The Citroen Mehari Buying Guide – Minimalist motoring at its best

Citroen Mehari

Few cars have been as fit for purpose and devoid of frills as the Citroen Mehari, its beauty lay in its sheer simplicity, just like the 2CV it was based on.

There is not much to dislike about the Citroen Mehari, partly because there isn’t much of it in the first place. That is no bad thing, though, the Mehari was designed as a simple and rugged vehicle to be used wherever your family sedan wouldn’t or couldn’t go. Based on the Citroen Dyane, essentially an updated 2CV, the Mehari had the bare minimum of equipment and featured a body made from ABS plastic, a world first for a production car.

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 though 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 4×4 Mehari was introduced in 1979 and was built in limited numbers until 1983, these are quite highly sought after although mechanical parts are not nearly as easy to source if you do fancy one. Unique features included four-wheel disc brakes, a 3-speed transfer box and optional flared arches and 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 reside in France so you may need to cast your search wider than the UK if you are struggling to find the right car. 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.

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.

Citroen Mehari Engine and gearbox

The Mehari used the 29bhp 602cc flat twin engine as found in the 2CV6 and requires regular oil changes (every 3,000 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. Some owners may have upgraded their engines so look out for modifications if originality is important.

The gearbox is a dog-leg 4-speed unit and changes should be effortless and smooth. Third-gear synchros can become crunchy over time so make sure it engages without issue.

 

Citroen Mehari Suspension and Brakes

The suspension is rugged and should not require much maintenance other than greasing the kingpins every 600 to 1,000 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. 4×4 models had discs all-round.

Citroen Mehari Bodywork and interior

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 as this can be a labour-intensive job if repairs are needed. Walk away from a car with a badly corroded chassis unless you are looking for a bargain priced project.

There is not much of an interior to worry about, a few dash-mounted switches, two basic seats and a steering wheel are what most Meharis were equipped with. Plastic doors were available from 1970-on as was a plastic top.

Model History Of The Citroen Mehari

1968:   Citroen Mehari introduced as bare-bones convertible buggy with world-first ABS body construction. Mechanicals based on 29bhp 602cc Citroen Dyane which was essentially an updated 2CV.

Launch colours were Rouge Hopi (Red), Vert Montana (Green) and Kalahari (Beige).

1969:   Mehari introduced into the US 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 4×4 introduced, features 3-speed transfer box and disc brakes all-round.

1980:   Atacama yellow body colour introduced.

1983:   Mehari 4×4 production ends with approximately 1,300 units built.

Azure Blue colour introduced for a limited period.

1988:   Mehari production ends with 143,740 units being built.

Which Citroen Mehari To Buy

The Mehari may be a relatively simple design but don’t expect that to equate to low values, there is a big price gulf between projects and concours quality cars which bodes well for restorations. That said, be careful of cars that are too far gone-especially the chassis-as the cost of getting one right can quickly become financially unviable. 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 of the car.

These cars are still as useable and fun to drive as they were back when they were new so we would look for a decent example with a few blemishes here and there so we wouldn’t be averse to using it as intended. The rare 4×4 variants are more likely to be in pristine condition and their prices are well above the more common variants, if you are looking for a potentially appreciating asset to add to your collection then this is the one for you.

Citroën Mehari (1979) 4

Citroen Mehari Specifications

602cc air-cooled flat-twin

Power:             29bhp

Top speed:      62mph

0-60mph:        n/a

Economy:       45mpg est

Text John Tallodi  Photos Citroen, Classic Garage Celle

Related Posts

Libby and Landy Love Land Rover 88 (5)

Book tip | Landy Love – With Libby and Landy

The search for the Atlantic green of the Western Cape leads across paths as red and sandy as the Kalahari desert. And ends on the wine-growing estate of a visionary. There, Gerard de Villiers speaks of hard labour and enjoying a slower pace of life – with Libby and Landy. Continue reading Book tip | Landy Love – With Libby and Landy

Range Rover Classic

Range Rover Classic buying guide – How to buy a 50 year old icon without the risk

The Range Rover Classic was released in 1970, after spending several years of testing in Northern Africa as the Velar prototype. In 1971, the car quickly demonstrated its off road capabilities with an intrepid expedition from Anchorage in Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina.
Continue reading Range Rover Classic buying guide – How to buy a 50 year old icon without the risk