Matra Enthusiasts Club UK
FAQ's: Frequently Asked Questions
- I wish to buy a Murena. What information can you provide?
First, I have added this to my FAQs since I am getting a lot of enquiries recently about buying a Murena when for years there has been no interest at all. Hopefully this will answer many questions before you contact me. There are four models, a 1.6 with the Talbot Alpine/Solara engine; a 1.6 exec; a 2.2 with a transverse version of the Talbot Tagora 2.2 engine; and an 'S' which is an uprated 2.2 model. These are all rare now. There were only 5,640 1.6; 4,560 2.2 and just 480 genuine 'S' models made. It is believed around 110 standard 2.2 were officially upgraded at the dealers with a kit and were called a 'Prep 142'. This forms the basis of those last 480 'S' models all produced in the factory. The number of 1.6 exec models made is unknown. The 1.6 had clear glass as standard and since there was a small demand for tinted glass as well as electric windows on the 1.6, they produced the 1.6 exec which was a factory built 1.6 with tinted glass, electric windows, floor storage box and the adjustable passenger toe-board like the 2.2 models, plus (4) alloy wheels and 60% profile tyres.
The Murena is a modern version of the Bagheera with a similar chassis at the front, but different around the rear since it has strut type rear suspension, unlike the torsion bar suspended Bagheera. Both these three-seat mid-engined cars were designed with the driving position on the left. Some think that with three-abreast seating the driver should be in the middle. That would be fine on a race track but for a road car the driver needs to be on the left (or right) so they can see past the side of the vehicle in front when wanting to pass. If the driver was in the middle the car would have to be moved so far out to see past the vehicle in front it would be dangerous and possibly have collided with an oncoming vehicle. So for a road car, Matra got it right.
The chassis was hot-dip galvanised but that does not mean it won't rust. Galvanising slows down the corrosion process to about one twentieth of the normal rate, and since the coverage on the chassis was somewhat variable and certain areas are more stressed and therefore more prone to corrosion, there may be some corrosion now they are over 30 years old. Furthermore the galvanising only applies to the chassis, so everything added to it is unlikely to be as well protected. The achilles heel of the Murena are the rear trailing arms. These are special fabrications and they do corroded, they are difficult to get spares, and very expensive, so these should be one of your first checks.
The second most expensive problem (if we exclude the cosmetic side and therefore the paint work) can be a fault in the gearbox which means the synchromesh fails even at low mileages. So you MUST test drive any Murena to check the synchromesh works on all gears and especially when changing down the box. The fault which mainly affects early 1.6 cars but can affect 2.2 and even any age for a reason I won't go into here, is due to the incorrect assembly of mis-matched parts at the Citroen factory. The synchros are not usually worn out, but since the angles of the cone ring and gears are mis-matched, they don't mate correctly and it is no use replacing the synchro rings - you have to replace the gears, and that means more cost and finding the right parts too. This would have been a warranty issue in 1980-81 but most Murena never did enough mileage in their first year for the problem to show up, and warranty then was only one year.
The 1.6 and 2.2 chassis are different around the rear and you cannot put a 1.6 in a 2.2 or vice versa. Some have uprated a 1.6 to a Peugeot 1.9 XU type engine as these are similar being based around the same family of engines, but there is a lot of work depending on which particular version you want to fit. The Murena 2.2 engine is NOT the same as the Peugeot 505 so please don't confuse them. The Murena 2.2 (X5N2 engine) and Tagora 2.2 (9N2 engine) are developments of the old Chrysler 180/2-litre family of engines and are actually quite good engines. The Peugeot 505 engine is the all-alloy 2165cc SOHC Douvrin engine also used in many Renault cars, and has a belt driven OHC which requires periodic belt and tensioner changes. The Talbot 2155cc SOHC engine has a cast iron block and alloy head with duplex chain driven OHC and provided the engine is maintained properly will last the life of the engine. This is a big plus as far as I'm concerned as it means you don't keep having to take the engine out to replace belts! The Murena engine is also oversquare (larger bore than stroke) and will rev. freely with the right camshaft whilst the Douvrin 2.2 engine is undersquare. The Douvrin also has wet liners so beware if removing a cylinder head!
