Matra’s main line of business was rocket launchers, anti submarine weapons and satellites, but the company decided to supplement its income with sports cars from 1964, first with the pretty Djet and the gawky M 530 and then the Bagheera, a higher volume model announced in 1973. If the line Bagheera had one claim to fame, it was for its three abreast seating. A wide track gave room for an extra seat in the front for a grown up passenger a more credible solution, reckoned Matra, then trying to squeeze in a couple of meaningless child sized seats behind the driver and passenger. What’s more, because the Bagheera, named after the much appreciated and affectionately remembered Black Panther in Rudyard Kipling’s famous children’s tale The Jungle Book, was a mid engined car, there was no gearbox tunnel to clutter the floor either. The fiber glass bodied steel chassised Bagheera was the result of a liaison between Matra and the Chrysler France (Simca). Its anaemic 1300 cc urge was more that made up for by its sweet handling, excellent ride and very good brakes. The restyled, uprated Murena answered crises for more performance in 1980, but it’s was to be a short lived successor.
Parent company Peugeot, who brought Simca from Chrysler in 1978, sold its 45 percent shareholding in Matra to Renault, along with a project for a one box seven seater that became the Espace. Renault needed space to build its new people carrier, so the Matra had to go. The last car was built in 1984.