French Oddity: 1978 Matra-Simca Bagheera

The French are not exactly known for their ’70s sportscars (at least not in America) but we have an example of just such a thing to show you! It’s a 1978 Matra-Simca and it’s up for sale right now, here on eBay in Florida, with Buy It Now of $14,000 USD. Thanks go to reader JimJ for letting us know about it, and if it intrigues you, keep reading to find out more!

The story of how the Bagheera came to exist is a bit complicated, so we’ll try to condense it for you. Matra was a French defense contractor, and Simca was a French auto manufacturer (partly owned by Chrysler Europe) and when two companies love each other very much…well, you get the idea. The union of the two in 1969 produced a sports car that is…unique, to say the least. Named after a character from Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 “The Jungle Book”, the Bagheera was produced from 1973 to 1980, for a total of about 47,000 units.

Bagheera are powered by either 1200-cc 84-hp or 1400-cc 90-hp transverse-mounted, carbureted, inline-four engines, both of which were existing Simca units.  The only transmission available was a Simca 4-speed unit from their sedans. Body panels were hefty fiberglass, over a pressed-steel unibody-style frame. The interior seated three people, not just two, and the rear hatch opens to access the engine and a small luggage compartment. Funny story: The exterior styling was very aerodynamic and won an award in 1973, beating the Ferrari Dino 308 GT4 and two Lancias, but the early build quality was so awful that the Bagheera won Germany’s Silberne Zitrone (“Silver Lemon”) award in 1975 for being the lowest-quality car at the time.

We turn our attention now to the example before us. The seller doesn’t give us a whole lot to work with, so we have to let the pictures tell their thousand words. We can see a car that looks like it’s in decent conditon, and the seller tells us that the interior has been reupholstered at some point recently. We’re told that it has covered only 44,000 kilometers, or 28,000 miles. As one might expect for a small ’70s car that was supposed to look futuristic, the dash has plenty of plastic, a full complement of gages and sliding climate controls, and interestingly, a cassette deck mounted sideways.

I knew absolutely nothing about these before writing this article for you. I learned a heck of a lot, and any of you who have read my work before, know that I dig the oddballs and limited-production units that have been kept well enough not to be only good for scrap. I kinda like this car now, and maybe someday when I have a museum or big garage, I’ll add one to my collection

That’s what I think, what do you think? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Steve Bush Member

    Seems like this may well have been a nice little car back in the 1970s. Regardless, the dealer’s asking price of $14k seems at least a little high for such an obscure car that didn’t exactly have a great reputation even when new. While it did receive the 1973 Style Auto Award but also garnered the German auto club’s “Silver Lemon” award in 1975 for being the new car with the most problems. I’d never heard of one before. Maybe some of you have some first hand experience.

    Like 1
    • Dave Mazz

      Does winning the Golden Lemon award mean a car has *more* problems than the Silver Lemon winner?? :-) :-)

  2. 8thNote 8thNote Member

    This thing is awsome!! Granted, not $14k awsome, but awsome none the less. I love these European oddities. French cars, in particular, are extremely odd to the American eye. That oblong steering wheel is especially cool in an odd way. If it was half this price, I would potentially be a buyer.

    Like 1
  3. Don S

    I thought vertically mounted audio systems went away with the Datsun roadsters…

  4. PeteL

    Surprised no one had made the comment on the French bring a mistress for the third seat…3 across seating. Always admired the style of the car, not $14k though. $9k and more information for sure. They were known to have serious rust issues on the chassis connection points with fiberglass. Underpowered but the brand is known for fine handling and suspension design. Anyone driven one of these…on my list at some point but I like the obscure rides!

    Like 3
  5. Francisco

    I remember seeing some of these when I lived in Rome in the 70’s. I was very intrigued by the sleek lines and the three seats abreast. People used to say the body was made of polyester.

  6. mrobin

    Kinda looks like a French honda cr-x.

    Like 2
  7. David

    I can’t be the only one who sees this…

    I’m getting a Saab Sonnett has relations with a Porsche 944, with a Bricklin in the third seat as a mistress.

