Citroën Méhari Turns 45

Andrew Evans
May 17, 2013

Citron quirky Mhari turns 45 years old today, so we’re taking a quick look back at the life of the car known as the plastic camel.

If you've ever heard people describe French carmaker Citroën as "quirky" and wondered why they have such a reputation, take a look at some of the pictures on this page.

Yep, Citroën really did make such a car. It's called the Méhari, and the car is this week celebrating its 45th anniversary, originally unveiled in the picturesque surroundings of Deauville, in Normandy.

Possibly the world's first "lifestyle" vehicle, the Méhari was designed by French World War 2 fighter ace Roland de La Poype to be both a utility vehicle and for leisure time – at home carrying you to the beach or dragging loads around a farm.

Several vehicles have been named after creatures before, but the Méhari takes its unusual moniker from an even more unusual source: a species of dromedary camel used for racing and transport.

It used the very utilitarian underpinnings of the contemporary Dyane 6 and twin-cylinder air-cooled engines from the 2CV6. With an entirely ABS plastic body and the ability to strip it right down to the waist, it provided a go-anywhere, do-anything and fully convertible driving experience.

A production run of 150,000 cars appeared over the 19 year lifespan of the car, including just over a thousand Méhari 4x4s. With four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and a low ratio gearbox but still retaining a weight less than two thirds of a tonne, the 4×4 Méhari could go almost anywhere.

Putting this to the test, the Méhari has competed in several transcontinental rallies, including Paris-Kabul-Paris and Liege-Dakar-Liege – and provided medical support for the 1980 Paris-Dakar, the world's toughest regular race.

Conclusion

The Méhari doesn't really have a modern counterpart in the Citroën range. In spirit the Berlingo Multispace is probably closest, with its basic engine range and utilitarian nature – but you'd probably not take it on the beach, and even with a glass sunroof you'd not quite get the wind in the hair feeling offered by the Méhari.

For the occasion of the Méhari’s anniversary, there's a special, celebratory area at the Citroën museum on the Champs-Élysées in Paris dedicated to key moments from the its history. It'll be well worth a visit if you're in or around Paris right now.

For more information check out our full summary of the Citroën Berlingo Multispace alongside reviews, stats, photos and videos!