The Matra Bagheera was a sports car created by the French engineering group Matra in cooperation with the automaker Simca and design by Greek designer 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. It was formed in the shape of a sleek hatchback, with a rear hatch that allowed access to the engine mounted behind the passenger compartment. There was only one row of seats, but it featured an unusual combination of three abreast. The Bagheera remains one of the few three-passenger sports cars. (Which were the others?)
When launched in 1973, the Bagheera was only available with the 1.3 L straight-4 engine, belonging to Simca’s “Poissy engine”. In 1975, the range was complemented by a 1.5 L version of the same engine. In 1976, the Bagheera underwent a major restyling, with basically only the rear hatch unchanged (Bagheera type II). Another change took place in 1978, when the dashboard was replaced again, and in 1979 the Bagheera was given conventional door handles in lieu of the previous “hidden” ones (Bagheera type III). Since PSA took control of Simca in the previous year (after the demise of Chrysler Europe), all Simcas were re-badged Talbot and Matra-Simca became Talbot-Matra.
Production of the Bagheera ended in 1980, when it was replaced by Matra Murena, with 47,802 Bagheeras built in total.
As nice as this Majorette is for a model of its time, there’s one aspect in which it doesn’t even come close to the original. And that is the interior. They were about as “out there” as any European car ever got.