Friday, October 2, 2015
A Mid-Engine First
Matra was a French firm that had divisions dealing with aeronautics, weapons and bicycles but in the 1960s under CEO Jean-Luc Lagardere the company made a world wide name for itself with automobiles. In 1964 the firm acquired Automobiles Rene Bonnet, a firm involved in designing and building sport racers. Because of rules for homologation, road worthy versions of these cars were being built.
Beginning in 1962 Bonnet started making what was dubbed the Djet. The car was powered by an 1108 cc Renault 8 engine that generated 62 horse power. But the car was light weight as it was completely clothed in a fiberglass body which was glued to a steel chassis. This gave it a curb weight of about 1000 pounds. This combination allowed the car to easily top 100 miles per hour. The car was a leader in other areas, too. It had disc brakes and independent suspension with wishbones and leaf springs all around.
By 1966 the Djet name was changed. Bonnet originally called it that because he did not believe that the French could probably pronounce the word "jet." The folks at Matra disagreed and changed the name simply to Jet.
The MatraSports Jet was produced until 1967 when it was essentially replaced by an all in-house design that was dubbed the 530. In all nearly 1700 of these cars were manufactured. The Djet shown here is a 1965 model and is part of the permanent collection at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, TN. (http://www.lanemotormuseum.org/)