One reason why there has been some confusion in the past is that both these SOHC engines have similar capacities AND the Tagora/Murena engine IS the one used as the basis of the Peugeot 505 Turbo (N9TE engine). So it is not the Murena that uses the 505 engine, it's the other way around and the '505 Turbo' (but only the Turbo version) which uses the Murena engine. This was because they decided the Douvrin engine was not as strong and unlikely to be reliable enough, so they used the cast iron block Chrysler/Talbot engine in preference. However, one warning: The Tagora/Murena alloy head is prone to cracking if overheated, so DO NOT EVER overheat one. Any sign of coolant loss - even the smallest amount should be checked. These are sealed cooling systems like all modern cars and should never lose any coolant. If you are having to top up the header tank, no matter how small, then something is wrong. It is also extremely important to have an over-ride switch for the cooling fan as the radiator switches fitted are notoriously unreliable (on any car not just Matra). There are improvements you can make to the cooling system which I seriously recommend. (a complete separate article on this is available from me)
The Murena was never officially imported into the U.K. They did look at the possibility, but with the state of PSA just after they took over the Citroen and then Chrysler companies, they could not afford it. So all Murena are personal imports or by small private companies who dealt in bringing in unusual cars that were not imported such as Alpines, BMW M1, etc. The 'grey' imports. It is not known how many actually made it here but I would estimate no more than 250 and originally more 2.2 than 1.6 since the road tax (and often insurance) was the same unlike in France. Some have since been sold back to the continent, some have perished, and many are unfortunately left deteriorating all around the country. At the time this was written there are no more than about 25 on the road in the U.K. Yes as tiny a number as that (there are probably about 50 that could be on the road, but the others were SORN when I checked). This is why you will hardly ever see one. Yet they are such a good car that many owners have had them a long time and never wish to sell them. So the chances of finding a good roadworthy one in the U.K. are very slim. Why then are so many left to deteriorate? They have probably had a problem such as rear brakes seizing or a failed trailing arm, and don't know where to get the parts or get them fixed properly, or wouldn't pay the high prices for the parts or repairs, or simply left them until 'they had time to sort them'. As we all know, this means they get pushed to one side and forgotten about, until the car needs lots more work and is eventually given up on.
These are the Murena that come up for sale occasionally, but since they have been unused for many years, they have deteriorated to the point where they will take quite a lot to re-commission them. This is one reason I always state there is no such thing as a cheap Murena. If the car is cheap it will need much time and money spent on it to make it a good reliable road car. Or you could buy one at a sensible price that you can drive away - if you can find one that is! Even those will need some work, but should be a much better starting point for many prospective owners. So what figures are we talking about. Well, first you should understand that a Murena when new was seriously underpriced. In 1983 you could buy a standard 2.2 for less than £7,000 when the equivalent Lotus Esprit 2.2 was just over £15,000. Although the Murena was not as quick as the Lotus, in most other respects it was comparable and should have been much closer in price. As very rare cars their parts and repairs can be expensive, consequently the price today should be similar to the price you would be expecting to pay for an S2.2 Esprit. Originality counts for a lot and a really top drive-away Murena 2.2 with good paintwork etc. should command £8,000 to £10,000 or more, whilst a car that is taxed, M.o.T'd and drivable but maybe requiring cosmetic repairs should still be worth £,4000 to £6,000. Anyone who thinks that £2,000 will get you a good usable 2.2 Murena is fooling themselves. A car at that price or lower will want a lot of time and money spent on it, probably before it can even be put on the road. Murena 1.6 models are usually about £1,000 lower than a 2.2 version. There are few people who know or understand them, and unless you can do much of the work yourself, you could end up paying a lot of money and still not get things done properly.
There is a lot of useful information in the rest of these FAQ pages of answers, so please take a look through and understand a little about these rare cars. Please check if you are buying a 2.2 model as some have had their 2.2 engines (X5N2) replaced with either a Tagora (9N2), or worse a Chrysler 2-litre (7T2) NOT a 2.2-litre at all! You can check which block is fitted by looking for the letters and numbers cast into it at the top by the bell-housing (but if it has 7T2, check for 9N2 or X5N2 stamped into the block as well usually by the engine number but sometimes near the 7T2 cast numbers). If you are lucky enough to own a good one, you will appreciate it and probably become reluctant to sell it! It is a car so good that even after 30 years it can still cope with modern traffic and conditions, and if it is in good condition and maintained well, can be used as an everyday car, with careful thought. Mostly you would need to keep a few spares which sometimes can take a few days to obtain, so that when required you can have it back on the road immediately. Join the club, or go to a meeting and see one for yourself. I have had mine from new and would not sell it, which should tell you something about the sort of car it is - extremely under-rated even by professionals, as so many simply do not know them at all.
