In the history of PetrolBlog, never has the ‘whatever happened to’ question been more apt than in the case of the Talbot Samba. Once upon a time, Britain’s roads seemed to be littered with the Peugeot 104-based supermini. There was a Talbot Samba on every corner.
As recently as 1994 there were 24,129 Talbot Sambas on the road. Today, that number stands at just 25. Twenty five! If this were an episode of Casualty, the little Talbot Samba would be fighting for its life, the doctors would be called and the team would start muttering things about putting the car out of its misery.
But this isn’t Casualty, it’s PetrolBlog, and we reckon the Talbot Samba is a miniature hero. And every single one of those brave little Sambas, still dancing around in Britain, need to be preserved. Yes, even the Talbot Samba Cabriolet.
The Talbot Samba can owe its existence and its subsequent demise to Peugeot. It was quite obviously based on the Peugeot 104, albeit with a slighter shorter wheelbase. And yet, by 1986, the Talbot Samba was a bit of a white elephant. A fun-size white elephant for sure, but a distinctly obsolete supermini. The reason? Quite simply, the Peugeot 205.
The 205 was effortlessly cool, whereas the Talbot Samba wasn’t. The 205 hinted at an exotic life in St. Tropez, whilst the Talbot Samba felt a little bit like a wet day in Coventry. The Samba died and along with it went the Talbot brand.
That’s not to say there were weren’t one or two interesting versions of the Samba. Take the Talbot Samba Rallye for example, an entry-level racer for budding rally stars everywhere and available in any colour they liked. As long as they chose red or white. Its 1.2-litre engine developed 80bhp which, thanks to its lightweight construction, gave the Rallye a decent turn of pace. Today, there are just two left on the road, with a further six registered as SORN.
Then there’s the Talbot Samba Cabriolet, which tends to make a regular appearance when folk are compiling a list of the worst convertibles of all time. And yet, despite the derision, it’s almost single-handedly flying the Talbot Samba flag, with 11 on the road – up from seven at the end of 2012. Proof that there’s life in the old dog yet.
But here’s the thing – when did you last take a good look at the Talbot Samba Cabriolet? It’s actually a pretty little thing and Pininfarina deserves some credit for making it look so appealing. It’s no wonder it became so popular in France, with many buyers seeing it as a cut-price VW Golf Cabriolet. Of course, in the image-obsessed world we now live in, the Talbot Samba Cabriolet wouldn’t stand a chance. But that’s precisely why it’s so appealing to PetrolBlog.
It’s time to halt the decline of the Talbot Samba. Whilst it’s encouraging to see numbers increasing, there’s no doubt that the Samba will need love to keep it alive. There’s only one for sale on eBay, which just happens to be a Cabriolet, and it could be yours for a tenner. Sadly, it’s being stripped for spares.
PetrolBlog will leave you with this classic ad from the archives. It features the Churchill Insurance dog on his first acting assignment, along with another unnamed nodding dog whose career never took off. He was last seen sleeping on a park bench in Dulwich Hamlet. Poor dog.
The advert is notable for the Mobil Self Service petrol station (remember them?), a cheeky reference to the ‘topless’ Samba Cabriolet (guffaw) and a rather delightful Talbot Samba S. And listen out for the narration, which is delivered in a distinctly BBC children’s television style.
Classic stuff. And remember, if you’re preparing a list of terrible cabriolets, spare a thought for the Samba. You’re only contributing to its decline.