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Thread: For the Matra Fans

  1. #1
    1000+ Posts Frans's Avatar
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    Default For the Matra Fans

    Jean Redele vs Rene Bonnet. (Alpine vs Matra.)
    This is my version of 2 very similar cars of the same era by 2 individuals that had so many similarities but with completely different end results.



    Because all of us here are familiar with the Alpine A110, I will elaborate more on the Matra Djet of which I knew nothing until a couple of years ago. I have since stripped one completely and re-assembled it as well. Most of this is factual although there are a few things that I assumed through common sense. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

    Rene Bonnet had this idea, or vision, in his mind that if a Formula 1 car is the pinnacle of race cars, “why can’t I put a body around one and make it a road car”? (This was the beginning of the mid-engine F1 cars, the Lotus and Jim Clark era when front engine F1 cars were completely overshadowed). So he did, creating the first ever true mid-engine car in 1962 beating De Tomaso with a year. After De Tomaso the Ferraris and Lamborghinis etc followed. The Matra came complete with double wishbone rear suspension and a type of CV joint driveshaft. This layout remained until the last Matra Jet was built in 1968.



    Rene Bonnet was building his cars using anything he could lay his hands on and maybe for the best price as well. During my restoration process I noted the following: from Renault R8: front suspension, disc brakes, rack and pinion, engine, instrumentation. Renault Estafette: Gearbox. Renault Caravelle: door handles inside and outside, window winders. Peugeot: ash tray, clutch slave cylinder, Citroen: window washer. Simca: tail lights, windscreen wiper mechanism.

    Around 1964 his debts hauled him in. A brilliant engineer but a not so good business man, he owed MATRA (Mťcanique Aviation TRAction) a lot of money as he rented some space in their building and they manufactured the bodies for his cars as well. They decided to buy him out instead of closing the shop. From then on it was named Matra. They had access to Renault engines until 1968 when Renault decided to pull the plug on Matra and support Redele in the Alpine. At least Redele’s father had a Renault agency and Matra was just another car manufacturer and opposition. For Renault it wouldn’t have been good practise if Matra was going to be competition for Alpine. After this decision, Matra sat with a big engine problem for their new model, the Matra 530 and all they could find was the German Ford V4 engine that was a poor performer. The performance of the new model dropped from a top speed of 210 km/h of the Jet to 175 km/h for the 530. Other performance figures for the Jet 6 was 0-60 mph in 8.5 sec and the ľ mile in 16.8 sec. It was only a few years later when Simca came on board.

    To compare the 2 cars will be difficult because I might ruin some friendships. That is not my intention. It might be seen as sour grapes, jealousy or just wishful thinking because in fact the A110 has become THE car to own, and I will be lying if I say that I don’t want an A110. However, have a look at the technical differences and compare it with what we know today and when only these differences were applied to the A110.

    In total, there were only 1500 Djets/Jets manufactured. I think the A110s exceeded the 9000 figure.
    Similarities:

    1) Front suspension is identical. Both cars are using the R8 front double wish bone layout.
    2) Rack and pinion. R8 quick ratio.
    3) Tubular backbone chassis layout.
    4) Engines, mostly used was the Sierra 1108, 1300 then Gordini 1100 and 1255.
    5) Bodies, made of Fibreglass or various other names used for the same stuff.
    6) Brakes, to a certain extent.

    In summary the main and very important technical differences between the two cars from my experience of working on both:

    1) The main difference is the engine lay out. It is a mid-engine layout that is mounted directly behind the driver. This is a superior advantage which is proven through the years and all super cars (except Porsche 911) are built on this principal today. This means that the weight distribution between front and rear is 48/52 %. Have a look at the brand new A110-50 that has a similar weight distribution as the Matra, but it came about 55 years later.
    2) Rear suspension. It is their own unique design that incorporates a double wishbone system. Double coils and double shocks were used. The drive shafts are not in a tube but open with U-joints on the inner and outer sides. At the time CV joints were not available, or designed, so the sideward play of the engine on its mountings were absorbed by the sliding splines in the shafts.
    3) Brakes: The Renault R8 disc brakes were used until 1966 when it was upgraded to the “big brakes” available at the time on the front wheels. In 1967 they were using the R16 brakes because the 16TS was only released in 1969 but the upgrade was done immediately.
    4) Cooling: The cooling system incorporated a front mounted radiator from the initial design in 1962 with an electrical cooling fan.

    That concludes a bit of detail that wasn't known to me and I place it here with good intent.

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  2. #2
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    Thanks for putting in the time to share that info Frans. I found the detail very interesting from the mid engine perspective since I had moved from R8's and 10's to a mid engine Europa in 1973. The biggest problem with the Europa was breaking the standard half shafts which I later modified including a double wishbone/trailing arm rear end. The sliding spline used in the Matra is a smarter engineering solution but I guess Colin Chapman was just too cheap and trying to save costs on the production Europas.

    What is the difference in weight between the Matra and Alpine in 1300 trim ?

  3. #3
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    Thanks Frans. Stirred up memories. Any Matra 530 SX for sale in NZ anywhere?
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    I know they weren't available when the Djets were first built, But I often wondered if it would be possible to fit a gearbox from an R12/15/17. I know this would spoil the originality, but may provide better ratios, especially if 5 speed.

