Matra P29

What’s going on here?

It looks like the love child between a Renault 5 Turbo II, Gillet Vertigo, and Ford Indigo. Today’s entry, the Matra P29, will sadly be a shorter one simply because it’s been difficult to find much information on this quirky concept from 1986.

(You can, however, order plans to make your very own P29 from paper.)

Introduced at the Paris motor show, it was a blend of advanced technology and construction methods, methods that would later be seen on the production RenaultSport Spider. Matra’s 29th prototype, the so-named P29 had a reinforced aluminum honeycomb chassis, polycarbonate body panels, with composite spoilers. Composites were also said to have been used for the suspension parts both front and rear. Other weight-saving measures included magnesium wheel hubs with aluminum rims!

A mid-mounted, supercharged all-aluminum 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine with 255 horsepower provided motive force, with a five-speed transmission and all-wheel-drive. The rear-biased system also had a limited slip rear differential, electronic stability control, and an active centre differential–think of it as a Subaru WRX crossed with a Caterham Seven.

At just 840 kg (1851 lbs), the P29 would have been an absolute rocketship—0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) is quoted at 5.6 seconds, with a top speed of more than 230 km/h (143 mph).

To give the prototype serious handling capability, Matra fitted the concept with adjustable front and rear spoilers, which surely would have aided grip in high-speed corners.

Inside, it’s got more in common with the Concorde than a car. A dash-mounted car phone, radar for obstacle detection in bad weather, navigation system, rear-mounted video camera, and other niceties mean the P29 driver would be able to handle just about any driving conditions—even if the whole vehicle was supermini-sized.

If you’d like to see it in person, it’s apparently on display at the Matra Museum (link below). 

Had this prototype made production, I could see them at home today on the rallycross scene, or hauling ass during a track day. I think it’s brilliant. In the end, too good to be true, but I suppose the good ones always are…