Matra Rancho

Matra Rancho
ER Classics Desktop 2022

It is 1977. The small Chrysler daughter Matra is showing the world a new concept at the Geneva Motor Show. The Matra Rancho gives substance to a new form of car use. The French Multi Purpose Utility Vehicle is a combination of use of space and application of various elements, giving the impression that the car is also suitable for off-road use, and is recommended as an all-road car. pour all the way or not: a unique concept is born.

In the early 1973s, Matra, a Chrysler subsidiary, which specializes in the construction of sports cars, considered expanding its activities. The new sports car – the Matra Simca Bagheera – has been well received. Matra wants to develop a car that fits well within the European Chrysler range and at the same time appeals to a new audience. The start-up of the project is gaining momentum, partly due to the oil crisis of XNUMX, all the more so as Matra expects a declining demand for sports cars as a result of that crisis.

Range Rover and Simca 1200 Campero sources of inspiration

It is decided to develop a car that is based on Simca technology and at the same time must be accessible to Chrysler Europe customers. The success of the Range Rover is a starting point for putting the ideas for a car with new uses into a more solid form. In the end, the puzzle pieces fall into place – partly due to the success of the Simca 1200 Campero, a Utility Vehicle, which is available in Spain. Project P12 is taking shape.

Chassis of 1100 Pickup is one of the starting points

At Chrysler's intercession, Matra is bringing one copy of the Simca 1200 Campero to France. The basis of this forms the ideal starting point for designer Antonis Volanis to design the Matra Rancho. From a cost point of view, an existing basis is chosen: the successful Simca 1100. The pickup version is used to develop the Matra Rancho. It means that the technical layout and suspension, as well as some sheet metal parts, are carried over from the Simca, while the chassis of the 1100 Pickup is extended. The wheel drive is also taken over from the 1100, which means that the Matra Rancho does not get the four-wheel drive that matches the tough appearance of the car. However, the ground clearance is increased to 21 centimeters. This somewhat compensates for the absence of four-wheel drive.

Combination of Chrysler Simca parts and unique applications

He also gets the 1442 cc engine from the Chrysler Simca 1308 GT. A box with adapted transmission ratios, the brakes from the Simca 1100 TI and the dashboard and seats from the 1100 GLS are also mounted. Meanwhile, Matra has devised a construction of polyester and fiberglass for the rear of the car – including a two-part opening and therefore a practical rear section. That stern can accommodate up to 2200 liters of luggage. Special: the compartment can be equipped with an optional double bed. In appearance, the Matra Rancho catches the eye, thanks in part to the richly applied plastic protective parts and a protective bar at the front. This is how the Rancho makes its debut as Matra Simca in 1977 in Geneva. He was received with admiration and made his market debut not much later.

Special versions

Adjustments are made sparsely after 1977. For example, in 1979 the Matra Rancho will also be available with a low-compression power source. From the beginning of the eighties – Matra Simca is now called Talbot Matra – more implementation levels followed. Like the Grand Raid, with electric winch at the front, a target light, differential lock, underbody protection and Bab Terre all terrain tires (one on the roof and one under the rear floor) was suitable for the heavier work. The X – with alloy wheels, rev counter and tinted glass – is also a sought-after car today. The Découvrable from 1981 deserves special mention. This is a variant in which the rear roof section and the abundant glass have been replaced by a frame with a linen span. The AS is a two-seater and intended for commercial purposes.

Thank you very much

Special, that is, the Matra Rancho. Because the French “tout chemin” lifestyle car is seen as the first midi SUV. The Matra Rancho is produced 56,457 times, to be replaced in 1984 by ... the Renault Espace. Peugeot – owner of Chrysler France and Matra since 1978 – refuses the design for financial reasons. Renault says “merci beaucoup”, puts an end to the Matra Murena and makes the Espace a great success. And that can be attributed, among other things, to the pioneering work that Matra performed with the Rancho.


