Bagh is Hindi for cat and Bagheera is the name of the cunning panther in Kipling’s Mowgli stories. It’s also the name of today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Matra, and it will be up to you to decide just how cunningly priced this rare cat is.
I’m thinking that there must have been some sort of faerie dust that comes standard with all Volvo wagons to bewitch and beguile car enthusiasts, so rabid is the fan base for the collective of longroof Swedes. That Scandinavian magic extended not only to yesterday’s 1972 Volvo P-1800ES, the shooting brake edition of the brand’s iconic sport coupe, but also to its price, as it came away with a 58% Nice Price win.
That Volvo was a project, needing brake work, engine tuning, a good bit of interior work. It also could stand a healthy does of elbow grease, which is gross and probably should be looked at.
At least that P-1800 was from a company that’s alive in this country, but what about a project car that never-ever was meant to be here? And what if it was in fact the rarest edition of that model, one that put you, if not in the right, at least on the right?
Okay, you could cut the suspense with a knife so I’ll get right to it, this is a 1977 Matra-Simca Bagheera S, and not only is it the three-across mid-engined sports car we Americans were cruelly denied when it was new, but this one is a rare right-hand drive model, specially designed for postal workers, meter maids, and the British whose roads are all put on backwards.
The Bagheera was a joint venture of Matra, who built the thing, and Simca, who provided all the mechanicals. Think of it as a French Lotus Elise only with less quality and performance and you’ll get the idea. What you might not get is that the Bagheera is a three-seater, just like a McLaren F1. Well, not just like, as the F1 puts the driver center stage while the Bagheera - and successor Murena - put the pilot on the side and the other two seats right next to each other.
I have driven a Bagheera - a left-hooker - with two other dudes in it at the same time and I can attest that while it was doable, that was one tight sausage fest. This one is claimed to be one of only 65 out of the almost 48,000 Bagheeras made to have been converted to be RHD.
That’s accomplished through a series of bell cranks for the brakes and other voodoo to shift driving duties from one side to the other. It adds to the car’s rarity quotient, and honestly, just makes it all the weirder.
The interior has been redone, and if you love brown diamond stitching you will go bananas over the work. The engine sits, much like a Porsche Cayman, in a box under the hatch. Unlike a Cayman, that engine is a rather impotent 1.5-litre OHV four good for about 85-bhp. That’s connected to a 4-speed manual and mounted mid-ships, under all that tuck and roll. And yes, that is the gas tank sitting IN the engine compartment right over the mill.
The bodywork on the Bagheera was injection-molded polyester, and this one shows some lifting on the front cover, but otherwise appears pretty clean. The chassis is another story however, and that is claimed in the ad to require some attention - from a welder. That could be a daunting task, or it could be left alone like that crazy cousin nobody likes to talk about. You know how that always turns out.
You will likely have a hard time finding a Bagheera for sale here in the States, much less a RHD one. In fact, I’d guess that - owing to their history of atrocious decomposition at the hands of the rust gods - you’ll have a hard time finding one anywhere. Oh look, I found another one!
It’s also a weird-enough car that in my book (See Jane Run) it’s actually potentially worth finding. It’s also one that should be maintained for future generations to know and be confused by. But is this one - in Denver of all places - worth $10,000 to do so?
That’s the asking and it’s now your job to say if this odd bodkin of a car is worth that much considering its issues and threesome joke fodderdom. What’s your take on this Matra and its ten-large asking price? Is that a deal, or is this Bagheera a cat you wouldn’t let out of the bag?
H/T to andrewofdenver for the hookup!
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