Mécanique Avion TRAction or Matra was a French company covering a wide range of activities mainly related to aeronautics and weaponry which from 1994 was a subsidiary of Lagardère Group and which now operates under that name.

Matra was owned by the Floirat family. The name Matra became famous in the 1960s when it went into car production by buying Automobiles René Bonnet. Matra Automobiles produced racing cars and sports cars, and was very successful in racing.

Lagardère involvementEdit

By merging with various companies Matra CEO Jean-Luc Lagardère built around Matra a group diversified in media, weaponry, high technologies, aeronautics and formerly in automobiles and records production and distribution. Matra was privatized in 1988, with Lagardère holding 6% of the stock and by 1992 25%.

In 1992 Lagardère was radically restructured; acquiring more shares in Matra from Floirat, Daimler Benz and GEC, and Hachette from loirat, Crédit Lyonnais and Aberly. Lagardère merged Matra and Hachette to form Matra Hachette, of which Lagardère held 37.6%. Following a share swap in 1994 Lagardère held 93.3% of Matra Hachette’s stock. In 1996 Matra Hachette was formally merged into Lagardère.

Matra road carsEdit

The Matra name was first used for road cars with the Renault-powered Matra Djet (pronounced "Jet"), which was an update of the Bonnet Jet.

The Djet was replaced with the Matra 530, which was powered by a Ford Taunus V4 engine. Matra also developed a close partnership with Simca in the 1970s, producing Simca-engined sports cars such as the Bagheera, the Murena and the Rancho, an early type of SUV - albeit that it was two-wheel-drive - which was based on the Simca 1100 pick-up bodyshell. This car remained in production into the '80s, after Simca's takeover by Peugeot.

In 1984 Renault launched the Matra built Espace minivan, a car conceived at Chrysler UK[1], and designed originally for Chrysler production in partnership with Matra, the car became a popular success.

After the failure of the Renault Avantime (designed and built by Matra), on February 27, 2003 Matra announced its intention to close its automobile factory in Romorantin. In September 2003, Pininfarina SpA acquired Matra Automobile's engineering, testing and prototype businesses. The company was subsequently named Matra Automobile Engineering

Street modelsEdit

Matra racing historyEdit

In the mid-1960's Matra enjoyed considerable success in Formula 3 and F2 racing with (especially) its MS5 monocoque-based car, winning the French and European championships. In 1967, Jacky Ickx famously amazed the F1 establishment by clocking in the 3rd-fastest qualifying time of 8:14" on the German Nürburgring in his 1600 cc MS5 F2, which was allowed to enter alongside the 3000 cc F1 cars. In the race, he failed to finish due to a broken suspension.

Matra entered Formula One in 1968 when Jackie Stewart was a serious contender, winning several Grands Prix in the Tyrrell-run Matra MS10 which competed alonside the works team. The car's most innovative feature was the use of aviation-inspired structural fuel tanks. These allowed the chassis to be around 15 kg lighter, while still being stronger than its competitors. The FIA considered the technology to be unsafe and decided to ban it for 1970.

Matra CEO Jean-Luc Lagardère made a radical strategic decision for the 1969 championship: The Matra works team would not compete in Formula One. Matra would instead focus its efforts on the Tyrrell team (renamed Matra International) and build a new DFV powered car with structural fuel tanks, even though it would only be eligible for a single season. The decision was even more radical given that Matra was seeking a partnership with Simca, then a subsidiary of the American company Chrysler, which would preclude using Ford-branded engines for the following year. Stewart won the 1969 title easily with the new Cosworth-powered Matra MS80, which corrected most of the weaknesses of the MS10. Stewart's title was the first won by a French chassis, and the only one won by a chassis built in France. It was a spectacular achievement from a constructor that had only entered Formula One the previous year, but it had little impact on the French general public because the British contribution was too large to fulfil nationalistic pride.

Matra joined Cosworth, Lotus and McLaren in experimentined with four wheel drive during 1969. Johnny Servoz-Gavin became the one and only driver to score a point with a 4WD, finishing sixth with the Matra MS84 at the Canadian Grand Prix. The MS84, along with Brabham's BT26A, was one of the last spaceframe cars to compete in Formula One.

For 1970 following the agreement with Simca, Matra asked Tyrrell to use their V12 rather than the Cosworth. Stewart tested the Matra V12 and found it inferior to the DFV. As a large part of the Tyrrell budget was provided by Ford, and another significant element came from French state-owned petroleum company Elf, which had an agreement with Renault that precluded supporting a Simca partner, the partnership between Matra and Tyrrell ended.

The firm was also successful in endurance racing with cars powered by the V12 engine. The Matra 670 won le Mans in 1972, 1973, and 1974.

F1 DriversEdit


  1. Lewin, Tony (2003). How to Design Cars Like a Pro: A Complete Guide to Car Design from the Top Professionals. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-7603-1641-4. 

External linksEdit

Preceded by:
Formula One Constructors' Champion
Succeeded by:

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