The Matra Djet was a French sports car designed by René Bonnet and modified by Matra.
The car had various names in its life from 1962 till 1967: René Bonnet Djet, Matra Bonnet Djet, Matra Sports Djet and finally Matra Sports Jet.
The car started out as the René Bonnet Djet (later known as Djet I) in June 1962. The car was named Djet, because Bonnet thought the French could not pronounce the word jet correctly. It was powered by a 1108 cc Renault 8 mid-engine mated to a Renault Estafette gearbox, giving a top speed of 165 km/h (103 mph) or, in the Djet II with an uprated Gordini engine, 190 km/h (118 mph). The fiberglass body was made by Matra, which was glued to a steel chassis. Matra also provided the factory where the Djets were built, in Romorantin. It had a very modern design with disc brakes and independent suspension with wishbones and coil springs all around. The car accommodated for two people, there was no back seat as the engine took that place. The car measured 3.80 m (length) by 1.40 m (width) by 1.15 m (height) and weighed only 600 kg (1,323 lb). The 1962 Bonnet Djet was the worlds first mid engined production road car beating the de Tomaso Vallelunga introduced in 1963. The Lamborghini Miura was not introduced until 1966 four years after the Djet. There were 198 Bonnet Djet produced during the two years before Matra took over Bonnet, and the car became the Matra Djet in 1964 and a further 1491 cars produced before production ended in 1968. There were less than 60 de Tomaso Vallelunga produced before it was replaced by the Mangusta in 1967.
Matra takes control
When Bonnet got into financial troubles, Matra (who supplied both the bodyshells and the factory location) took over René Bonnet Automobiles and its debts in October 1964 and production of the original Djet ceased in December 1964. It was considered a great opportunity by Matra's CEO, Jean-Luc Lagardère, to expand Matra's business to the automobile market. Matra hired former Simca designer Philippe Guédon and modified the original Bonnet Djet, the car became slightly bigger, it now measured measured 4.22 m (length) by 1.50 m (width) by 1.20 m (height) and weighed 660 kg (1,455 lb). The production resumed in April 1965 with two new versions, called the Matra Bonnet Djet V and Djet V S (Gordini specs engine).
During his 1965 tour to France, Yuri Gagarin was presented with a Matra Bonnet Djet V S coupe by the French government.
After the Salon de l'Auto Paris auto show in 1965, the Roman numerals and the Bonnet name were dropped. The car was now called the Matra Sports Djet 5. In 1966, a version with a bigger Gordini engine became available and the Djet name was dropped in favour of its original meaning: Jet. The model range now consisted of the Jet 5 (1108 cc Renault 8 Major engine), Jet 5 S (1108 cc Renault 8 Gordini engine) and Jet 6 (1255 cc Renault Gordini engine).
René Bonnet Djet
There were four types of René Bonnet Djet:
- René Bonnet Djet I
- 1108 cc Renault 8 Major engine (65 hp), 165 km/h (103 mph).
- René Bonnet Djet II
- 1108 cc Renault 8 Gordini engine (80 hp), 190 km/h (118 mph).
- René Bonnet Djet III / Djet IV
- 998 cc engine with double overhead camshaft (100 hp). These models were developed for competition use (racetrack).
Only 197 René Bonnet Djets have been built from 1962 till 1964.
Matra Bonnet Djet / Matra Sports Djet / Matra Sports Jet
Three types of Matra Bonnet/Matra Sports Djet/Jet were produced from 1965 'til 1967.
- Matra Bonnet Djet V / Matra Sports Djet 5 / Jet 5
- 1108 cc Renault 8 Major engine, 70 bhp (52 kW), 170 km/h (106 mph)
- Matra Bonnet Djet V S / Matra Sports Djet 5 S / Jet 5 S
- 1108 cc Renault 8 Gordini engine, 90 bhp (67 kW), 190 km/h (118 mph)
- Matra Sports Jet 6
- 1255 cc Renault 8 Gordini engine, 105 bhp (78 kW), 210 km/h (130 mph).
Apart from these model designations, a luxury version with wooden dashboard and bigger bumper was available.
Production of the Jet ended in 1967 with a total of 1495 Matra (D)Jets and it was replaced with the Matra M530. The last Jets (all Jet 6) were sold in 1968.