The Méhari was never sold by Citroën in Germany because in German safety tests it was discovered that if a fire happened while driving, the ABS (plastic) body would be engulfed in flames in an alarmingly short period of time. Quite possibly before the occupants could get out.
On July 5, 2014, Gordon Aikman, who lives in Comox, British Columbia, went for a drive to nearby Courtenay in his newly purchased Méhari. He bought it from a Citroën restoring mechanic friend who brought it back from France a couple of years ago and it was completely gone over by a Citroën 2CV expert before he took delivery. Here is his account of an adventure in which he can thank his luck stars he escaped unscathed:
“ I was driving along at approximately 50 km/ph no problem. There was a small bump, it was minimal, as if I’d gone over a small bump in the road, then whoosh the floor inside was 2 inches deep in yellow flames. My shoes were in a puddle of flames. Very surreal. I immediately pulled over, switched off the engine, took out the key and crossed the street. I called 911.”
“The total car was engulfed in 3 minutes! There was a huge cloud of black smoke,. At about 2 minutes into the fire the car started to drive forward. It stopped on the sidewalk 20 feet later, and continued to burn putting a wooden fence and cedar tree on fire beside a wooden house. Very very scary at this point. A hydro pole was starting to be involved, – wires overhead, – yikes!! The fire fighters arrived thankfully and put the fire out, All that was left was the metal parts. Everything, I mean everything, was gone. All over in 20 mins or so! The speed that the fire spread and heat was incredible! Black smoke hundreds of feet in the air! The fire fighters told me, when they saw the smoke from the station, 4 kms away, they thought it was a small plane crash at the private air park in Courtenay!”
“As much as I loved the Méhari, (I called mine ‘The Piglet’), you could not pay me to drive in one again. It is basically a molotove cocktail in waiting,”
There was a Méhari that burnt in Toronto back in the early 1980’s, but the cause of that fire was not the Méhari. It was a result of it accidentally coming on contact with a blowtorch in a Citroen service garage. A DS was parked next to it and the mechanic was heating up the rear brake drum on the DS to remove it. A wayward movement of the blowtorch set the Méhari ablaze and the people in the garage fleeing! The car was a caramelized mess dripping off the frame within about 3 minutes. But because the garage torched the car, the owner came out OK. When the garage called him to say the Méhari was no more and what could they do to make good on their mistake, the owner noted that they had 3 DS convertible parts cars out back and if they could make a working DS cabrio for him out of the 3, – all would be forgiven. The garage managed to do so and he went from a Méhari to DS cabrio at zero cost!
These days as Méharis age, some less gracefully than others, it’s important to make sure that both the fuel and electrical systems are properly maintained. It is unlikely that the cause of Gordon’s Méhari fire will ever be known. The car was too badly burned. But what we can tell you is that like all 2CV based models, you need to ensure that:
- All paper vent hoses are secure and are not able to drop down on the exhaust. They can easily do so when the engine is running and vibrating. If they touch the exhaust, they will burn! Tie them up to the overhead heater cables. And rubber aftermarket hoses are now available from Burton that eliminate the problem.
- Fuel hoses are fresh and not cracking. And put hose clamps on all connections.
- The copper tube that in the carburetor that the fuel line attached to is secure and cannot come out on it’s own. In fact the same holds the true for any Citroen; Tractions, D models, GS, etc.. Want it really secure? Add a tie wire from the body of the carburetor to the hose clamp to prevent any separation.
There is now one less Méhari, Yet, despite Gordon’s feelings about the car, it has become a chic vehicle. One that people want to intuitively hop into and go for a spin. So make the effort to have a safe ride, and tell your passengers that should they have to make an exit, do so with utmost haste!