The Citroen Mehari is one of those cars you love or hate. For some, it's a quirky, charming vehicle that offers a fun and carefree driving experience. For others, it's a flimsy and impractical toy that has no place on the road.
But regardless of your opinion, you can't deny that Citroen Mehari has a fascinating history and a loyal fan base. This year marks the 55th anniversary of its debut, and Citroen is celebrating by releasing a series of tribute models that honor its legacy.
The birth of a legend
The Citroen Mehari was born in 1968 when Citroen was looking for a new way to attract customers who wanted a versatile, low-cost, and easy-to-maintain vehicle. The company teamed up with Roland de la Poype, a French World War II fighter ace and a plastics expert, who had the idea of creating a car with a plastic body.
The plastic used was ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), which was resistant to corrosion, scratches, dents, and water. It was also lightweight, flexible, and through-colored, meaning that it didn't need any paint or coating.
The plastic body was mounted on a modified Citroen Dyane chassis, which was derived from the famous Citroen 2CV. The engine was a 602 cc flat-twin that produced 28 horsepower and drove the front wheels.
The Citroen Mehari had a simple design, with no doors or windows, just a foldable fabric roof that could be removed entirely. The seats were made of canvas and could be taken out as well. The rear part of the car could be transformed into a flatbed or a bench seat, depending on the needs of the owner.
The name Citroen Mehari comes from a type of camel that can endure harsh conditions and long distances. It was chosen to reflect the car's ability to adapt to different terrains and climates.
The success of a phenomenon
The Citroen Mehari was unveiled on May 16, 1968, on the Deauville golf course in France. It immediately caught the public's attention and the press, who praised its originality and simplicity.
The car appealed to many customers, from young people who wanted to have fun on the beach or in the countryside to farmers who needed a practical vehicle for their work to celebrities who enjoyed its unconventional style.
The Mehari also became popular with adventurers and explorers, who used it for long-distance rallies and expeditions across Africa, Asia, and South America. The car proved to be reliable and capable of handling rough roads and extreme weather.
The Citroen Mehari was also adopted by the French army, which ordered more than 7,000 units for various purposes. Some of them were modified to have 24-volt electric power to operate radios and other equipment.
In 1980, Citroen introduced a four-wheel-drive version of the Mehari, which had a second gearbox that allowed it to switch between two- and four-wheel drive modes. The 4x4 Citroen Mehari had better off-road performance and could climb slopes up to 60%.
The Citroen Mehari was produced until 1988, with more than 144,000 units sold worldwide. It was exported to many countries, including the US, where it was renamed the Citroen Pony.
The Legacy of an Icon
The Mehari is more than just a car; it's an icon of French culture and design. It represents a way of life that values simplicity, creativity, and joy.
The Citroen Mehari has inspired many artists, filmmakers, musicians, and writers over the years. It has appeared in movies such as The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), and Sahara (2005). It has also been featured in songs by Serge Gainsbourg (Ford Mustang), Alain Souchon (La Ballade de Jim), and Zazie (Je suis un homme).
The Citroen Mehari has also influenced other carmakers, who have tried to emulate its spirit and style. In 2016, Citroen launched the Citroen e-Mehari, an electric version of the original car that retained its plastic body and removable roof. In 2015, Citroen unveiled the Cactus M concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show, which was a crossover inspired by the Mehari's versatility and fun factor.
The Citroen Mehari is still loved by many enthusiasts today, who collect, restore, and drive them with passion. There are several clubs and associations dedicated to preserving and promoting the car's heritage. There are also events and rallies organized every year to celebrate its anniversary.
If you're looking for a car that can make you smile and take you on an adventure, you might want to consider getting a Citroen Mehari. You'll be joining a community of fans who share your passion for this unique vehicle.
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