After Jackie Stewart had won the first of his three Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship titles in 1969, driving a Ken Tyrrell-entered Matra equipped with a 3-litre Cosworth-Ford V8 engine, the Anglo-Scottish partnership found it impossible to remain with Matra for the 1970 season. This was because they were tied to the Ford engine, while Matra in France had just been acquired by the Chrysler Corporation of America – rivals to Ford in the global market – and Matra’s Formula 1 effort was to be concentrated in future around their own in-house V12-cylinder racing engine.
The aerospace manufacturing standards to which Matra Sports operated were to be maintained, and chassis designer Bernard Boyer’s new V12-engined chassis for the 1970 season was to emerge as one of the most distinctive and striking Grand Prix cars ever built. The engine is developed by the engineer Gerard Martin’s team, director of the ‘Moteur-Etudes Avancees – competition department’ at Matra.
In stark contrast to the cigar-like ‘torpedo’ or curvaceously bulged ‘Coke bottle’ designs of 1969, Boyer now sought enhanced aerodynamic downforce from the upper surfaces of his new car’s chassis and bodywork combined in the wedge-shaped MS120 as offered here.
These startlingly-configured projectiles were to mirror the parallel efforts of Team Lotus designers Colin Chapman and Maurice Phillippe with their even more uncompromising ‘doorstop’ wedge design of the Lotus 72.
For Matra, Bernard Boyer combined the new chassis/ body shape with the suspension geometry developed so successfully for the 1969 World Championship-winning MS80 cars which had been operated by Tyrrellâs Equipe Matra International.
Only three of these works Matra MS120 cars were constructed. They were powered by Matra’s own 3-litre, 60-degree V12-cylinder Type MS12 engine. This competitively powerful engine drove via a five-speed Hewland FG400 transaxle gearbox, and the cars were campaigned as an all-French team by Matra Sports, with Jean-Pierre Beltoise as their number one driver, ably supported by bearded Henri Pescarolo.
The cars became the latest to carry French racing blue livery proudly into Grand Prix combat in the wheel-tracks of such legendary marques as Bugatti, Talbot, Delage and Peugeot before them. While Jean-Pierre Beltoise’s MS120 would be identifiable by a white nose band, this car – Henri Pescarolo’s regular mount that season, wore bright mid-green, matching the former Formula 3 star’s crash helmet livery.
Bonham’s Sale of MS120-02
After Matra Sports withdrew from racing in January 1975, this MS120 was presented in 1976 as part of his contract to their former number one team driver, Jean-Pierre Beltoise. We are advised that the car has been preserved in secure, heated storage before being moved to the FCR Workshops belonging to Claude âBenitoâ Quintin who then presided over a total restoration to as-new condition. In 1999 the restored car was then loaned to the Loheac Museum, and since that time it has been regularly displayed in various events.
At their Les Grandes Marques a Monaco in 2005, Bonhams sold MS120-02. The top bid was 310 000 EU (390 000 USD).