The Matra MS120 was a Formula 1 racing car produced by Matra. The first MS120 was produced in 1970. By the end of the 1972 season the car was used in different configurations.
The year 1970 was a turning point for Matra. The distribution of road vehicles was of great significance when Simca acquired 100% of Chrysler. This acquisition also ended the collaboration between Matra and Ken Tyrrell. In 1969 both Matra and the Tyrrell Racing Organisation had attained two world championship titles.
In 1970 Matra went purely as a works team at the start. The 8-cylinder engine from Cosworth, which by association with Chrysler could no longer be used, was replaced by the in-house 12-cylinder engine. Jean-Luc Lagardère pursued it all; the goal was to build a race car, the only in France to be built by parts. The engine had been completely revised and, among other things, there was a new crankcase, to act as a structural part; the cylinder heads were also improved. The engine now produced about 480 hp, but consumed more fuel than the DFV engine.
Bernard Boyer developed a completely new chassis. The car was edgy and the bodywork sloped. Only the suspensions stemmed from MS80. Jean-Pierre Beltoise drove the MS120 in 1970 five times to finish in the points and finished third in both Belgium and Italy. The second driver, Henri Pescarolo, drove the MS120 in Monaco also to finish in third place. At the end of the season, Matra attained sixth position in the constructors' championship.
In 1971, a New Zealander named Chris Amon was in the team, and won at the start of the year in the non-championship zählendes Formula 1 race in Argentina. It was the only Formula 1 race, the man from the fast Oceania had won in his career. The success has not yet been run with the MS120, for the World Cup races for the MS120B were available. The car had, a more stable suspension, rounded lines and a front wing (nose) over the entire width. The vehicle could not meet its Great Expectations. Amon was indeed third in Spain, but after the last race of the season he had overall attained just nine points and was only seventh in the Constructors' championship. At the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Amon had a chance to win. He had some eternal bad luck whilst in the lead but lost his helmet visor and dropped from the lead group. While Peter Gethin gave the tightest finish in the Grand Prix history, Amon was only sixth.
In the beginning, the two vehicles were the MS120B which appeared in the Formula 1 1972 season, then on to the MS120C which was reworked reworked. Parallel to this, he had been working hard on the new race car "MS120D" but, in the meantime, worked with the driver, Amon whom moved between types car types "B" and "C", back and forth. The MS120D gave the Grand Prix in France a brilliant debut. Amon parked in training on the pole position and led the race in superior fashion before a puncture forced him into the pits. The New Zealander, however, stormed through the field and finished third. At Monza, Amon started from pole position but after the race he had an engine failure so was forced to retire.
Late in 1972, Amon ended his Matra Formula 1 career, and focused entirely on the World Sportscar Championship. V12 engines celebrated in the 1970s, on aggregate the most victories in the Ligier last Grand Prix.