One of the stars of the Stoneleigh show, the ex-Chris Amon Matra MS120 of Abba Kogan represents what was an incredible task for James Watt Automotive. “It’s been a huge project,” admits Watt. “Four cars arrived in a 40-foot container in a million bits. We had a several-million-piece jigsaw and no picture. There are a few drawings, but primarily it was a process of elimination.”
The aim for MS120 was to rebuild it in faithful period specification, ready to race in Grand Prix Masters this season. Significantly, the tub had seen little use — seven grands prix in 1971/ ’72 and very little running since.
“The tub is in A1 condition,” says Watt. “We’ve replaced two or three panels and gone through all the riveting. But we haven’t done a lot of remedial work to it because it is in such good overall condition.”
Even so, Watt and his team of 14 have engineered uprights, wheels and wishbones and have tackled the whole job in-house, including engine, gearbox and even paint. Tracking down original bits has been one of the biggest challenges, as well as identifying development parts. “Matra would have tried half a dozen different varieties for a lot of parts,” says Watt. But the quality of initial build was excellent: “It’s a nice car to work on and a fantastically engineered piece of equipment.”
Since the early 1970s, the car has contested just one race, in 2000. Now it is due to test by the end of March — once the engine has run on the dyno. But even getting the engine ready to run has entailed thousands of checks. “It has been a massive challenge but a privilege too,” says Watt.