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Nope – we’re not going to have a German-week here on ViaRETRO. Forget about German quality, Italian elegance and British etiquette. This week is French! It’s erotic and it’s probably also a little bit bonkers.

If you’re a bit of a playboy and womaniser (in the best and most gentleman-like manner of course!) and you value a crowd of pleasing ladies in your company, then here’s one method of achieving such: Start off with a Citroën 2CV, disassemble it until you have only the chassis left with the engine, transmission and brakes still in situ. Now fit a simple spaceframe to the chassis which gives you something to hang the steering column on along with a few other necessities. Finally, whip together a simple plastic shell mostly to give the vehicle something remotely resembling the aesthetics of a car. Et Voilà! You have yourself a pure erotic-express.

I’m fairly certain that a thought process along those lines went through the head of plastic manufacturer Roland Poype at some point during the sixties. During a visit to the UK, he had witnessed both a Mini Moke and a VW-based Beach buggy. He found them both appealing and entertaining as toys for grown-ups. However, they both lacked the final finesse before they could be utilised as rolling chick-magnets. In other words, a bit of French sensuality was required.

Initially he messed about with a Renault for the project, but eventually decided to base his project on the 2CV and Dyane 6 from Citroën. This gave him the perfect platform to build his project on. Roland Poype’s early life was in the French military, and he clearly did well in selling the project’s cross-country capabilities to Citroën management, as they enthusiastically commenced production in 1968. At first it was named the Citroën Dyane 6 Méhari, which was soon enough simplified to just Citroën Méhari. The word Méhari means dromedary – an animal known for its resilience. Naturally, something which women value, but also something which hints at its abilities in rough terrain. The Méhari quickly became a huge success among farmers, fishermen and other tradesmen. The simple little vehicle proved highly versatile for a broad range of jobs.

The engine will be familiar to most – a two-cylinder powerhouse with all of 25hp. Air-cooled and simple in its construction. Reliability and economy were prioritised over potency and power reserves. The stock suspension was also retained from the 2CV, so the Méhari had independent suspension all round with huge vertical wheel travel and thus ground clearance. This all added up to excellent capabilities in rough terrain, helped even further by the very low curbweight.

When the going got tough, the Méhari just kept going!

Born to conquer rough terrain, it was something quite different which the Méhari proved equally efficient at conquering.

The Méhari remained in production for all of 19 years, and underwent very few changes in that time. As you would expect, Citroën introduced a few improvements to the brakes and suspension along the way – in the name of safety of course. Probably not a bad idea either, as the 2CV was hardly famed for being the safest of vehicles – not even in period. Now that Poype had replaced the protective metal shell with a few simple panels of outdoor furniture quality, a little bit of focus on safety wasn’t misplaced. Eventually the Méhari even received dual-circuit brakes and hydraulic shock absorbers.

A libertine’s workplace – devoid of frills. Perhaps a benchseat would have been more appropriate?

My own connection with the Méhari stems from those very first juvenile gearshifts which were performed (maybe “attempted” is the more appropriate word?) in a beige Méhari on a small gravel road on the island of Langeland in the south of Denmark. The rather unorthodox gearshift protruding from the dashboard was at the time highly fascinating for me. Forgive me, as I was only in my early teens and yet to understand the full potential of the Méhari. I haven’t driven a Méhari since, but I have recently cleared a space in my garage for this highly effective tool for courtship. However, prices seem to be on the rise, suggesting that others too have realised what can be achieved with a Méhari.

The Méhari has always been criticised for its lacking safety features – especially from the north European self-confessed elite. From within their cold, tank-like vehicles, they totally miss how the lack of seatbelts in a Méhari has the noble function of retaining full mobility for the passengers during travel.

Méhari – an impeccable vehicle for among other things, long runways.

The Méhari turned out to be one of automotive history’s most erotic vehicles, with unmatched qualities when it comes to attracting the opposite sex. Its character and image was and still is unique. What say our readers? As an accomplished womaniser, surely the Méhari is in a class of its own?

