Concepts and Prototypes : Matra-SIMCA Bagheera U8

Chrysler may have been content for the Bagheera to use the 1294 and 1442cc SIMCA power units, but there were people within Matra that disagreed…

Bagheera U8 makes an appearance at the 2002 Retromobile at Paris.
Bagheera U8 makes an appearance at the 2002 Retromobile at Paris.
Matra Bagheera M560 U8
(Photo courtesy of The Ultimate car

The Bagheera had always been designed to fulfill the role of inexpensive and practical sports coupe, and thanks to its all-round efficiency, it managed to achieve a great deal despite its small engine. Perhaps that is the Bagheera’s appeal: it proved that less is more. It looked like a Lamborghini Uracco, yet used as little fuel as a Renault 5. What more could one ask for?

Matra thought it needed more power – and there were many owners that agreed. However, the larger engined Bagheera never materialized and the company’s imaginative engineers had to make to with the fascinating U8 prototype. Like all Matras, it was very, very interesting.

Essentially, the U8’s powerunit was created by joining two four-cylinder power units side-by-side, each bank using its own crankshaft. The drive was then joined via a common chain at the gearbox. As it was basically two 1100TI power units, you could double its vital statistics to arrive at the U8 specifications: 8-cylinders, 2.58 litres, maximum power: 168bhp at 6200rpm.

Unfortunately, the oil crisis and budget constraints put paid to the project before it really got off the ground. The Bagheera U8 remains a motorshow one-off, killed by its voracious fuel consumption and Chrysler’s lack of development funds…


  1. I can’t vouch for it, but the information I have is that up to six prototypes were built, of which two remain today. One is at the Espace Matra Automobiles in Romorantin, and the other is said to be in private hands.

    The U8, incidentally, had a stretched bodyshell to accommodate the larger powerplant. In my opinion, it is a fantastic looking car.

  2. Interesting concept. However, if one Simca engine rattled horribly, this thing probably sounded like a maraca factory in an earthquake!

    Shame that when Peugeot bought out Chrysler’s European operations that the Bagheera didn’t live long enough to benefit from the XU engine- or even a bored out version of stablemate Citroen’s GS/A flat four. Now that wouldn’t have been particularly fast in a straight line, but with a very low centre of gravity it would have been a very fine steer indeed in the twisties.

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