Give a reaction
  1. Have driven that car for about 6 years, mainly to be able to go on holiday easily (lots of space) and to be able to go to the woods with the dogs (very handy that divisible tailgate). The car has never let me down and gave a nicer feeling than the Simca 1100. Consumption was quite high, but you also got a nice eye-catcher in return. A rear-end collision put an end to that party, partly because replacement parts were both scarce and quite expensive.

  2. Very nice car.

    People often sneer at 'mere two-wheel drive', but with a good implementation of this (good weight distribution, good suspension, ground clearance, tires, approach, descent and overflow angle, etc.) you can get quite far off-road. Also look at what kind of trips were and are (!) done with the R4 (terre de feu, Australia, Morocco). Or the Mehari.

    The Rancho was way ahead of its time, as Matra often was. A special factory actually, made big by the (military) rockets and other aviation and space equipment. The first sports cars of the brand, the Jet again a very different story, were also innovative. And indeed the Bagheera and Murena, especially the latter, I still find a beauty.

    The first SUV? Doesn't that honor go to the Renault Colorale/Prairie, which was also available with four-wheel drive?

  3. The Rancho was an SUV. The Espace was an MPV. An MPV is much more flexible in use, the exterior dimensions are fine for the family and luggage in relation to the interior space. The SUV was a tough car that could conquer a lawn with the golf clubs and Labrador, sometimes even uphill. Passengers could also get in.

    The MPV is environmentally protected with tax. I don't know why, but apparently in the end there is little turnover to be achieved with small families.
    The SUV has become a clunky box with limited interior space for occupants. SUV predecessor in shape and construction was the tank (little space for occupants and a lot for grenades. That is why a lot of SUVs come from Germany).

    It's all marketing nonsense at the moment and the body design has nothing to do with the original anymore (just like the "4-door sloping roof" with a "Coupe".)
    It continues to laugh and surprise but that is another discussion.

  4. Peugeot, with a 45% stake, is not yet the owner of Matra.
    If that had been the case, Matra could have forgotten the collaboration with Renault.
    This story rattles a bit.

  5. Apparently they are fans of AMK, because 2 years ago there was also an article about this car.
    Apparently I'm not allowed to post the link 😉

    The car that is inextricably linked to the greatest trauma of my childhood, those 2 circus bruises (I seem to be the only one in NL who really hates them and even hates them)

    Other than that, just a nice car
    Where the Simca Campero still looks like a Munga or Mehari with a fixed structure, this is just a nice car.
    From a very nice factory, already made 3-in-a-row seats before McLaren came up with them, and a lot more affordable / accessible too.
    Are they still made that way today?
    Utility vehicles that don't look like a DIY block box pack, and are affordable too ??

    • Dear Niels, thank you for your comment. Well, we are actually a fan of the most diverse classics. And if you publish an article every day, several classics will indeed be reviewed more often. As for the link, links in the comments will be put on hold for editors' approval. This has to do with the prevention of spam, because all kinds of robots search online forms to insert their texts with all kinds of links. Comments without links will be published immediately.

      • I notice it.
        Is it worded about the same twice now, took the liberty of typing it again 🙂

        And I do understand that a "double" review may well occur.
        It si I had to google that it floated up, otherwise I wouldn't have even noticed.

  6. 2 years ago also a topic about this car.

    The car that actually immediately reminds me of those 2 traumatic bruises from my youth (I seem to be the only Dutch person who hates them)

    Furthermore, a very nice car, which could not really be said about the Simca Campero.
    It looks more like a Munga or Mehari that they have put some kind of hood on.
    A car from quite a nice factory, because long before the McLaren they already had a 3-in-a-row seat at Matra.

    Are these nice utility vehicles still being made these days that don't look like a DIY kit, and are also affordable?

    • I don't hate them, but I always found them annoying and certainly not funny that B&A. So you are not alone (not 'only').

      Somewhat similar car these days? Dacia Jogger perhaps?

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