A trip to the past: 1978 Citroën Mehari.

To begin… I want to say that classic cars are a part of our history, without them we wouldn’t have next-gen race cars or the boring common commuters around our roads. This small article here is simply an insight into a simple but genius piece of French engineering.

The quirky yet simple Citroën Mehari.

So, let’s take a look back to the past summer… Back then. I was having a quick soak at the pool of my uncle’s home however, what caught my attention wasn’t the mosquitoes, the tasty paella being cooked or the annoying party held by the neighbors next to us. As soon I rose from the pool to dry myself up I spotted a lime-colored buggy-like vehicle, it had a lifted suspension paired to a set of thin wheels… It certainly looked pretty old compared to the other cars parked on the urbanization.

What I was looking at, was a genuine 1978 Citroën Mehari, a jewel from an era long gone. Its owner who I met later down the road… had a lot to tell me about the car’s history along with its many quirks and features.

The Citroën’s many quirks and features aren’t few…

To begin… the Citroën Mehari doesn’t have a metallic bodywork. Its body was made entirely of ABS plastic, the same plastic that is used to make Lego construction blocks, it had the advantage of being cheap to manufacture, the Citroën Mehari was henceforth a pretty lightweight car, barely reaching 590kg in weight. Not to mention that it was pretty resistant to collisions and damages… even if it got split in half after being T-boned you could easily melt and glue together both halves of the car and join them back together as if nothing had happened.

The Mehari as well doesn’t have heating or the luxury of radio but simple plastic “windows” which are surprisingly watertight despite the flimsiness of the textile roof, you can also forget about hearing anything other than the wind or the engine of the car, however… you’ll have a certainly smooth ride thanks to the extremely soft suspension coming from the Citroën Dianne, the frontal one is completely independent and the rear one is a wishbone suspension.

Under the hood, we don’t have a gas-guzzling American V8 but a small block M28 two-cylinder engine with a displacement of 600cc and pushing barely 32 horsepower to the front wheels*, in top speed terms the Mehari really hasn’t got much but… doing the 0-60 sprint takes 22.4 seconds, and that is if you got tailwind hitting your cute french car from behind to help you get to its 60mph top speed… and if you want to stop 4 heavy drum brakes will be in charge of slowing you down effectively… as long they’re not dripping wet.

Did I even mention that the manual gearbox which is horizontally mounted… needs to be pulled in & out twisted or tilted to change gears? it’s nothing easy to handle like the simplest of manual gearboxes we have on our commuter cars, but to be fair… the Mehari is a pretty reliable car.

*The Citroën Mehari had both a 4X4 & a FWD version, this one was a FWD version.


So… what I think about the Citroën Mehari?

My ride on the Mehari wasn’t exactly a luxurious one, the tiny 2 cylinder engine on the front was extremely noisy, the soft suspension barely could do its work even at a measly 18 miles per hour through a dirt road causing me to bounce on the copilot’s seat… and all of it while it’s owner told me how he survived a T-bone on the Mehari, which resulted on the cute french car getting split in two and rolling over on a ditch.

Still… I got to say something about the entire experience, I didn’t really need tons of horsepower or internet connectivity to have fun as a passenger on the Citroën Mehari, the ride on itself was a pretty fun experience to add to my list of automotive experiences. The Citroën Mehari is that one kind of car that even if flawed it’s still fun to ride around the beach or calmly cruise down a road enjoying the view… if you want an enjoyable trip to the past cars like the Citroën Mehari certainly deserve a spot in the heart of an automotive enthusiast.


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