Big things with little cars
Big things with little cars

French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

Il fait froid. Donc je désire pour l’été. Et la Plage. La playa. The beach. And what better car to get there than this epic little Citroën. I’ve shown it’s Renault counter-part before (la part première est ici) but this one set that French trend. Le Méhari!

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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

And why did Citroën call it the Méhari in the first place? A méhari is a fast-running dromedary camel and a méhariste was a French Armée d’Afrique (active in Algeria, former - and last IIRC - French Colony, independent from 1962) cavalryman that used these camels. So was it meant to be used in the vast and tempting African desert? Not quite. This was the start of the French trend for ‘fun cabrios’, mostly sold in sunny places.

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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

And although the corrugated side panels suggested a bit of a use of steel like a it’s body was all Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene thermoplastic. My guess would be the corrugated panels, to add strength without adding much weight, were inspired by the Citroën HY van. Which, in return, was inspired by a WWII airplane, the Junkers Ju-52 which was often used to drop paratroopers.

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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

And that’s not the only military connection to the Méhari, as both the French and Irish army used these. Maybe even by paratroopers as it certainly was light enough to get dropped from a plane with it’s weight slightly over 500 kgs. To be able to carry a radio it’s electric system was converted to 24v. But in a totally French way: just by adding a second battery, connected in serie, in the glove compartment.

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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

And there’s another military “angle”: it’s designer, Roland de la Poype, used to be an “ace” pilot (16 confirmed aerial victories) during WWII. After the war and his post-war military career he started his own factory producing . He was a true pioneer on the matter was made chairman at the Société d’Etudes et d’Applications des Plastiques, an organization all about innovation in plastics. And therefor he designed a plastic body on the chassis of a 2CV to create a light, multi-purpose car which could be created in large numbers for little costs. The body should be one piece, a monobloc.

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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

So no wonder it was compared with a bathtub when I was little. An advantage of the use of this ABS was the fact it need not being painted: when producing the plastic itself the color was added et voilá: you had a yellow Méhari. Or a green one. Or orange. No metallic though. And when you crashed one repairing the plastic probably could not be done at Joe’s bodyshop.

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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

There even was a 4-wheel drive version, the Méhari 4x4. And unlike the 2CV Sahara I posted before there was only one engine in this one. Way less complicated. The 4x4 is easily recognizable as the spare tire on this one moved from inside the car to the bonnet. And the rear-lights were taken from the Acadiane, the Van-edition of the Dyane. With only 1,213 4x4’s produced this one is truly rare. Especially because they often led hard lives and ended up scrapped. Getting transmission parts is probably impossible.

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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

But as you see this model has it’s spare tire inboard so it’s not a 4x4. That spare tire is laughable though, could be mounted on a bicycle. It’s not a US-version either. YES: These were sold in the USA as well! Of course it’s used in all kinds of movies, it was really famous for being the first choice of transportation for Louis de Funès’ Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez but more recent it ended up in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

This model is a 3” Norev (about 1/64) from Norev’s Retro Series. That forward stance is actually quite realistic, with no passengers or load the rear was a bit upwards lifted. I really dig the fact Norev created the corrugations, even within the “bed”. Too bad the rear-seats aren’t there.

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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

Actually I have great memories to the Méhari in 1:1. It was the first rental car I ever drove in when my dad rented one during a holiday in Spain. That one was orange though. And in my teens a friend had a green one we drove even during the winter. Those were truly challenging trips come to think of it.

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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Édition de la Plage, part deux

C’est ca. J’espère l’hiver est fini bientôt. Afin que nous puissions aller à la plage. A Saint-Tropez. Bon week-end!

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