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 firstname.lastname@example.org