, as close to the original as possible. This pursuit led him to Cane Corner, East Budleigh who remade the seats using centre cane from New Guinea.

The fabric roof is copied from the original, but the colour is matched to the interior, not the original colour. Instead of the original canvas, it now has a German Rivenhood Mohair hood.

Underside of the car after sandblasting
simca wheels
The original 500G steel wheels – since removed and stored

After a respray and a reupholster, she was almost ready for the road. Except, times have changed since the ‘60’s, and to be truly ready for our roads and lifestyle, the Simca had to reflect that. Hidden inside the interior, Kelvyne has installed two USB charging ports, a Bluetooth amp and speakers to allow him to play music, listen to the radio and follow his sat nav, and most importantly a tracker.

From the pictures you may also notice a quaint picnic basket on the back. Don’t be fooled: that isn’t to house a ploughman’s lunch! Inside there is a car cover, handily positioned should the Great British weather take a turn for the soggy.

This little motor is a true international, made in Paris for the tourism trade in Malta in a factory owned by an Italian make, and now with seats from New Guinea and a hood from Germany, ready to be driven on British roads.

simca back
Rear view of the Simca, featuring the handy picnic basket!
simca interior
Interior of the Simca

A final word from Kelvyne

‘Restoring the Simca has been a real labour of love, and it has taken a lot of research and learning for me to be able to complete it the way that I have. I think the most important thing I’ve realised, aside from the specifics of the Simca, is something that I’ve always known.

‘The history of cars is important. It’s not only important to us as owners, but it’s important to everyone. In my research I learned a lot of things that I was later told were incorrect, but I took that as a great thing – the door to information is always open, and it should be!

‘It is vital that we share information, and every new piece we can find on a specific car, make, or even person is fascinating and adds new layers to stories. The history of cars is not the history of mechanics and thrills – it’s the history of people. And that’s why I’ll never close the door on new information.’

The pursuit of knowledge and parts is never-ending, as many restorers will already know. With this in mind, Kelvyne has requested that if anyone happens to stumble across a Simca 500 Montecarlo on their travels, please do take pictures and share them. Furthermore, if anyone finds the Simca gear knob insert (photographed here) – please let him know!


A big thank you for Kelvyne for sharing the story of his unique Simca with us. If you’ve got a unique classic you’d like to see featured, or if you have pictures of Simcas or the elusive gear knob insert, please write to us – we would love to hear from you. Talk to your personal client manager, or send us a message below.

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