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8 Responses

  1. kim
    Saying that the 2cv wasn’t regarded as safe in period, is plainly wrong. It was actually praised for it’s passive safety, and faired well in the crashtests of the period. In 1978 it came 2nd in class, over cars such as Fiat 127 and Renault 5, only beaten by VW Polo. Not bad for a 30 year design, not saying it’s the safest of cars but posterity tends to judge according to modern standards. Back to the Mehari, celebrating it’s 50th annivesary this year. But the idea of a jeep like utility vehicle based on the 2cv floorpan, goes back even further. The 4×4 twin engined 2CV Sahara, and the fact that the British Navy used specially adapted British made 2CV pickups as helicopter carried recon vehicles on a couple of aircraft carriers aside, the idea of an open recon/utility/recreation vehicle was the brainchild of Maurice Delignon in the late fifties. First picture. The idea was then picked up by Letoquin & . Lechanteur that concieved the Baby Brouse In their Ivory Coast based company. The Baby Brouse spawned the Vietnamese Dalat and Chilean Yagan, but also became the forerunner of the Greek Namco Pony and the “Ikea” style FAF (intended to be sold as knock down kits). The Mehari was initially based on a R4 platform, and offered to Renault that declined, the body was then transferred to a 2CV AK (the heaviest of the 2CV vans) and Citroen accepted the idea, the body was made of ABS/Cycolac (same as lego bricks) except for the versions made in SouthAmerica that used fibreglass. Engines were the AK2 version of the M28/1 602cc engines (a detuned Ami8 engine, later used in the 2cv6, but then destined for the Citroen 2CV van), 27hp. Gearbox was from AK as well, featuring the 220mmØ/40mm wide inboard drum brakes of the van, which may seems as overkill for a 535kg car with a topspeed of 105kph. But with 400kg payload and further 270kg on the unbraked trailer, they don’t seem way off.. initally the chassis followed the Dyane evolution, however a year or two delayed, 2cv was even further behind, with the difference that the Mehari had the PO reinforcement option as standard.. The Mehari sported tuned mass dampers at all 4 wheels, friction dampers at the fron and hydraulic dampers at the reat, and naturally interconnected front/aft suspension inherited from he 2cv (the 4×4 Mehari didn’t have that, as it had fixed suspension pots). The dampers were later simplified for cost reasons, so telescopics all the way round. It was also sold for brief period in the US, and the US version is now very sought after, tell tales are the 7 inch headlights and other details, perhaps only surpassed in rarity by the 1968/69 0 -series. The Mehari was used for a variety of applications, cameracar, leisure vehicle, recon vehicle, police car, radio relay cars for the French army (with 24v system to operate the radio). A 4×4 version was available from 1979, with 7 forward gears, 2 reverse, diff lock…4×4 prototypes were entered as first aid vehicled in the Paris-Dakar rally.

    Reply
  2. kim
    Mehari 4×4 shifting levers. One for 2 or 4 wheel drive, the gear lever, and the hi-lo selector. A further lever was floor mounted for the rear diff lock. The 4×4 can recognized by it’s square rearlights rather than the Marilyn Monroes of the regular version.

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  3. kim
    The umbrella style gear lever may seem awfully French, but is a copy of the one found a the 1929 front wheel drive Cord L29. A lot of people are giving up by the sight of it, however the pattern is a simple dog leg 4, and not very different from a floor mounted stick.The reason for the dogleg was that the 4th gear was an overdrive, later just labelled 4th. Remember the 2cv was originally designed so a peasant’s wife could operate it.

    Reply
  4. YrHmblHst
    ONLY the French could come up with something like this… but hey! if it attracts those ‘farmers daughters’ in the photos, who am I to argue and more power to em!!!
    Reply
  5. Dave Leadbetter
    All I can add is that the shot of the interior in the main article would look like an x-ray photograph if it wasn’t for the trimmed seats. Sparse doesn’t seem a sufficiently sparse word.
    Reply
  6. kim
    Dave, the interior just about mirrors a late 60s 2CV. But consider this: It has a charging light, a light for low oil pressure, a selector switch for parking lights (left, right, both sides), wiper, fuel gauge, switches for headlights, indicators and horn and speedometer. And an ashtray and lockable glovecompartement. That’s all, all you need, really. And it can be hosed down. The author didn’t mention the various roof options, the various door options, and it came as a fourseater and a pickup.
    Reply

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