Servicing is not something to take lightly, and yet sometimes there just isn’t time to fit it into my hectic life. Since my last trip to Paris, I picked up all the bits I needed to give the 2.0-litre turbo under the bonnet a fresh lease of life – oil and air filter, and those all-important pencil coils (Valeo, and not the cheap unbranded ones), which replace the spark plug leads on this car, and which I suspect had been causing some unwanted rough running.
My plan had been to fit the parts and drop the oil on an early start before work, and run into the office – no time lost. That was the plan. When it came to it, at 6.30am on a Wednesday morning, with a light dusting of snow covering it, I bottled it, and decided instead to take it to my local (very) classic friendly garage.
Within minutes, the coils had been changed, the oil dumped, and a duff headlamp height adjuster we’d spotted broken fixed – job done. Not quite, when it came to the air filter, supposedly the easiest job of all – because one of the metal screws holding it together had welded itself to the fixing, which required brutal measures in order to get it apart. And then when the housing was cracked open, I’d been sent the wrong panel filter to fill it. Ah well.
So, with the old one cleaned and replaced, the service light reset, and a quick check over of all its most vital bits, I was on my way again – and rueing the fact that proper garages like this are getting thinner on the ground. And, boy, does the Matra run a whole lot more sweetly now. Clearly, the coils were breaking down, as suspected – and the original ones did look like items that had been fitted in the factory – causing it to fluff and stutter. Now it feels like all 165bhp has been restored to excellent health, although the strange miss remains in slightly less obvious form, so clearly something else is amiss.
With that done, I can get on with enjoying what has proved to be an uncommonly satisfying car. In all honestly, it’s probably been five years since I’ve owned a ‘modern’ that pleases me as much as this one. And that previous pleaser was an Abbott Racing-tuned Saab 9000 – so hopefully, you’ll understand that this is high praise indeed for my strange three-door Matra.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.