Matra: The Unconventional and Unexpected French Superhero

The French have always had a penchant for doing things a little differently. Take Matra, for example.

The Matra R530 is a medium range air-to-air missile normally fitted to the Dassault Mirage fighter jet.

The Matra M530, on the other hand, is a mid-engine sports car. Of course, that was no coincidence, as the first real Matra sports car was named after the missile built by the same company’s weapon division.

Yet the company’s abnormal conventions didn’t end at naming a mid-engine sports car after an infrared homing missile, making Matra one of the more interesting — albeit obscure — footnotes in French automotive history. The company went from producing front-line weaponry to winning the Formula One title in five years, won Le Mans three times on the trot, and produced some of the first minivans. Yet, at the height of their power, they hung up their automotive jacket and today they produce….bicycles?

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Junkyard Find: 1963 Ford Taunus 17M

Last week, I left the Return of the LeMonites 24 Hours of LeMons and went straight to Sweden for a car-freak field trip with Dr. G.D. Yo-Man. Surströmming, runestones, black metal, and, of course, junkyards full of weird (to Americans) European cars. Bloms Bilskrot, located in Söråker, boasts what must be thousands of cars from the 1940s through the 1990s, and the inventory extends well into dense forest where decades-old trees grow through engine compartments and plants grow on mulch on car roofs. Today’s Junkyard Find was located in the less wooded part of Blom’s, so I didn’t have to climb over any fallen trees in order to photograph it.

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Vellum Venom: Uwe Bahnsen, Car Designer, RIP

Never forget: people make all the difference. This often overlooked fact in the glamorous world of automotive styling rings true for the life of Mr. Uwe Bahnsen. I froze in my tracks when I heard of his passing on Car Design News. His work at Ford and with the Industrial Design community influenced me, and every American who loved cars in the 1980s.

How ironic that Mr. Bahnsen’s passing was the week TTAC’s own Ford Sierra passed its citizenship test in Texas: so here’s a great Germanic-Texas Beer for you, Mr. Bahnsen.

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  • Da Coyote It's attractive, but having owned an Alfa in college (yes, I was stupid enough to have one), and even having loved driving it during the few days it was drivable, I'll give it a pass. However, I'd love Italian styling coupled with Toyota engineering. A painful thought would be Toyota styling coupled to Alfa engineering.
  • EBFlex Only 33 miles is disappointing. 50 miles should be the absolute minimum when it comes to PHEVs, especially for the cost of this Toenail
  • Theflyersfan I pass by the "old money" neighborhoods next to the golf course community where many of the doctors and non-ambulance chaser lawyers live in town and these new Range Rovers are popping up everywhere. It used to the Q8 and SQ8, but I'm thinking those leases expired, traded in, or given to their never leaving home son or daughter so they can smash it at a DUI stop, get on the news, and get out of jail free. I'm not getting into their new design language, and I like Land Rovers. They aren't supposed to look like smooth bars of soap - they need a few character lines or hints of offroad ability, even though the odds of this getting on anything other than a gravel parking lot are less than nil. And with the new Range Rover's rear and the taillights, if I wanted a small solid red bar for a lamp that did everything and then dies and then I can't tell what the car wants to do, I'd follow a late 80's, early 90's Oldsmobile 98.
  • Lou_BC Legalize cannabis for racing
  • Add Lightness Range Rovers have come a long, long ways from their original concept of a gentleman's Land Cruiser. Pretty useless off road now but the wannabees will love them until the warrantee expires.