Article initially published by David Cook and Doug Breithaupt in Mar. 2003.
1968 MS 11 - Champion
1968 MS 11 - Champion
1968 MS 11 - Galgo
1969 MS 80 - Schuco
1973 MS 120C - Champion
1977 Ligier-Matra JS5 - Polistil
Matra (Mechanique Aviation et TRAction) is a French aerospace corporation that is still involved with passenger car production. In the late 60's they were suppliers of parts and technology to race car manufacturers and so decided to get into motor sport in the biggest possible way to demonstrate French advancements in the hi-tech world.
They began with sports cars, and one of their first products was the M630, shown here by Politoys and labeled simply as a Matra Sport. This model is part of a set of 9 different sports cars produced by Politoys. The first M630's were powered by BRM and then Ford engines until Matra could produce and test their own V12. These cars were run at LeMans and other sports racing venues on an experimental basis as early as 1966.
Meanwhile, the company was also getting involved in open-wheel racing, winning the Formula 2 championship in 1967 68 69 with chassis mated to 1600-cc Cosworth-Ford engines in a team run by Ken Tyrell. Success in the lower formula encouraged Matra to tackle Formula 1 in two different ways: first by selling Mr. Tyrell chassis for him to run with Cosworth-Ford DFV's for an up and coming young Scot named Jackie Stewart. Matra Sport would then also manage their own team using its Matra V12 from the sports car program.
The results were both simple and complex: Tyrell and Stewart won three GP's in 1968 and both the Drivers and Constructors championships in 1969. The Matra team won no GPs at all before withdrawing from F1 after 1974. As others had found before them, the job of building both chassis and engine proved to be too much for just one company when the British teams could concentrate on designing and tuning the best chassis while simply using Cosworth-Ford power to win races. The Matra V12 would not win a GP until they later began supplying engines to Ligier in 1977. A Ligier-Matra is pictured here by Polistil.
Tyrell's Matra-Ford (appears to be the MS-80 from 1969) is shown here by Schuco. Matra's MS11 GP car is an absolutely stunning model by Champion of France as driven by Henri Pescarolo in the 1968 Italian GP at Monza. Matra's final F1 entry was the MS120C, shown here again by Champion. (MS Matra was now married to Simca)
Meanwhile, Matra's assault on LeMans and sports cars continued. An M650 like the ones pictured here by Champion finished 4th & 5th in the 1969 Le Mans 24 Hours. M670 and 680 models won Le Mans in 1972 73 74. They also won the World Sports Car Championship in 1973 74. Majorette produced a nice example of this winning car complete with swing-up rear deck to reveal the V12 engine. The Galgo model, in very correct French blue, carries no model number designation and appears to have only 8 cylinders! Luso Toys of Portugal produced the Matra-Simca 680 LeMans car.
Satisfied with winning LeMans and the sports car title and tired of paying mega Francs to play the F1 game, Matra withdrew from racing after 1974 except as an occasional engine supplier to other (French) GP teams. The timing of their LeMans assault was good in that they got in after Ferrari, Ford and Porsche has all come and gone temporarily, leaving the field a little more open.
One final Matra competition car was the mid-engine Matra-Simca Bagheera. This three-seater production model did see limited activity as a rally car. Majorette produced a rally version of the Bagheera. Matra road cars still roam the highways of France and the company is the producer of the most popular mini-van in Europe as well as other models
1967 M630 - Polistil
1969 M650 - Champion
1969 M650 Champion
1972 M670 - Majorette
1972 M670 - Galgo
1974 M680 - Luso
Matra-Simca Bagheera Rally - Majorette