One of the most interesting vehicles ever created and a real example of French uniqueness, the Citroën Mehari is truly one of a kind. The Méhari was designed by French World War II fighter ace Count Roland de la Poype, who headed a French company, SEAP, specializing in plastics. Already a supplier to Citroën, SEAP developed a prototype featuring an all ABS plastic body and presented the concept to Citroën, who then approved it for production.
Mechanically the Méhari is based on the legendary chassis and powertrain of the Citroën 2CV, a true back-to-basics vehicle created in the aftermath of WWII. Clever engineering and a focus on low cost production and simplicity made the 2CV a great success. The Méhari concept replaced the quaint snail-like body of the 2CV with a rugged looking, open utility body made of ABS plastic well suited to recreational uses. Simple in the extreme and relatively inexpensive, it found a ready audience around the world. Over 140,000 Méharis were built from launch in 1968 til production ended in 1988.
The Méhari derives its name from a species of fast-running dromedary camel, which can be used for racing or transport. You won’t be racing it often, but it serves well for all sorts of transport duties. The Méhari offers basic seating for four with an open cargo compartment behind the seats. There are two small doors, a folding windshield, and it is possible to fit a canvas roof with plastic windows to protect against the elements in an elemental fashion.
The powertrain features a 602 cc flat twin engine pumping out 29 HP and a 4-speed manual transmission to the front wheels. Performance is very modest with leisurely acceleration to a top speed near 60 mph. Ride and handling are in class of their own as the very soft - but cleverly interconnected - suspension allows extreme roll angles, but never seems to lose grip. Overall weight is under 1300 lbs and, if fitted with proper off-road tires, the Méhari can crawl around the outback surprisingly well.
Due to its mechanical simplicity and large production volume – all parts including the chassis are easily available and a Méhari can be restored to ‘as new’ condition if desired and maintained at modest cost.
There is no better “beach” car to be found anywhere and the Méhari is perfect for resort or large compound duty. It is fun to drive and surprisingly capable within it’s limited performance envelope. Truly a breath of French air.
Engine : 602 cc flat-2 29 HP
Wheelbase : 94.5 in
Length : 138.6 in
Width : 60.2 in
Height : 64.6 in
Curb weight : 1,256 lb
Written by Dean Seven
Photos courtesy of Ryan Bula, Sharplite Media