    Like 8
  8. BoxheadTim

    These are pretty cool cars, however they’re notorious for having the unibody rust like only a 1970s French or Italian car can. By the time it’s actually visible (because all of the outer panels are fibreglass), you’re well past the point of no return unless you’re really skilled at bodywork.

    Good examples are pretty rare and given how hard it is to find a good one even in Europe, the price might not be that out of line. That said, it does look like someone’s had a go at the interior as I’m pretty sure the two-tone interior in leather or fake leather isn’t stock. Most of them with the exception of a couple of special editions came with cloth interiors.

    Either way, I’d recommend potential buyers inspect the car very carefully for corrosion – if it’s got very little to no rust, it might not be that bad a buy.

  9. Blueprint

    They were briefly sold up here in Canada, and that’s probably how it ended up in Florida. I still have my Majorette die cast of this, in silver.

    Like 1
  10. chris

    When I was a kid I was dreaming of owning one. Year later, I had a opportunity to buy one. The issue is that by that time I was a grown-up, and maybe I had grown too much. Att 6 foot 1, I can’t fit in the car. The roof is far too low for me, and if the car can in theory sit 3, it’s not wide. This sit is far too narrow to be confortable

  11. Dave

    Got out of the service in ’72 and worked for a Fiat dealership that had previously been a Sunbeam/Simca dealership so I got to see a variety of foreign cars. I even owned a Simca 1204. All it needed was a new clutch and then sold it to my brother who ended up driving it to Alaska from Oklahoma. He got sideswiped by a semi there but she still ran and drove. He left it there when he came back a year later. Wonder if it is still around?

  12. Brakeservo

    I love Simcas and have owned at least six but must admit Simca is French for P.O.S.

    When a Dauphine was just too ordinary or reliable there was Simca! But I like British cars too, so there you go.

    Like 2
    • Gabriel Thibault

      So I’m enjoying reading the comments:) I own a Bagheera, there were two generations of Bagheeras, the first one did have some of the quality issues that is mentioned up in the comments, the second generation had a little more power and engine was upgraded in 79 to a 1442cc and solve some of the issues, my 79 has been such a fun car to drive raving it in the street of Paris:) We drive the car over 500 miles back to Paris after I purchased it. The full 3 seats in the front are awesome and very comfortable with a lot of leg room. Just for the comment that Simca are POS the car never let me down in my 2 year ownership so far! Despite the high raving engine which seats right beyond you, it is a very economical car from gas consumption.The steering wheel is cool but also very practical when driven around very tight street..On a side other than the McLaren F1 this is the only : seater mid engine sports car ever produce:) The car being for sale here seems ok but unfortunately the interior was not really done what the original was… Anyway just wanted to give my opinion from my own experience with the car…

      Like 5
  13. Dale S.

    My dad impulsively bought a two tone green 1960 Simca 4 door sedan at a Chrysler dealership without talking to the rest of the family first. As a family of four we barely fit in the thing. We only had it a year, and then my dad surprised us with a 1961 metallic brown AMC Rambler Classic station wagon he ordered. My older brother told me the Simca was always in the shop getting fixed. It had horrible reliability. The Rambler was better, but on a trip to the Seattle Worlds Fair the radiator fan ended up going into the radiator itself at Yellowstone Park. We were stuck there for several days by Old Faithful, and I’m not talking about the Rambler.

    Like 1
  14. chrlsful

    Our simca 1000 did so well we ordered a second after 6, 8 yrs (typical length of life in the 60s). I’m w/the 2 above, Honda copied, Sonnett preceeded it (’55), but I don’t see the other 2 or 3 in it’s lines, style (C rear 3/4 shot above).

    Didn’t another French car have 3 across 1 row only (only 2 ever made?)

  15. Graham Line

    $14K is barely used Corolla money.

  16. CJinSD

    I’ll hold out for a Matra Murena with the big-block 2.2 liter engine.

  17. Robert Woodward

    I owned a 1974 Bagheera for awhile. Unfortunately mine suffered from severe rust and ended up in the salvage yard. I bought it on eBay from a very dishonest seller who stated it had minimal rust. My plan at the time was to install a 4G63 turbo Mitsubishi motor to make it as fast as it looked.

  18. Gregory Stegall

    Looks a lot like a mid-‘70’s Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV to me.

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