I am a retired professional technician who has owned a Murena 2.2 since 1983 when it was new. I believe it is the best practical, yet affordable, mid-engined sports coupé ever produced. Being a 3-seater it can carry two adults and a child or three adults and their luggage, and is a comfortable and usable sports car even today more than thirty years later. Matra Automobiles came about in the early sixties after they took over René Bonnet for whom they had been producing composite bodies for his creations. The Murena was the last of their great sports coupés and unfortunately very short lived for commercial reasons. It is only now starting to be appreciated for what it is.
MATRA, from Mechanique Aviation TRAction, originally owned by the Floirat family, and specialising in missiles and weaponry, was a large French company with international links, which included Matra Communications, Matra Datavision, Matra Défense, Matra Marconi Space, Matra Hachette, etc. and the former Matra CEO Jean-Luc Lagardère formed the Lagardère Group which encompassed them all. Matra Automobiles was only a small part of this empire, and was closed in March 2003. Initally Pinninfarina acquired the Matra Engineering, Testing and Prototype facilities but later sold their interest to Segula Technologies. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matra and the present company Matra MS producing electric solutions for transport.
The car marque:
As a very small company initially, Matra Automobiles only generally produced one model at a time except during the transition from an old model to a new one. They started with the mid-engined sports car taken over from René Bonnet - the Djet/Jet ('62-'68), followed by the M530A ('67-'72) which was the first sports car of their own design. Next came the (Matra-Simca) Bagheera ('73-'80) and the final mid-engined car, the (Talbot-Matra) Murena ('80-'83). The (Matra-Simca) Rancho ('77-'84) was aimed at those that wished for a cheaper alternative to the likes of the Range Rover and did not require its comprehensive off-road facilities. This was achieved by having front wheel drive only, which was considered adequate since most of the owners never really needed the full four wheel drive. It was produced alongside the Bagheera and Murena. Finally Matra achieved relatively large scale production with the highly successful (Renault) Espace ('84-'02) 'one box people carrier' - or MPV as they have become known, but since it only carried the Renault badge, Matra lost its identity. Ironically unlike the Rancho, the Espace was available with full time four wheel drive between 1989 and 1996, but not as an off roader, simply for better on-road traction in poor weather or snow. Owing to the small numbers produced, the Espace Quadra is now rare. The last Matra was the Renault Avantime ('02-'03) a large luxury 4 seater coupé based on the last (Matra) Espace III chassis.
What became the Espace was originally penned by Antoine Volanis, who also designed the beautiful Murena. He worked at Matra Automobiles and the prototype was the P18 conceived at the end of the seventies and initially offered to their partners Talbot (previously Simca) France to replace the Rancho. When new owner PSA turned it down, supposedly owing to a lack of spare funds but definitely foresight, Matra negotiated a contract with Renault instead, to supply the necessary mechanical parts, plus distribution through their dealer network, and the redesigned Matra P23 prototype became the first Renault Espace. The rest, as they say is history! The first three series up to 2002 were all built at Romorantin by Matra. With Renault taking over Espace production themselves for the first time, from 2002, Matra made the Avantime for a short time up to their closure in 2003.
This is a 1983 Murena 2.2 My 1989 Espace I Phase 2