SOVAM 1100S Rally

The SOciété des Véhicules André Morin (SOVAM) is a French company that specializes in mechanized handling equipment for airports. In the mid-to-late 1960s they also operated an automobile manufacturing division that enjoyed a modicum of success but that was never profitable.

The company was established by André Morin in 1930, and was an outgrowth of his father Robert Morin’s existing car and carriage workshop business. Based in the commune of Parthenay in the department of Deux-Sèvres, Sovam specialized in the manufacture of “camions magasin”, or mobile shop kiosks built on light truck platforms. In 1962 Morin spun this business off into the Etalmobil brand, and Sovam diversified into other lucrative niches, producing airport handling equipment and specialized light utility vehicles.

In 1964 they introduced a “Véhicule Utilitaire de Livraison” (light delivery vehicle) or `VUL’ which used a fibreglass truck or van body mounted on a shortened Renault 4 chassis. The vehicle proved to be ideal for urban delivery work.

In 1965 Morin decided to launch a low-volume Sovam sports car. Like the VUL, the car would make extensive use of Renault 4 parts, including a shortened version of that car’s punt chassis and its entire power-train. The Sovam inherited its donor car’s front mid-engine, front wheel drive layout and fully independent suspension consisting of upper and lower A-arms with longitudinal torsion bars and telescopic dampers in front and trailing arms with transverse torsion bars and telescopic dampers in back. Renault also provided the windscreen, which came from the Floride, although the windscreen was flipped over for use in the Sovam. The expertise that the company had acquired producing fiberglass bodies for the VUL allowed for the rapid development of a suitable frame and body to be mounted on the chassis.

To design the body Morin turned to Jacques Durand, who had already done designs for the Atla, the Arista and the Sera.

Durand drew a compact two-seat coupé with a greenhouse whose sides curved inward towards the centre of the car and that was topped by a removable roof panel. The lines of the car were low and sporty, although not universally acclaimed.

The Sovam 850 “Voiture de Sport” (VS) was presented at the Paris Motor Show in October 1964 and the interest that the car generated persuaded Morin to put it into production. The performance delivered by the 845 cc Billancourt engine fell short of the car’s sporting appearance, but with an initial list price of just 9,990 francs the car managed to attract a few buyers.

For 1966 the price of the 850VS was increased to 10,870 francs. That same year saw the introduction of a new 1100VS model with improved performance. With Renault’s recently introduced 1108 cc Cléon-Fonte engine producing 65 hp (48 kW) of power the 1100VS could attain a top speed of 165 km/h (102.5 mph). The cost of a 1100VS was set at 12,960 francs in 1966.

In 1967 a brand new model, the 1300GS, was released. This car had a new hardtop body with 2+2 seating and rectangular headlamps, but the biggest change was that the 1300GS received the 1255 cc engine and 5-speed manual transaxle from the Renault 8 Gordini. Four-wheel disk brakes were also an option.

With a new power output of 77 kW (103 hp) at 6750 rpm and top speed of 195 km/h (121.2 mph) the 1300GS was much more athletic than its predecessors.

The car debuted at the Paris Salon of the same year where it received the gold medal of the “grand prix de l’Art et de l’Industrie Automobile”.

The 1300GS was considerably more expensive than the previous models, being listed at 21,500 francs in October 1967.

The Sovam 1100VS was carried forward unchanged in 1967, although the price had been increased to 14,800 francs for most of the year, with a final rise to 15,500 at the October Salon for the 1968 model year. The original 850VS model was re-priced at 12,800 francs early in 1967 before being dropped from the lineup the same year.

By 1967 the Sovam sports car was not without its achievements. The unusual looks of the car nevertheless continued to attract criticism, and the Sovam failed to acquire the level of cachet achieved by competitors such as the Alpine A110 and Matra 530. October 1967 marked the last of the manufacturer’s three appearances at the annual Paris Motor Show.[2] In 1968 Morin would produce just five Sovam sports cars.

Over the span of its manufacturing life from 1965 to 1968, fewer than 150 cars were produced.

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