C’est Frenchie! 1966 Matra D’Jet 5S

European sports cars of the ’50s and ’60s are generally fabulous, if not for their incredible sounds, smells, alacrity, and beauty, then also for their history. Here on craigslist we have a 1966 Matra D’Jet 5S for sale with an asking price of $59,500. This gem is located in Seal Beach, California. We have Pat L. to thank for spotting this wonderful rarity. This story begins with Rene Bonnet, who with Charles Deutsche, founded Deutsche & Bonnet in the 1930s. Bonnet grew frustrated with the firm’s continuing use of Panhard engines; he wanted to switch to Renault. A rift sent Bonnet on his way to form his own company, Automobiles Rene Bonnet. At first, he made fiberglass Formula cars but in the mid-’60s turned his attention to road cars. The Matra D’Jet was the result. (Matra was an armaments maker, with a heavy investment in Bonnet’s venture.) In 1964, Matra bought out Bonnet.

This car was bodied by Matra in fiberglass, and if a true 5S would have a tuned 1108 cc Gordini engine (produced by Renault) mounted mid-ship, good for 95 bhp with twin Solex carbs and a top speed in this car of 118 mph. This car is equipped with Webers. There was a lesser and slower 1108 cc Gordini in the D’Jet 5 (with no “S”), as well as other engine models used in these D’Jets, so without a conversation with the seller, it’s hard to know whether this car ever underwent a swap. To complicate things further, a subset of these cars was supplied to the French gendarmerie (military police) with a larger R8 Gordini motor at 1255 cc! The transmission was a four-speed all-synchro manual that came from Bonnet’s Estafette van product. The seller doesn’t say if this car runs, and notably, Gordini engines were not known for reliability. The D’Jet failed on the track largely due to breakages.

This car has apparently been restored and the seller says it is in like-new condition. We see a few items that could use a clean-up, but otherwise, it’s mostly brilliant. Very few of the 5S cars were made; sources say about 355. And if you want to spring for this, it’s not like it’s completely impractical despite its rarity: the trunk has plenty of space for a carton of milk.

I couldn’t resist inserting this photo, showing the greenhouse. The Cibie and Elf badging lend that vintage look. I would love to know more about how this car made it to California and how it has been used. Actually, I would love to own it. How about you?

Comments

  1. RayT Member

    Michelle, the hemi-head Renault engines weren’t all that unreliable as I recall. Being aluminum, the heads were sometimes prone to cracking, but that could be avoided if the cooling system was kept in good nick. The heads came from Renault and not Amedee Gordini; he was a well-known race-car builder and engine tuner who started working with Renault ‘way back in the early days of the 4CV. The bottom end was more-or-less the standard R8 iron-block, wet-liner unit.

    I remember seeing a few Djet 5s in California some years ago, and came within a few hundred bucks of buying one. A friend had one, but to the best of my knowledge never drove it.

    Your lead photo gives the car a bit of a droop-snoot look, which I don’t recall on any of the Djet 5s I saw. To me, they are best in French Racing Blue.

    Like 6
    • Martin Horrocks

      I agree @RayT, these engines wete very reliable given the high state of tune.

      This car looks to have been modified with flared wheelarches. It may have been used in local hillclimbs or rallies in France before being exported to the USA.

      I saw one race at Laguna Seca about 10 years ago, so very rare but not unique. However, very good value againsy an Alpine A110

      Like 2
  2. 370zpp 370zpp Member

    This looks like the Miata’s mean uncle.

    Like 5
    • BigBlocksRock

      I see an Opel GT.

      Like 6
      • Kelly Breen

        I thought I was an Opel when I saw it.

  3. Sebastian X1/9

    I believe this is the second mid-engine car ever sold to the public, the first being the Matra 530. Or maybe this is the first. They both pre date the Ferrari 206. Hideous cars but novel.

    Like 2
    • Martin Horrocks

      This model predates the Matra 530 so possibly was the first middie offeted to the public.

  4. scott m

    Swoopy! This looks like a jewel and I bet it’s a hoot to hoon, er, I mean drive responsibly on appropriately sinuous country roads!

  5. Gary

    Put a Buick GNX motor in it, reliable and a whole lot more fun than

    Like 3
  6. artyparty

    I believe this is a scam, as this car is actually for sale in Belgium at the moment. Some due diligence required! The Craigslist ad basically says very little and is copied from the original advertisement. If a true S this is a rare care with Le Mans-derived aerodynamic improvements over the earlier cars. They are rocket ships in the right hands and the engines are not fragile as this writer suggests. Caveat Emptor!

    Like 7
  7. NoFear
  8. LARRY
    • drew

      The pictures in the ad are definitely not taken in Seal Beach, CA

  9. David Tidaback

    I know it seems pedantic, but what the hell – it’s Djet, no apostrophe, because that is the way to write “jet” so that it is pronounced like the English, in French, if that makes sense.

    Like 2
  10. RC Graham

    French cars… you either love them or hate them. Doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. I fall into the latter category.

    Little rankles more, than someone referring to their Citroen as their ‘Maserati’, just because The Italian gigolo had a dalliance for a while with the little French girl.

    However; Matra was different (probably redundant, in describing anything French). At the time (mid-1980’s), I was absolutely enamored of the diminutive Matra Bagheera. It was 1 to 1 competition for the Lotus Europa, and in many ways, better. That sound was me, gasping at the words I’ve just written.

    At this time I made a business trip to (among other places Paris, during Bastille week). The city was absolutely lousy with police (gendarmes) in anticipation of any terrorist activity that might crop up. They were on every street corner, with automatic weapons at the ready.

    One morning, as I was strolling the Champs-Élysées, I happened upon a beautiful French Blue Bagheera, sitting parked at the curb, with a uniformed policeman inside, surveying the crowd. It was his personal car (how cool is that?) He spoke very little English, and I an equal amount of his language.

    I admired the little rocket, looked it over and asked simple, polite questions, to which he replied enthusiastically and equally simply. He understood my admiration for his sports car and the encounter became my most pleasant experience the entire trip.

    This little D’Jet is stunning. The interior (especially the dash) seems to me to be the quintessential sports car. Just lovely. I think if any car company should claim to be Italian, it should be Matra. (No insult intended.)

    Like 3
    • Martin Horrocks

      I like and have owned French cars and yours is a nice story. But to compare the Bagheera with a Lotus Europa is strange. Even now you can find a good Bagheera for €10000, as so few people want to own one.

      Matra’s road cars were expensive, had no intrinsic competition history to speak of and wete let down by their bought in engines. Ford Taunus V4 for 530 and “bag of nails” Simca/Talbot 1400 for Bagheera.

      On the other hand the Europa derived directly from the Lotus 47 racer and its Renault 16 engine was a gem. Even better were the Lotus Twin Cam versions which followed in the 1970s.

      Like 1
      • RC Graham

        No offense intended. C’est la vie.

  11. Howie

    Cool, but that amount of money could get you so much more!!

    Like 3
    • Martin Horrocks

      Or less as well. This is good value against Alpine Renault A110.

      So good, it’s a scam apparently.

  12. losgatos_dale

    And to think a year ago 60 grand could buy a nice BMW 3.0CS…..

  13. pedro

    I love these Djets. Almost bought one about eight years back on BAT, but I wasn’t quick enough. They are very pretty cars without the modified fender flares.

  14. Raymond B Clark

    I was at a NJ time trial in the 60’s, a Matra showed up and put on a show.
    He pulled into the pits, pulled off the back window and found that a spark plug wire had come off :( That great show had been done on 3 cylinders !
    Despite having worked for La Tin I decided I needed one!

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