Méhari: 55 years on and still inspiring

Citroën is celebrating the 55th anniversary of the Méhari, which made its debut on May 16, 1968 at the Deauville golf course in France.

The Méhari became an iconic model of Citroën and more globally of the automotive world, but also in various environments such as the French army and the cinema.

An atypical pick-up with a 2CV derived 2-cylinder air-cooled engine, the Méhari has an ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic body, designed by Roland de La Poype and built on a Dyane 6 platform. It was presented with the name of Dyane 6 Méhari on initial release. Produced for almost 20 years between 1968 and 1987, 144,953 units were built (including 1,213 4×4 Méhari), making it a surprising success for an unusual vehicle.

The Méhari was produced for the most part at the Citroën factory in Forest, Belgium, but also in seven other factories in France, Spain and Portugal.

The name of the Méhari comes from the name given to dromedaries (camels) in North Africa and in the Sahara. These animals are known for their off-road ability, their resistance and ability to transport both goods and passengers over long distances. This name is quite apropos as the Méhari is known for its adaptation to all terrains.

The Méhari is highly modular, being able to transform part of its floor into a backrest, which allows it to add two seats at the rear and thus accommodate up to 4 passengers. It can be used in a wide range of situations, carrying both different loads and a reasonable number of passengers.

From the outside, the Méhari doesn’t really seem to be suitable for all seasons, as it looks more like a small convertible used during the summer holidays. It came with cover panels to enable it to be used for all year round driving, but in reality winter outings are a chilly affair with just the protection of clear plastic side curtains.

The car body is made up of only 11 easily repairable parts and can be cleaned with a single blast of water both inside and outside.

Although it was produced for almost 20 years, the Méhari only had three different versions, including two special editions launched in 1983:

Firstly the Méhari Plage, with its holiday look and flashy yellow colour, which was sold in Spain and in Portugal.

And, in April 1983, the Méhari Azur was launched on the French, the Italian and the Portuguese markets. Just 700 were produced.

In 1979, Citroën introduced a 4×4 version, which offered a freedom that is almost unequaled even today.

The Méhari found use with the police, customs, airports, racecourses, shopkeepers, craftsmen and private individuals. It had a long career with the French army, which ordered a total of 11,457 Méharis between 1972 and 1987.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono

The Méhari 4×4 has a career in medical assistance on the roads of the world. Ten of them were used in the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1980 to provide medical assistance along the route.

Citroën sold a North American spec version of the Méhari for model years 1969 and 1970 with a speedometer in miles and a unique front and back panels. The front had the circular sealed beam headlights raised and protruding into the front hood which was cut to accommodate them. In the rear the tailgate ridges were modified to house North American size license plates. Side marker reflectors were added as were two speed wiper motors and reverse lights. It was classified as a truck as trucks had far more lenient National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety standards than passenger cars. The Méhari could be sold without seat belts. Budget Rent-A-Car offered them as rentals in Hawaii. Hearst Castle, in San Simeon, California, used them as groundskeeper cars.

Finally, the Méhari had a great cinematographic career, especially thanks to the famous film Le gendarme de Saint Tropez with Louis de Funès and The Omega Man (stylized as The Ωmega Man) is a 1971 American post-apocalyptic action film directed by Boris Sagal and starring Charlton Heston as a survivor of a pandemic.

See more of the Méhari in movies here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hBybYhPiqI
And a full list of movie appearances here: https://imcdb.org/vehicles.php?make=Citro%EBn&model=M%E9hari&modelMatch=1&modelInclModel=on&page=1

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