Rare Rides: A Rene Bonnet Le Mans From 1963 - French and Fiberglass
Today’s Rare Ride is one of the more obscure vehicles seen on these pages. The result of an argument between two men, the Le Mans was a short-lived model from a short-lived manufacturer.
Automobiles René Bonnet was formed after the dissolution of French manufacturer Deutch et Bonnet (known as DB). Its founders were engineer Charles Deutch and racing driver René Bonnet. DB built lightweight sports and racing cars between 1938 and 1961, utilizing engines sourced from Panhard.
Near the end of DB’s existence in the early Sixties, Deutsch and Bonnet had a big disagreement. Deutsch insisted DB continue to use Panhard engines, while Mr. Bonnet wanted to move on to Renault power. The situation proved a complete impasse, and the two men went their separate ways. Deutsch created a firm after his own initials — CD. Bonnet choose a similar tack, founding a new brand which wore his name.
In production since 1959, the DB Le Mans became the René Bonnet Le Mans in 1962. New, Bonnet-produced models kept the front-drive, Panhard-derived chassis, but swapped to Renault propulsion. The Renault mill of choice was a 1.1-liter inline-four tuned to produce around 69 horsepower. Overall length was just 160 inches, with the car boasting a feathery weight of 1,500 pounds.
The Le Mans was the foundation for two other Bonnet vehicles: the Missile and the Djet. The latter of the two, though developed by Bonnet, is better known today as a Matra. The weapons manufacturer was interested in fiberglass technology, a subject in which Bonnet had extensive expertise.
Bonnet and Matra worked together for a few short years before Automobiles René Bonnet closed its doors. The creation of Matra Automobiles in 1964 coincided with the last time Bonnet produced any vehicles. Matra took over, and Mr. Bonnet ended involvement with the automobile industry entirely, perhaps after receiving a check from Matra. Bonnet was killed in a car accident in January of 1983, at the age of 78.
Located in the Netherlands, today’s 1963 Le Mans was previously the subject of an extensive restoration. It sold recently, so perhaps soon its Mercedes-Benz headlamps will light the roads of Europe once again.
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very interesting facts! on the Automotive Craze site you can read reviews and stories not only about old models, but also new cars from different continents around the world