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Citroën history: Citroën celebrates the 55th anniversary of the Méhari

The Citroën Méhari in white colour with the black bonnet installed

It is a year of great anniversaries for Citroën, as several of its emblematic models, such as the Xantia, will be celebrated in 2023. But this year also marks the 55th anniversary of the Méhari, which has become legendary for the brand, even though it was not created by Citroën.

A Méhari not so Citroën as this one

In the 1960s, Citroën was more concerned with filling the gaps in its range between the 2CV and the DS than with offering a pure leisure vehicle. The origins of the Méhari can therefore be traced back to Count Roland de la Poype, who, with his company SEAB, founded in 1952, dreamed of applying the plastics revolution to other worlds, including the automobile. Together with Jean-Louis Barrault, they decided to offer a French car, a rival to the Mini Moke, made of plastic and based on a 2CV van used by SEAB, as the company also supplied Citroen.

Initially conceived as a kit to be assembled by himself, Roland de la Poype realised the difficulty of the task and contacted Pierre Bercot, then director of Citroën, to present the project to him, who, against all the odds, accepted it and wanted to integrate it into the range, sensing the potential of this car, a symbol of freedom.

At the beginning of 1968, SEAB was therefore commissioned by Citroën to produce 12 pre-series cars on 2CV 6 chassis supplied by the brand, which were presented with great fanfare a few months later.

Citroën Méhari in a special police blue colour

A presentation at the heart of May 1968

It was on 16 May 1968, at the heart of the social events that France was experiencing, that Citroën presented the Dyane 6 Méhari in 8 specific colours for specific uses. There we find as follows:

  • Yellow for golf

  • Beige for hunting

  • Red for firefighters

  • Turquoise for the beach

  • Green for the countryside

  • White for agriculture

  • Grey for relaxation

  • Dark blue for the police

Revolutionary, the Citroën Dyane 6 Méhari of its official name, Méhari symbolizes the versatility of the vehicle and its ability to transport people and goods efficiently. Composed of a shell made entirely of plastic, the Méhari is very light while resisting very well to the shocks it can suffer, especially as its ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) body tinted in the mass, resists well to scratches and scrapes. little everyday addicts while allowing Citroën to offer a wide range of colours that do not fade over time.

The other advantage of the Méhari is that it can be discovered. Like the 2CV, it is possible to drive with your hair in the wind, although the Méhari goes even further, since everything above the driver's belt can be removed, including the windscreen, which folds up on itself. This makes the car extremely flexible. Another special feature of this car is that it weighs 535 kg but can carry 400 kg.

The Méhari shows great modularity, it is able to transform part of its floor into a backrest, which allows it to add two seats in the back, thus accommodating up to 4 passengers. It can be used in a wide variety of situations, carrying both different loads and a reasonable number of passengers. Its body is made up of only 11 easily repairable elements and can be cleaned with a single jet of water, both inside and out. This makes it an easy to maintain and economical vehicle for its customers.

It was not until 3 October 1968 that the Méhari was officially presented to the public by Citroën at the Paris Motor Show, with significant modifications such as the front turn signals now on the wing rather than under the headlights, the rear lights replaced by van cabochons and rubber bands to hold the bonnet in place. The Méhari used the Dyane's 33CV engine coupled to the 2CV Fourgonnette gearbox and was available in only three body colours: red, green or beige, as well as a single version: a four-seater with the option of a folding back seat or a folding windscreen.

The Citroën Méhari 4x4 in a very rare shade of yellow

A difficult career

The year 1968 ended with the production of 837 units, a modest figure since the car was only 2 months old, which rose to 12,624 units in 1969. From 1970, slight modifications were made to facilitate industrialisation and Citroën decided to sell it in the United States, where the brand still had a presence but was withdrawn in 1971 after what could be described as a huge failure.

During the following years, the brand was therefore content with Europe with an annual production of around 12-13,000 units before sales declined, which forced Citroën to restyle the Méhari in 1977 with the grille now removable, the presence of disc brakes at the front and a more relaxed stance, but the effect of this restyling is only anecdotal.

But Citroën would give the Méhari a boost with the presentation of a 4x4 version on 23 May 1979. The Méhari 4×4 was still equipped with the 602cm3 engine developing 29cv, the car was equipped with a transfer box giving three short gears in addition to the classic four gears. The Méhari 4×4 has good cross-country capabilities but cannot compete with real 4×4s because of its low ground clearance, which explains the failure of this version and its withdrawal from the range in 1981 after only 1,213 units.

Sales continued their decline of the previous years when the Méhari became more and more discreet, even if Citroën tried to arouse interest with special series. In 1983, 2 special series were launched, the first being the Méhari plage, with a holiday look and a bright yellow colour, sold in Spain and Portugal. Then, in April 1983, it was the turn of the Méhari Azur, which was sold in only 700 units in France, Italy and Portugal.

Profile of the Citroën Méhari with white body and blue elements

Unfortunately, these special editions failed to revive sales and Citroën discontinued the car in 1987 after 144,953 units had been produced, including 11,457 for the French Army, one of its main customers. Today, the Méhari is an automotive icon and remains a source of inspiration for Citroën, particularly through the Cactus M concept, which aimed to reinvent it, and even the Ami Buggy, which took up some of its ideas.


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