Some of the most unusual examples of French sports cars came from the Matra brand. Derived from the older Deutsch-Bonnet marque, the Matra drew its name from a French arms manufacturer Mécanique Aviation Traction, the company that purchased the Deutsch-Bonnet operation. Like many smaller European marques, Matra was primarily concerned with racing, and the company’s most notable successes were a Formula One World Championship with Jackie Stewart in 1969 and three Le Mans wins from 1972-1974. Production cars, meanwhile seemed almost an afterthought for manufacturers like Matra in this era.
The 1968 Matra 530 LX was a Michelotti redesign of the 1967 530 A prototype. The car was a two-seat, mid-engine, rear-drive sport coupe with a removable targa top. Its closest competitor was the Porsche 914, introduced in the same year with the same basic format and power level. The Matra was more exotic and distinctive-looking, but like the 914, it wasn’t exactly elegant. Its body panels were made of plastic, hung over a platform chassis. The total curb weight came to just 2,062 pounds.
Engine power in the Matra 530 LX came from a Ford-sourced 1.7-liter V-4 engine that developed 75 hp and 104 lb-ft of torque. That power was transmitted to the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox from Renault. Front suspension was dual-wishbone with coil springs, and the rear suspension employed trailing arms and coil springs. Four-wheel disc brakes and rack and pinion steering were standard. The 0-60 time was about 15.6 seconds, and a top speed of 109 mph was claimed by the factory, though real world tests never reached that mark.
Pricing on the 530 LX was comparable to the much, much quicker Lotus Elan, and substantially higher than other competing sports cars. The Matra brand was taken over by Simca in 1969 and the 530 LX was given a superficial redesign by Michelotti and renamed the Matra Simca M530LX. In all, fewer than 5,000 examples of the 530 LX were built. An additional 2,000 530A models were built before the LX debuted, and about 1,150 entry-level 503SX cars were made. No significant changes were made to this model during the production run.
Collectors will want to focus above all on the basic quality of the vehicle – completeness and condition. As with all orphan marques, Matra parts availablility can be problematic. Damaged bodywork can be a terminal problem, as the plastic body panels are difficult to repair to original condition. A network of owner enthusiasts and online support does exist, however, so support is not impossible to find.