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.
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.
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.
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?