This is not my first post about the Bagheera -last time I showed the Majorette version - this time, we have a 1/43 model by Spanish maker Pilen dating back to the time of the 1:1 car.
The Matra Bagheera was a sports car created by the French engineering group Matra (normally known for weapons and aerospace) in cooperation with the automaker Simca. Design was by Antonis Volanis. It was marketed as Matra-Simca Bagheera to highlight the link, except for the final production year 1980, when it was re-badged Talbot-Matra Bagheera after Chrysler Europe’s demise and subsequent takeover by PSA.
Named after the panther from The Jungle Book, the Bagheera was created using stock Simca components, including the engines, gearbox and suspension elements, but unlike the Simca cars it shared them with, it was a mid-engined car (the Simcas in question, Simca 1100 and Simca 1307, were front-wheel drive).
The Bagheera’s body was made of polyester, mounted on a steel structure.There was only one row of seats, but it featured an unusual combination of three abreast.
Despite the Polyester bodies, the cars tended to rust quite badly, as Matra neglected to apply proper protection to the steel structure. And it suffered the usual electrical problems and “laissez-faire” build quality associated with French cars of that time. In fact, its reputation really suffered when the German motoring association awarded it the “Golden Lemon” as the most unreliable car on the market.
But the most fantastic version of the Bagheera was the U8! Not a V8 but a “U”. Because of two crankshafts. Could it be more French? Essentially, the U8's power unit was created by joining two four-cylinder power units side-by-side, each bank using its own crankshaft. The drive was then joined via a common chain at the gearbox. As it was basically two engines, everything doubled: 8-cylinders, 2.58 litres, 168bhp. Unfortunately, the oil crisis and budget constraints put paid to the project. The Bagheera U8 remained a one-off, killed by its fuel consumption and Chrysler’s lack of development funds.
As mentioned, the model is a 1/43 by Pilen of Spain -and at the time, it was one of the nicest Bagheera models out there. It even faithfully replicates the wheels - that was still unusual in that scale.
Production of the Bagheera ended in 1980, when it was replaced by the Matra Murena, with 47,802 Bagheeras built in total. Those interiors though, they still look mighty inviting in an oh-so 1970s way...