51 years ago the Matador Motors Marauder hit the South African streets and race tracks. Designed by Peter Meffan, it was no Lotus wannabe, but rather a bullish ‘maak 'n plan’ solution to the need for an affordable performance option intent on promoting motorsport in South Africa.
While many might think the Lotus 7 played a role in its design, it was more his oval racer and cars such as the Morgan and Allard that had an influence on the layout and the concept. A prototype Marauder, basically the oval machine design with engine sitting upfront in a more traditional format, was built in 1971 and exhibited at the Power 71 Show. A flat aluminium body covered a gas-welded space frame chassis designed around readily available Ford Cortina components.
Following this, Meffan went on to hand-build seven Mk1 Marauders from his Randburg Autobahn garage, north of Johannesburg. Front suspension was by double A-arms and coil-over shocks. Rear was by four trailing arms and full-width Panhard rod, also with coil-overs. Early cars were all rose-jointed, with these difficult-to-find items sourced from Placo (Piper Light Aircraft Company) at Germiston Airport. The chassis was designed to absorb a front-end impact and thanks to the lightness, the front disc/rear drum brakes proved sufficient.
Production was slow and the need for more manufacturing sophistication meant a move to new premises in Fleet Street, Randburg. Here a chassis jig was developed and the chassis and wishbones were MIG welded. The move to a fibreglass body was also made, moulded off the aluminium item and made by Calvin Leader from Rosettenville, a designer for Mercury boats. This body went through various changes and progressed from Mk2 to Mk3 but the chassis and suspension design remained the same – although various engine options were offered to suit client needs.
In 1973 Matador entered a Marauder for Dave Hart and Ritchie Jute in the Kyalami 9 Hour but were excluded before the start as regulations stated that no gap must exist between the front fenders and the body, and hinged doors were needed – presumably to keep thinly disguised single seaters out of the mix.
Because of the 9 Hour rejection, great care was taken to see that the regulations were observed the following year. The chassis remained the same as the production item but the roll cage was built to FIA requirements, as was the fuel tank and filler (which saw a rubber bladder filled with reticulated foam fire retardant, supplied by Dave Charlton). Oh yes, and a wide front spoiler and doors were added.
Dave Hart and Roger Harradine qualified the car some five seconds quicker than the regular lap time. They ran well for the first two hours in the race but fuel pump failure then resulted in it being pushed into pit lane and therefore being disqualified.
When the oil crisis hit in 1973 it turned the sporting vehicle market on its head. As a result, the doors of Matador Motors (Pty) Ltd closed in 1974, with 135 cars in both kit and complete form having been sold with engines ranging from Kent Ford variations to Volvo, Mazda, BMW, Alfa Romeo, Opel and Nissan.