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Surely every classic car enthusiast has the odd wet dream involving an elegant seventies mid-engined sportscar bearing a famous badge from one of the great motorsport legends? But it need not only be a wet dream. There are actual, real options out there which can even be yours for relatively modest outlay.

Only as recent as last week, did we feature one such sportscar as our Prime Find: The Forever Fabulous Montecarlo. It managed to create quite some debate, as there are clearly two opposing camps when it comes to Lancia’s of the post-FIAT era. Luckily though, there are alternatives very similar in layout and value to the Lancia Montecarlo. These will please those who could just never see themselves in a post-’69 Lancia, and they should also please all those who appreciate the Beta range despite its shortcomings, as variety is of course the spice of life.

One such alternative is the rather delicious Matra Bagheera – full of that typically French quirkiness, yet ever so stylish. It’s actually quite surprising just how similar the Bagheera is with the Montecarlo. Or seeing as the French sportscar was introduced in 1973, while we didn’t get the Italian counterpart until two years later in 1975, it would perhaps be more appropriate to say that it’s the Montecarlo which mimics the Bagheera. Either way, they both have their 4-cylinder engines transversely mid-mounted and naturally driving the rear wheels. The external dimensions of the two cars are also quite similar with both remaining within 4 meters of length, while the Matra is ever so slightly wider but also lower. In their original incarnation, they also weigh in at less than a ton – the Matra being lightest on its feet while having to make do with the smallest engine of the two. But the similarities go beyond number crunching. Just look at them. Sure the Lancia can flash its Pininfarina badge on the front wing, while the Matra was an in-house design between the joint development teams from Matra and Simca, but while they most certainly both possess their own identity, especially their profiles have more than a passing resemblance.

So we’ve established that they’re both elegant yet compact mid-engined sportscars from the seventies. But what about that claim to motorsport greatness, I hear you ask? Surely, only very few other marques can match Lancia on that account? Well, true. But don’t count out Matra just yet. Lancia’s motorsport connection may have been widely broadcast for decade after decade, while Matra’s dominance in motorsport was rather short-lived. However, during the late sixties and early seventies, Matra might just have produced the most awe-inspiring prototype racing cars the world has ever seen! These fire-breathing V12-powered French racing cars emit the most spin-tingling soundtrack of any, and eventually even managed to win Le Mans in both ’72, ’73 and ’74 while also securing The Championship of Makes during those last two years, before pulling out of motorsport altogether. To me at least, the Matra MS650 and MS670 easily match motorsport legends such as the Porsche 917.

But back to the much more nimble and road-going Matra-Simca Begheera and its many attributes. The biggest of which – or at least the one which made it stand out when compared to any other mass-produced sportscar we’ve seen – was the three-abreast seating arrangement. During the development, they just weren’t satisfied with the conventional 2+2 concept, as the rear seats were deemed pointless. With its three front seats side by side, the solution was unique in that fabulously bonkers French think-outside-the-box manner. What’s not to like?

The Matra which has tempted us this week is a 1979 Bagheera ‘S’ – thus with the bigger 90hp 1.5-litre engine, and from the end of production which ceased the following year to make way for its successor. It’s also a fairly rare RHD UK-market car, which even has a pretty serious claim to provenance: The seller explains that he has documentation proving it is the actual car which was used both at the 1979 motorshow, as the UK-market brochure car and subsequently as a press car. While it obviously doesn’t drive any better for it, history like that is always cool. The seller continues to say that the Bagheera is in good overall condition with an excellent interior and that everything works. Judging from the pictures, it certainly looks very original and clean. And just look at that colour! I’m not entirely sure what to call it, but at least it’s not just another resale-red sportscar. Hallelujah…!
We’ve borrowed these pictures from the advert:

The Bagheera even comes with all its factory booklets, the brochure in which it features, service manuals and so on. There are also some spares included with the car, which has a current MOT dating from the end of September. And for all of this, the seller is asking £ 6,250 which currently equates to approximately Euro 7,000. That’s actually a decent chunk of notes less than what last week’s Montecarlo sold for at auction. Not a bad deal then – especially as I’m sure those Beta sceptics will agree that the build quality of the Bagheera is probably better than that of the Lancia. After all, Matra didn’t need to stop production for two years to redevelop a car which they had already launched and sold to the public!
If you’re tempted, here’s a link to the full advert: 1979 Matra Bagheera S

 

With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to primefindoftheweek@viaretro.co.uk

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11 Responses

  1. GTeglman
    I have a slight suspicion that you despite your fine collection of
    Bavarian motors have a soft spot for Italian or French “wedge-shaped-buckets” in rust or polyester ! Maybe some kind of latent self-inflicting lust for pain ? :-)))

    According to wiki : The Bagheera won the ADAC Silberne Zitrone (“Silver Lemon”) award in 1975 for the poorest quality car at the time. Complaints ranged from a leaky body that allowed rain to enter the cabin to mechanical failures.

