2018 is a year of car anniversaries and Citroen are marking the 70th anniversary of the Mehari. The anniversary took place at the Retromobile Classic Car Show held at the Paris Expo Porte de Versaille between the 7th and 11th February. A variant of the 2CV, the Mehari was a unique vehicle used for off-road purposes. The car was named after a type of dromedary camel used in racing. Overall, 144,953 Meharis were produced and we’re looking into the history of the model to see how it was designed.
Production on the Mehari began in 1968 and it was designed by French WW2 fighter Count Roland de la Poype. He headed up the Citroen supplier SEAP and developed a concept of the vehicle before sending it to the marque. Based on the Citroen Dyane 6, the Mehari had a ABS plastic body, 602 cc flat twin engine and rugged wheels. The Mehari’s body was extremely flexible and could be fully opened above the waistline.
The Mehari’s design meant it could be driven on most kinds of terrain, providing drivers with a sense of freedom. It was appealing enough that it appeared in a few films, such as Le gendarme de Saint Tropez.
The Mehari also proved to be a popular race vehicle, being used in the 1969 Liege-Dakar-Liege rally, 1970 Paris-Kabul-Paris rally and 1971 Paris-Persepolis-Paris rally. The French army even found use for it because of its off-road capabilities. The army bought 7064 Meharis, while the Irish Defence Forces bought 12 in the late 1970s.
Post-production and legacy
In 1979, Citroen created a variation called the Mehari 4×4. This version only had one engine and had a spare wheel mounted on the specially designed bonnet. 1300 4x4s were produced. Production of the Mehari ended in 1988 and there was no successor. With a gap in the market, other companies looked for a way to fill it.
The Telihol company looked to address this issue by developing the Tangara, which used 2CV mechanics. Telihol also created a Citroen AX-based model and the company eventually went out of business in 1990.
Fortunately, the simplistic design of the Mehari meant that it could be restored easily. Parts are fairly common, which created a booming restoration market. The Mehari is one of Citroen’s most impressive motors, with its versatility making it an ideal off-road vehicle.
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