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Hello to everybody !

I am a great fan of all De Tomaso cars, especially the Mangusta, a sheer work of Art, and also the beautiful Vallelunga and the early Pantera.

This being said, and for the sake of general information I'd like to challenge the statement " The ATS 2500 GT was the first mid-engine sports car in the article"Panteras for ever!" (on the " page).
As a matter of fact the very first mid-engined road car was the French René-Bonnet Djet, displayed at the Salon de l'Automobile of Paris in October 1962, a couple of monthes before the presentation of the ATS in 1963.
The Djet was first developped as a prototype ("Experimental" class) for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 1962. After the race, the Djet, slightly modified, and already road-legal, was presented and offered for regular sale in October, in two versions, the "Standard" with modified Renault and the "Rallye" with more powerful Gordini engine.
I know this is very often unknown by many experts, probably due to the fact that the make has disappeared only a couple of years later - actually bought by Matra, of Formula 1 and Le Mans fame.
However, René Bonnet a fascinating self-made engineer and - quite comparable to Alejando De Tomaso - with a passion for competition and for GT cars is indeed the very first one to offer a mid-engine road-legal car.


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The René Bonnet Djet had a remarkable racing career : class winnner at 1000 Km of Nürburgring 1962, then at Le Mans in 1963, several participations at Sebring (Howard Hanna), and René-Bonnet also built Formula 2 cars.
Matra actually bought René-Bonnet after it failed, and changed the name to Matra-Bonnet, then Matra Sports, and also changed "Djet" to "Jet", with the new versions Jet 5, Jet 5S and Jet 6. The Jet 5S and 6 had Gordini engines. here is a picture.


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No argument here.

I think the Lotus Mk6 may also pre-date the ATS ... the first Lotus was built in 1962. But Lotus built only 3 of them. ATS built a whopping 8 to 12 of their cars! Smiler

When I wrote the comment about the ATS and the Vallelunga I had just returned from the Concorso Italiano where the Lamborghini guys were claiming the Miura was the first mid-engine road car. My comments were aimed at dispelling their claim.

In order to prove claims like that various authors usually make "qualifications" to their statements, like the first sports car with something larger than 4 cylinders, or the first sports car made in high volume.

In the name of accuracy I need to go back and edit that comment to qualify it, the ATS was the first "Italian" mid-engine road car. Or perhaps I should add a mention of the Lotus and the Djet. There are other parts of that history which need editing as well. I planned to do that when the history is relocated to the web site. All in good time.
Last edited by George P
Hi George,
I'm not sure to understand:
the Lotus MK VI also pre-date the ATS
The Lotus Mark VI was actually a front-engine car. The first mid-engine Lotus was indeed a racing single-seater, the Type 18. And the first mid-engine road-going Lotus was the Europe - I owned a very early example for several years (pictured here below).

You are right that many people still have misconceptions about the chronology of the mid-engine GT breed, especially the Vallelunga and the ATS...But even in France not many experts know that the René-Bonnet Djet was actually the very first road-going car with central engine, officially presented and available for sale at the Paris Motor Show in October 1962.
I suggest that you mention it as well as the ATS, to complete your very interesting and well-informed text about the Pantera.


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No apolgies needed ! The Lola GT MK VI was actually a brillantly designed could have become a road-going GT ! A little comparable with the Djet, the Lola was actually ahead of its time, and as we know gave birth to the Ford GT and many other successful mid-engined cars - but remains ignored by many people. Websites like Pantera International do an indispensable job in extending public awareness about the History of remarkable automobiles, and keeping this knowledge and culture alive.

I do believe the first "mid engine road car" pre-dates the Djet and others by a considerable margin.

Reno-Tahoe Pantera's sponsors an 1899 Winton Phaeton at the National Automobile museum, the car was selected for it's mid engine design!



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Actually the 1st mid engine road car was Henry Ford's 1st car, the Quadricycle, back in 1896. It had a 2-speed transmission and it ran on Ethanol. They sold for $200, which was very expensive back in the day.

It was folowed by Ford's mid-engine "Sweepstakes " race cars in 1901:

Which evolved into Ford's "first" Model A, which was also mid-engine. Ford sold 1,750 of them in 1903-04.
Originally posted by Zonda:
...and if we talk about road-legal (not racing) cars, the Sweepstakes race cars cannot be retained.
The Model A, correct me if I'm wrong was a front-engined car, as seen on this period document reprint, or... ?

That diagram you show is for the "second" model A which was built from 1927-31 and were indeed front engined.

The first A models, the mid engine ones, were built in 1903-4.

The quadricycle was indeed mid engined. The transmission, flywheel, crankshaft, connecting rods, and pistons are in the center of the car; the top of the cylinders, heads, and valve train partially extend on/over the top of the axle, but the bulk is well before the axle.
Last edited by 1973pantera
Interesting debate : what is "the engine" of a car ?
...For me an engine, whether it is a piston engine, a turbine or a steam machine, is where the power comes from. In my opinion, the flywheel or transmission are not "the engine", but rather driven by the engine...
The engine (in my view) is the engine block, where the cylinders are and where the combustion takes place.
Don't you think it's a reasonable concept ?


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Before 1910 there were 100's of mid engine horseless carriages built across the country. Most are companies that built less tha a dozen and folded with little history of their existence.

Small product cars bordered on hobby and experiments.

However, the first mass produced car and the fist production line vehicle . . . Not the model T . . . Was the 1901 Curved dash Oldsmobile.

It was mid engine , afordable and built for the masses. One was driven coast to coast in 1902 and there is a book of their adventure.

Great pictures, thank you for the link...This René-Bonnet is very nice. A Djet raced at Sebring as early as in 1963 (Howard Hanna)

If you look at the other picture, you can note the difference in the design of the rear part compared to the Djet built by "Matra-Sports" once René-Bonnet had to sell them the Company (my own car here).


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Yes, the Djet originally had these steel wheels with chrome hubcaps and butterfly knock-offs.
It took me some time to find this non-modified example. Most Djets have been heavily modified : fenders, wheels, engines, gearboxes, etc.
This is because the first Djet was a race car, and then the road- versions were often raced.
Only 355 (Gordini 1100 cc-powered) Djet VS were ever built. Probably less than 80 still exist today, of which a handful in complete original condition.
Mine has its original engine, gearbox (and colour scheme). It was sympathetically restored about 15 years ago, and lovingly taken care of. It was the only replacemend I could find to my Lotus Europe Series 1 (same league, same mid-engine conception, but less power).

In the early 60s, a car capable of 190 km/h (120 mph) was an exception (an Alfa-Romeo Giulietta Sprint reached 160-170 km/h). Lightweight and a very aerodynamic design, driving the Djet is a sheer delight especially in curves, thanks to its chassis and suspension design. More pictures below.


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