    I have promised myself to behave so I’ll start by saying that I find the overall shape of the French Cat much more appealing than the Beta Montecarlo. It’s much more sleek and elegant IMHO, and I even find the seat arrangement brilliant. If I squeeze my eyes a little I can even see a touch of Ferrari Daytona (and that I like a lot). But you know me, shape and color can’t stand alone and with a 1,3l, 90HP heart I guess it’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing, though I have no personal experience.

    Have a nice weekend.

    Reply
  2. Anders Bilidt
    @gteglman, I must say that I’m impressed by your restraint and impeccable behaviour! ;-)

    I do realise that neither the Montecarlo nor the Bagheera will have build quality anywhere near my Bavarian classics. But that said, I suspect that any example of either of those too, that has managed to survive this many years, is probably going to be a reasonably sorted classic car by now. Granted, no thanks to Lancia or Matra – but rather to the enthusiasts who have owned the cars and the specialists who have maintained and improved them.

    Oh, and btw, it’s a Bagheera ‘S’ – which translates into a 1.5-litre engine. Only the Bagheera (with no ‘S’) had the smaller 1.3-litre.

    Reply
  3. GTeglman
    I stand corrected reg. engine size, but the 90HP is correct
    I’m pretty sure.

    I’ll give you that any Bageheera (or Beta) that has managed to survive this many years could be in a very reasonable condition, but unless the sub /space-frame have had some serious anti corrosion treatment by the enthusiastic owner you could also be in for a nasty surprise.

    How about a Bitter CD instead ?

    Reply
  4. Anders Bilidt
    @gteglman, oh yes please!! I would love a Bitter CD. A fascinating GT indeed…
    Uhmmm… but for the sake of a Montecarlo / Bagheera comparison, if you would now please find me clean, usable example in similar condition to the Montecarlo and the Bagheera which we’ve featured here, which can be mine for sub-£10k… ;-)
    Reply
  5. GTeglman
    , Eehhmm, sadly I have to admit that finding you a clean and usable Bitter CD coupe for sub-£10K is way beyond my ability…- It was a desperate attempt to make you forget about everything about the Beta or Bagheera, but you called my bluff (damn).

    Cheers ;-)

    Reply
  6. Anders Bilidt
    @gteglman, I’ll give you that it was a damned good bluff though. ;-)
    It almost worked too, as I did indeed start dreaming of the excellent V8 Bitter.
    Sadly reality (or we could expand and call it financial reality) always dives in and spoils the fun. So I was back to Montecarlos and Bagheeras…
    Reply
  7. Tony Wawryk
    There’s a 1977 Bitter CD available on mobile.de for a mere EUR 89,500 – slightly more than the Matra. Lovely car, though…
    More affordable, if less desirable, is a 1997 Bitter SC – more than a hint of Ferrari 400i to me – for just £16,995 on carandclassic.com – and it’s the last one ever built, too. Bargain?
    Reply
  8. GTeglman
    You could always thin out a little in your Bavarian collection to raise the necessary funding for a Bitter CD. I’m sure it’ll fit you as a well tailored Savile Row suit, and allow me to add, that a man of your impeccable status shouldn’t spend
    valuable ViaRETRO-writing-article-time in the roadside next to a broken down rust or plastic bucket ;-)))

    @tony-wawryk I admit that the Bitter SC doesn’t tickle me in the same way the Bitter CD does, but with less than 500 made the rare-factor is intact, and though I have not actually had the pleasure to drive one, I’m convinced it must be a fabulous
    Grand Touring vehicle.

    Reply
  9. Anders Bilidt
    @gteglman, HaHaHa… well, I’m glad you feel the Bitter CD would suit me. Frankly, I’m sure you’re right. ;-)
    However, at EUR 89k, I would have to sell ALL of my Bavarian collection – and I’d still be short by a significant margin! Like you, I too prefer the CD over the SC. But considering the difference in value and not least that I’ve always regarded the Ferrari 400 as one of my all-time favourite Modena products, I actually think I could quite happily settle with a Bitter SC.

    Hmmm… but even that is in a very different price bracket than the Montecarlo or Bagheera…

    Reply
  10. GTeglman
    Since it’s impossible for me to make you forget about the Montecarlo and the Bagheera, may I suggest that you’ll buy them both at the same time ? Not that I wish you harm in any way (I’m sure that both cars eventually will make you want to hop off a cliff), but as the attached picture shows, the Bagheera could come in handy to “rescue” the Beta Montecarlo, at some point.

    Cheers

    Reply

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