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The Ultimate Off-Roader? Meet the Citroen 2CV Sahara

As nearly everyone knows, there is no such thing as an ‘ordinary’ Citroen 2CV – it simply means that some are more extraordinary than others. On the 1st-2nd April at the Practical Classics Classic Car & Restoration Show at the NEC, Classic Car Auctions is presenting a very rare opportunity to purchase a Deux Chevaux that is said to be able to climb a 45% gradient. This 2CV is also fitted with twin gearboxes and a pair of fuel tanks mounted under the front seats. Best of all, it is powered by two 425cc engines - one in the front and one in the rear…

FEA 235 C is, of course, a very rare surviving example of the famous 2CV Sahara, which was planned by Citroen for use by oil companies and colonial officials in North Africa. In place of the standard gear change, there is a central floor lever that simultaneously moves both sets of the transmission rods. For use on tarmac, the Citroen employs only the front unit but by moving a lever mounted in the passenger footwell, the driver can enjoy quite incredible off-road abilities. The Sahara can be distinguished from the standard 2CV via its extra air intake on the rear bonnet, larger wings, the externally mounted spare wheel and – possibly the most disquieting feature of all – the cutaways for the petrol fillers in the front doors.

Sahara New In 1965

The 2CV Sahara debuted in February 1961 and its market was always going to be select. The extensive modifications, the chassis was extensively strengthened, there were reinforced suspension arms and a great number of unique body panels, inevitably made the Citroen an expensive prospect; at 10,259 francs it cost more than twice the amount of a basic 2CV. Regular production ceased around 1967 and, according to its vendor, Mr. Bob MacQueen, this prime example dates from 1965. ‘It was ordered in Nigeria by an English anthropologist working there. At that time villagers associated Land Rovers with tax officials so a Citroen was seen as more friendly!’

In 1967 the 2CV was used to transport its owner 1,000 miles across Africa, including the Sahara Desert, in the wake of the Biafra conflict. Both the Citroen and owner then lived in the UK for two years before they returned overland to West Africa. The 2CV was sold when its first custodian departed Nigeria ‘in the late 1970s’ but when he saw it again around 1980 it had been left standing and was in a terrible condition; ‘it was very battered and full of sand!’. The anthropologist re-acquired the Citroen and Bob first came across it in London in 1981 – ‘It took a few months to get her going again. The previous owner tried to get the Sahara fixed but the problem was that no-one really understood it’.

Sahara In The Desert

The 2CV Sahara was treated to a full restoration in 2012 and today it looks indeed splendid and, as Bob observes, it is the first one to appear at an auction in the UK for quite some time. He also points out some of its special features, the twin starter buttons and the two ignition switches and the petrol tanks. ‘These are not actually interlinked – the one under the passenger seat supplies the front engine and the rear engine is supplied by the one beneath the driver’. On the road, the Citroen could be best described as ‘rather noisy’, especially as the second power plant is insulated by what resembles horsehair. However, its off-road climbing ability is ‘amazing!’

Bob observes that while several examples of the Sahara were also made in Spain, they were used by the Guardia Civil, the idea of also assembling them in Slough regretfully never came to fruition. Citroen made only 694 twin-engine 2CVs, of which Bob’s car is model number 657. You may never see another example in the UK, so do take the chance to take a look at one of Citroen’s most incredible cars here.

Sahara

With Thanks to:

Bob MacQueen

Nigel Gough at Classic Car Auctions - http://www.classiccarauctions.co.uk/

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