- What are the true power figures for the Murena?
For many years we, in the U.K. at least, have used bhp as the power measurement we expect to see in a vehicle specification to give us an idea of its power, and consequently use for comparison with other vehicles. For some years any hp figure even in magazines has often been stated as bhp when in fact it was the DIN figure. I've even seen 'bhp DIN' which is an oxymoron as 'bhp' and 'DIN' horsepower are different! Sometimes a figure is given but they carefully forget to state whether this is DIN or bhp, and people assume these are the same, but DIN horse power is in fact the old German PS rating NOT bhp. The PS figure will always be slightly higher numerically which many do not realise, and in my mind using a DIN hp figure is a sales ploy to make the vehicle look a little more powerful. It is often assumed by people in the U.K. (and elsewhere maybe?) a horse power figure in any sales literature is bhp when in fact it is rare now and not generally the case any longer.
The original sales literature and specifications for the Murena gave the following standard ISO rated figures:
1.6 model power 65.74 kW at 5,400 rpm; (incorrectly shown as 92 DIN hp)
2.2 model power 84.3 kW at 5,800 rpm (incorrectly rated as 118 DIN hp) and the uprated 'Prep 142' rated at 101.4 kW at 6,000 rpm (or erroneously as 142 DIN hp)
2.2 S model (based on the 'Prep 142') 100 kW at 6,000 rpm. (wrongly advertised as 140 DIN hp)
The original measurements were in made in kW, and the DIN horse power figures they gave as the equivalents are all wrong and overstated since they have used a conversion factor of 1:1.40 which is clearly incorrect. The true kW to DIN hp conversion should be 1:1.36 and in fact in the original Matra Automobile Preparation 142 document they provide a graph of the power and torque figures and this actually gives the correct figures: 84.3 kW or 115 DIN hp (Std) and 101.4 kW or 138 DIN hp uprated (rounded up from 114.6 and 137.86 respectively) so they knew the true power was not 142 hp. Why then use a 1.4 factor and call it a 'Prep 142'? Their 1.4 conversion makes the engines appear more powerful than they are in reality. (probably marketing trying to make them look better!) Please note that DIN (or metric) horse power is the old German PS rating (735.5W), and is not the same as bhp (brake horse power or sometimes known as British horse power) (745.7W).
The true horse power outputs are:
1.6 model: 89.4 DIN (or 88 bhp)
2.2 model: 114.7 DIN (or 113 bhp)
'Prep 142': 137.9 DIN (or 136 bhp)
2.2S model: 136.0 DIN (or 134 bhp)
Why was the 'S' rated slightly lower than the 'Prep 142' even though they are essentially the same? I'm not sure but there are minor differences between the original Prep 142 kit and a genuine S, including different distributors and the fact that the Solex carbs. for the Prep 142 were stated as ADDAE (and probably when measurements were taken) yet all the 'S' have the ADDHE version and these also have red plastic trumpets fitted. It may simply be a slight difference on the measuring equipment or conditions at the time of testing. They were still using the wrong conversion factor however, so any horse power claims are still erroneous. The fact that the Murena 'S' only really produces 134 bhp is another reason that you can run it on the standard down-draught Solex 34 CICF with no power loss but better fuel consumption. It didn't need the twin side-draught Solex 40's - they were fitted more for the appearance and noise than anything else! And I can confirm this as I have done just that, running an 'S' on the down-draught carburettor. (same performance, better fuel consumption)
In the case of the standard 2.2 Murena, its engine was the Tagora 2.2 engine only physically modified where necessary for the transverse installation. There were no performance modifications done and therefore it should have had a very similar power output. The U.K. Tagora workshop manual states the power of the 2.2 as 82.2 kW or 110 bhp (the correct conversion factor of 1.341 between kW and bhp was used by whoever produced the U.K. manual) and therefore supports the true Murena figure of 113 bhp since the different carburettor, inlet and exhaust manifolds, air intake and exhaust systems could easily account for the 3 bhp difference.
With a decent camshaft profile, a 4-branch free-flow exhaust manifold, and alterations to the carburettor settings, the power of the 2.2 can be easily raised to 145-160 bhp which gives the car the power and performance it deserves yet still retaining its excellent drivability and fuel consumption figures. For years I have run a 2.2 with Holbay 58C cam, better exhaust but standard down-draught carb. and get a genuine 140+bhp and 31-34 mpg!
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This was last updated 23rd August '17