The Matra Djet was sold under many names including the Rene Bonnet DJet, Matra Sports Jet, Matra Sports Djet, and Matra-Bonnet Djet. In June of 1962, it was known as the Rene Bonnet 'DJet' since Rene Bonnet, its designer, believed the French would not pronounce the word 'jet' correctly. It was announced in 1962 and the first production Djets began leaving the factory in July of 1963. 198 examples of the Bonnet Djet were produced over a two-year period prior to Matra assuming production. These examples, retrospectively known as the Djet I, were built with the lower-powered 1108cc specification from the Renault 8. Its 65 horsepower engine was backed by a four-speed gearbox from the Renault Estafette van and had a top speed of just over 100 mph. The later Djet III version was powered by a Gordini engine.
The Matra DJet had a 94.5-inch wheelbase, a length of 166.1 inches, a width of 59.1 inches, and stood just 47.2 inches tall. Its aerodynamic and lightweight body was formed from fiberglass and the body was made by Matra's Générale d'Applications Plastiques subsidiary in Romorantin. The steel chassis was built in Bonnet's factory in Champigny-sur-Marne. The suspension was independent with upper and lower A-arms with coil springs. Disc brakes provided the stopping power.
The Bonnet Djet became the Matra Djet in 1964 and an additional 1,491 examples were produced prior to production ceasing in 1968. Slow sales and increasing debt forced Bonnet to hand over production to Matra, who already supplied both the bodyshells and the factory for the Djet. Matra's President Marcel Chassagny viewed this as an opportunity to example into the automobile market. Philippe Guédon, a former Simca designer, was hired to modify the design of the original Bonnet Djet. Along with the updated design, the Djet grew slightly larger and heavier. When production resumed in April of 1965, two versions emerged, with the Matra-Bonnet Djet V using the original mechanical specification while the Djet V S was equipped with a Gordini-tuned engine.
The Matra Djet is remembered as being the world's first rear mid-engine production road car, beating the DeTomaso Vallelunga that was introduced in 1963. While the Djet had an attractive design, its Achilles Heel was its rather expensive sticker price, unisolated fiberglass bodywork that resulted in a noisy interior, and a level of finish that was below its contemporaries.
by Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2021
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