Bring back some good or bad memories


April 19, 2023

Yuri Gagarin and His Matra Djet Sports Car, 1965

The Matra Djet is a French sports car that was originally designed and sold by René Bonnet. As the Bonnet Djet it was the world’s first rear mid-engined production road car. Different versions of the car were produced from 1962 until 1967 and sold under a variety of names that included René Bonnet Djet, Matra-Bonnet Djet, Matra Sports Djet and finally, Matra Sports Jet.

The car started out as the René Bonnet Djet in June 1962. This model became known in retrospect as the Djet I. Bonnet named it “Djet” as he wanted it to be pronounced by French speakers more like the English word “jet” instead of the French word “jet”. The name is often styled “D’jet” or “D’Jet”.

The Djet was priced at 20,000 French francs at launch, the same as its much larger and more luxurious contemporary, the Facel-Vega Facellia. The Bonnet did not impress with its level of finish, and the unisolated fibreglass bodywork made for an extremely noisy environment inside. Bonnet believed that the competition record of the Djet and his company would be enough to convince the public to purchase it, but this was not to be the case.

When Bonnet got into financial troubles, Matra, who already supplied both the bodyshells and the factory for the Djet, took over René Bonnet Automobiles and its debts in October 1964. Production of the original Djet was stopped in December 1964. Matra’s President Marcel Chassagny considered this a great opportunity for Matra to expand into the automobile market. Chassagny hired Jean-Luc Lagardère away from aeronautics competitors Avions Marcel Dassault to run the newly formed Matra Sports and Engins Matra divisions. Former Simca designer Philippe Guédon was hired to modify the original Bonnet Djet. The car became slightly bigger, measuring 4,220 mm (166.1 in) long by 1,500 mm (59.1 in) wide by 1,200 mm (47.2 in) high and weighing 660 kg (1,455 lb). Production resumed in April 1965 with two new versions; the Matra-Bonnet Djet V and the Djet V S, the latter having a Gordini-tuned engine.

During his 1965 tour of France, Yuri Gagarin was presented with a Matra-Bonnet Djet V S coupé by the French government. The car was later photographed wearing Soviet license plates. Production was gradually moved away from the old Bonnet plant, and late Jets were built entirely at Matra’s home plant in Romorantin-Lanthenay.

After the Paris Motor 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 favor of its original meaning: Jet. The model range now consisted of the Jet 5 (1,108 cc Renault 8 Major engine), Jet 5 S (1,108 cc Renault 8 Gordini engine) and Jet 6 (1,255 cc Renault Gordini engine).

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