The Citroen Mehari is a perfectly distilled motoring experience. Based on the Citroen 2CV, more specifically the Dyane 6, it had the bare minimum of equipment and featured a body made from ABS plastic – a world first for a production car.
The simple yet rugged mechanicals and go-anywhere suspension endeared the Mehari to generations of motorists, and it sold well. Its popularity continues to this day, and the wide availability of parts and spares makes it a low-risk classic car that still offers a level of driving enjoyment that is at odds with its modest underpinnings.
Which Mehari to buy?
The Mehari was introduced in 1968 and remained largely unchanged for the duration of its 20-year production life. There were a few minor modifications, and as the first batch of cars had no side doors, fabric flaps could be zipped in place when the roof was up. Some cars had aftermarket seatbelts fitted but that was about the extent of the safety equipment available.
From 1970-on, plastic doors were introduced and a full plastic top was an optional extra. You could also buy a two-seater version. In 1978 some updates were carried out to the frontal styling and dashboard design and these were the last major changes until production ended.
A 4x4 Mehari was introduced in 1979 and was built in limited numbers until 1983, these are highly sought after, although mechanical parts are not nearly as easy to source. Unique features included four-wheel disc brakes, a three-speed transfer box and optional flared arches. Larger tyres were made available in 1982.
The ABS plastic body was impregnated with the desired body colour during production and a limited range of colours were offered over the years, restored cars can be painted in a specialist primer which should resist fading better than the original. The majority of Meharis still reside in France so you may need to cast your search wider than the UK if you are struggling to find the right car.
The bare-basics nature of the Mehari makes it a car that is easy to repair and maintain, forget mileages and model years, rather focus on the overall condition and quality of any rebuild work.
Performance and specs
||602cc 4-valve OHV flat-twin
||29bhp @ 5750rpm
||28.8lb ft @ 3500rpm
||Four-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
|Price when new
Dimensions and weight
• One of the big drawcards of these little cars is their simplicity and repairability. The ABS body is tough and can be repaired or indeed replaced entirely. Thanks to the 2CV underpinnings, there are also a number of specialists ready to supply you with just about every component you may require.
• The Mehari used the 29bhp 602cc flat twin engine as found in the 2CV6 and requires regular oil changes (every 3000 miles) to keep running smoothly. Rough running and hard starting may need further inspection as this could indicate broken piston rings or worn valve stem seals.
• The gearbox is a dog-leg four-speed unit and changes should be effortless and smooth. Third-gear synchros can become crunchy over time so make sure it engages without issue.
• The suspension is rugged and should not require much maintenance other than greasing the kingpins every 600 to 1000 miles or so. A squeaking sound when going over bumps is a trait of the unique interconnected front/rear suspension setup.
• The braking system is a simple drum setup on cars built before 1981 while Meharis built after this point received front discs. Both should be trouble-free although getting to the inboard front brakes can be a bit of a fiddle. 4x4 models had discs all-round.
• The original ABS body was impregnated with the body colour during production and this tends to fade over time. Repainting is possible and if the actual body is damaged beyond repair, full replacement ABS bodies can be bought. These are solely in white though so will need to be painted the desired colour.
• The body may not rust or rot but the chassis sure can, be sure to check under the car for any signs of corrosion or botched welding jobs. This can be a labour-intensive job if repairs are needed, although new chassis, or repair sections can be bought off the shelf.
1968: Citroen Mehari introduced as bare-bones convertible buggy with world-first ABS body construction. Mechanicals based on 29bhp 602cc Citroen Dyane which – essentially an updated 2CV. Launch colours were Rouge Hopi (Red), Vert Montana (Green) and Kalahari (Beige).
1969: Mehari introduced into the USA with slight modifications to headlights. Orange body colour introduced.
1970: American Mehari production ends. Plastic doors and optional plastic top introduced.
1976: Lime green body colour introduced.
1978: Dashboard and front end receive styling update.
1979: Mehari 4x4 introduced, features three-speed transfer box and disc brakes all-round.
1980: Atacama yellow body colour introduced.
1983: Mehari 4x4 production ends with approximately 1300 units built. Azure Blue colour introduced for a limited period.
1988: Mehari production ends with just under 150,000 units being built.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
www.the2cvshop.co.uk - Spares
www.mehariclub.com – Mehari owner’s club
www.mehari-2cv-spare.co.uk – Mehari and 2CV spares
Summary and prices
Despite their simplicity, Meharis are no bargain basement classic, their popularity means that even relatively poor condition examples are around £5000. A clean original car starts at anything from £10,000 up to £23,000 for a fully rebuilt example with new body and overhauled mechanicals. Projects can be found for peanuts just make sure that the chassis is not too far gone as this is can significantly affect the final restoration cost.
The 4x4 models are in another category altogether, their rarity means that few ever come up for sale, one immaculate example sold for £35,000 at a Bonhams auction a few years ago, so expect that value to have risen in the intervening years. Whether you want an immaculate low-miler or a well-used example, the Mehari is a fantastic classic to own and enjoy.
Words: John Tallodi