May 13, 2013

Celebrating the colourful history of the Citroën Méhari

Celebrating the colourful history of the Citroën Méhari

This year we are marking the 45th anniversary of one of our most fondly remembered models, the Citroën Méhari. First unveiled on 16 May 1968 in Deauville, France, Méhari borrowed its chassis from the contemporary Dyane 6 hatchback and shared an engine with our iconic 2CV saloon.

Méhari resembled neither of its siblings, providing a minimalist jeep-style body made of corrugated ABS plastic. This novel construction material was light, didn’t dent, and could be moulded into large and complex shapes. It could also be made brightly coloured without the need for paint. A bold innovation in car bodies at the time, ABS is now commonly used to make tough, impact-prone parts like bumpers and front wings.

Our Méhari was named after a breed of camel known for its speed and endurance, and like its namesake proved well suited to hot climates. With its removal soft-top and open-sided design, it kept the driver and passengers cool in the days before on-board air-conditioning was an option. Even the windscreen folded down for maximum, wind-in-the-hair fun.

Méhari’s go-anywhere looks were a little deceptive, however. The initial version inherited an uncomplicated front-wheel-drive layout from the Dyane and 2CV, but in 1979 a full 4×4 edition was launched, which proved capable even on the most challenging surfaces. Only about 1,300 of the 150,000 Mehari examples built were 4x4s, however, and most were destined for military rather than civilian duty. Light weight made it an ideal vehicle for the French army to deploy by parachute. Happily, the average Méhari was much more likely to be found scampering along a tropical beach than crawling over rocks in a warzone.

Not that it wasn’t tough enough to do a dependable job. Méhari models contested some of the world’s most gruelling endurance races, including the Liège-Dakar-Liège rally in 1969, the Paris-Kabul-Paris rally in 1970, and the Paris-Persepolis-Paris rally in 1971. Kitted out as ambulances, Méhari even provided medical support for the punishing Paris-Dakar race in 1980.

Production of this minimalist vehicle sadly ceased in 1987. Our soft-top DS 3 Cabrio model can fully peel back its roof, though we’d advise against removing the windscreen or doors. And for tough, airy and spacious practicality perhaps a Berlingo Multispace would fit the bill?

Visitors to Paris can view a special area dedicated to Méhari’s colourful history at our C_42 showroom on the Champs-Élysées.