    Henry
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    I'll just add that Frans' car is coming on very well. Lovely bit of restoration. I'm in awe of his skills.
    JohnW

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    Frans, no need to worry, that's great info and I'm sure no one will be offended!

    I remember a really good article on the Djet in, I think, Classic and Sportscar some years ago, with their fantastic photos. I wonder if it's on the net.

    Edit...yes, March 1999 issue. I think that's the one with good photos anyway.
    Last edited by Stuey; 15th December 2016 at 09:51 PM.


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    much thanks, Frans, for sharing your thoughts and work with your Matra.
    indeed a beautiful car, and as close to the ideal form of a road-going sports car
    as has probably been managed. (subsequent supercars, whatever their stupendous
    performance, lack the simplicity and lightness of things built in the 60s)
    how is it with accessibility?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by rubyalpine View Post
    I know they weren't available when the Djets were first built, But I often wondered if it would be possible to fit a gearbox from an R12/15/17. I know this would spoil the originality, but may provide better ratios, especially if 5 speed. Henry
    The gear linkage would need re-engineering in a big way, at the rear end. I suspect there's more...... When you see the car, the use of the Estafette unit makes perfect sense, even if some of the parts are in the "hens' teeth" category.
    JohnW

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  9. #9
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    Bustamif....both of them around 650kg

    Harrison_citroen.....no 530 in NZ but a few Ranchos and I think a Murena.

    Henry .....That is already done by others.

    Lozenge......Having driven both, thankfully the Matra is bigger than the A110. It is still very intimate inside with a passenger.

    Stuey.....I had a look and found it on the Net, can you view the article on the net or do you buy the magazine?

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  10. #10
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    Somewhere in Europe?



    Frans.
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  11. #11
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    Frans,

    I wish it wasn't in Europe...I wish it was in my shed!

    Henry
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stuey View Post
    Frans, no need to worry, that's great info and I'm sure no one will be offended!

    I remember a really good article on the Djet in, I think, Classic and Sportscar some years ago, with their fantastic photos. I wonder if it's on the net.

    Edit...yes, March 1999 issue. I think that's the one with good photos anyway.
    Wouldn't you know it!! I have February and April 1999. See this list: Roy's Matra Enthusiasts pages -- English articles
    JohnW

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    Nice potted history of the D'jet!

    Frans, if you want a copy of the March 1999 Sports and Classic car magazine, let us know your address and I'll send it through.

    Quote Originally Posted by rubyalpine View Post
    I know they weren't available when the Djets were first built, But I often wondered if it would be possible to fit a gearbox from an R12/15/17. I know this would spoil the originality, but may provide better ratios, especially if 5 speed.

    Henry
    I suspect they stuck with the Estafette 'box to give a slightly lower C of G. The Estafette having a hollow pinion shaft would save about 50mm in height over the 330/353 R8/10 'box.
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  14. #14
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    PM sent.
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    Re boites:

    First,as Simon notes, the "input shaft inside hollow output shaft" design of the Estafette fate means a lower installed height for the engine. I suspect that this was just a bonus. Remember that the Djet first came out in 1962 & even if access to the 330 boite was available (& remember that the 956cc R8 of the time was using a Dauphine-Gordini boite) a problem would be trying to mate proper suspension to a casing made for swing axles. Anyway, the Estafette internals are much more robustly constructed than those of a 330.

    As for alternatives, yes, people have fitted such things as R12G boites. A failing with the Estafette is that it was never 5 speed & that motivates changes.

    cheers! Peter

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    I also suspect it was a bonus. From personal experience, I know that those early R8 gearboxes could break teeth even with only 956-power and sensible use!

    I reckon that Estafette gearbox is an elegant bit of design work. Expensive to make relative to a more conventional 330 I suspect?
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnW View Post
    I also suspect it was a bonus. From personal experience, I know that those early R8 gearboxes could break teeth even with only 956-power and sensible use!

    I reckon that Estafette gearbox is an elegant bit of design work. Expensive to make relative to a more conventional 330 I suspect?
    Elegant? - Yes. But also dumb. Consider the hollow output shaft.

    One feature is that a roller bearing (with no inner sleeve) has its rollers bearing (so to speak) directly on that shaft. This is a recipe for a buggered shaft. Other boxes use such a bearing to shaft relationship but with solid shafts & these can be remedially sleeved when worn. Not so a hollow shaft. One is up for replacement. Enter the next difficulty: the shaft is in one piece with the crown-wheel so it's not a simple shaft replacement but a shaft + crown-wheel & pinion. Grr!!

    As far as I know, the design merit of the concentric shaft arrangement for the Estafette was that lowering the engine was a good thing in a forward control van with the engine cantilevered out to the front in the manner of the R12.

    cheers! Peter

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simon View Post
    Nice potted history of the D'jet!

    Frans, if you want a copy of the March 1999 Sports and Classic car magazine, let us know your address and I'll send it through..
    Thank you Simon. Love your packaging!!!
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  19. #19
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    I just love the stance of this Matra driven with a purpose. Standard wheels but so easily in control.



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