Have you ever wondered if Europe had a car to match the Pontiac Fiero? Mid-engined, but derived from the ordinary? Composite bodywork? Dramatic styling? Pop up headlamps?
I give you the 1980-83 Talbot-Matra Murena.
CC has looked at the Murena previously, at the International Simca-Talbot Rally in England in July 2014, where a selection of them made it from across Europe to a field in southern England. These were the first Murenas I could remember seeing, and this one is the first I’ve seen on the road, or supermarket car park.
The Murena used the engine from the Talbot 1510 (or Talbot Alpine and Solara in the UK), and was a 1.6 litre version of the 1100 cc engine used in the Simca 1100, mounted in mid position and linked to a Citroen CX gearbox in a galvanised steel spaceframe chassis. Suspension was borrowed from the Alpine as well, and the chassis generally considered capable of handling more power.
The Murena was also available with the 2.2 litre 4 cylinder engine from the Talbot Tagora, although the bulk of sales were from the 1.6 litre. Right hand drive conversions were built, but in very small numbers. There was also a 142 bhp, 16 valve version, sold in small numbers at the end of the production run.
The big novelty of the Murena, and its predecessor the Bagheera, was three abreast seating, albeit quote closely configured. Elsewhere in the interior, many Talbot/Simca switches and details were apparent, though the basic shapes were bespoke. Style, wise, this is a French car from the eighties, so the results may not be to everyone’s tastes.
Of course, by 1980, Peugeot had purchased Chrysler’s European operations and the building blocks on which the Murena was built, specifically the Simca engine, was due to end series production as the Talbot brand was wound down. Add to this the fact that the car was built by Matra and marketed by Talbot, and that the performance was not as fast as the looks would suggest with the car being out-gunned by the VW Scirocco and Renault Fuego among others , and at lower prices.
In three years, 10,000 Murena were built before Matra offered a new product to Peugeot, who declined it. Instead, the Espace was built in partnership with Renault, on the same spaceframe and composite panel basis.
So, there you have the stylish and practical French – a three seat sportscar replace by a seven seat monospace or minivan. Only the French!