We conclude our Global tour of Méhari-derivatives.
The acronym FAF stands for “Facile A Fabriquer – Facile A Financer” (Easy to build, easy to fund). FAF was Citroën’s official response to the Baby Brousse that predated it. The aim was to have a range of vehicles based on the “A” platform intended for assembly in developing countries with limited -or no- resources and experience in producing cars.
The first FAFs were produced in 1973 in Portugal but later, factories were opened in Guinée Bissau, Central African Republic, Senegal and Indonesia. There were six available bodystyles: a Saloon, 3-door Estate, Van, Pick Up, 4×4, and a Runabaout in Méhari fashion. The 4×4 version was purchased by the Portuguese army and saw action in the Angolan civil war.
Manufacturing the bodywork did not require expensive presses since it comprised mainly flat steel sheets that were cut and folded, in some cases manually. The FAF looks quite similar to the Baby Brousse but unlike the latter, which had a body that was bolted together, the panels of the FAF were spot-welded. In addition the FAF had a roof while the Baby Brousse did not. The various factories together produced close to 1,800 FAFs until the end came in 1980.
Jehle Safari, Lichtenstein
Xaver Jehle was an Auto-Tuner based in Schaan, Principality of Liechtenstein. Between the late 1970’s and early 1990’s, Jehle developed several kit-cars. The Safari utilised the trusty Citroën A platform and mechanicals and around 200 Méhari-like Safaris were sold.
IES Safari, Argentina
Argentinian business tycoon Eduardo Sal-Lari took over Citroën Argentina SA in 1980. Initially, IES (Industrias Eduardo Sal-Lari) produced the 3CV -a slightly modified version of the 2CV. In late 1983 the IES Safari was added to the product line. It looked very much like its French sister -although the spare wheel on the bonnet is an indication that this is not a regular Méhari- but the body was made of reinforced glassfiber.
In 1988 the Safari was replaced by the Gringa which although it kept utilizing the 2-cylinder boxer engine had an in-house designed frame and suspension totally different from the A-platform. Production numbers for the IES Safari are unavailable but as less than 300 Gringas left the factory until the collapse of IES in 1990 it is unlikely that more than 1,000 Safaris were produced during its lifespan.
Bedouin, United Kingdom
After the infamous collapse of Africar International Ltd in 1989, resulting in 15 months imprisonment for its founder Tony Howarth, Africar briefly resurfaced in the form of another UK company: Special Vehicle Conversion, led by John Fitzpatrick and Bob Williams. It produced a small run of vehicles based on the Citroën 2CV platform under the name Bedouin, featuring a plywood body just like the Africar did.
Alas, barely a year later this enterprise also folded. That is unfortunate because the original idea behind both cars was laudable; the Africar -using the “A” platform and drivetrain – was designed to handle the rough roads of rural Africa and was to be buildable by low-skilled labor, using native materials (the body was mainly wood).
Mismanagement and illegal activity under Howarth unfortunately killed the project; he pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading and obtaining property by deception although even today many are of the opinion that this judgement was controversial. It is thought the number of Bedouins built in this short timespan can be counted on one or two hands.
Vanclee Emmet/Mungo, Belgium
Vanclee was mainly known for their Dune Buggies based on VW and Porsche mechanicals, but in 1977 they introduced the Emmet (later rechristened Mungo), based on the Citroën 2CV platform. Up to the end of production in 1990 the Emmet/Mungo was popular locally with farmers- now that Vanclee is no more the records are gone as well so production numbers are unavailable.
The A4x4 was basically a FAF with the underpinnings of the Méhari 4×4. It was a light cross-country vehicle intended to be used by the French army. Unfortunately, even though the army was generally quite positive after testing the ten A4x4’s supplied to them in 1979, in the end they opted to use the larger Peugeot P4, a Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen built under license.
The A4x4 gearbox is quite interesting- with 7 forward speeds and reverse, it includes a reducer gear on three ratios and a dog clutch on the prop shaft to the rear wheels. The rear axle differential can be locked as well. This offers six possible modes of propulsion: normal running (4×2 without reducer gear), front-wheel drive with reducer gear (4×2), 4-wheel drive (4×4) with or without reducer gear, and with or without the rear differential locked.
The ten vehicles supplied to the army remained in service for some time but when the army decided to dispose of them, it was discovered that they had never been type approved. Citroën tried to attract interest from armed forces of other countries to no avail, so in the end they were destroyed.
Nordex-Citroën Ranger, Uruguay
This Uruguayan version of the Méhari was manufactured under license by the firm Nordex and had a fiberglass body (instead of ABS). It was mostly similar to its French sister, but the rear wheelarches have a different shape and are noticeably larger; it also featured a removeable hardtop. The enterprise was shortlived, lasting from 1979 until 1982.
SIFFT Katar, France
The SIFTT Katar was a compact off-road vehicle created in 1985 by the Société Industrielle Française de Tout-Terrain, based on a Citroën 2CV chassis and a Visa 652cc engine. It was designed and built in Cransac (départment Aveyron) by Jean Luc Pontaillé and Bernard Lafanechère, who created the company especially for the occasion.
The semi-loadbearing shell was made of glass-reinforced polyester with a tubular structure. 245 vehicles were produced between 1987 and 1992. A few more units were produced on an Aro chassis with Renault Diesel engines before SIFTT closed its doors in 1992.
That some enterprising manufacturers tried to fill the void upon the discontinuation of the Citroën Méhari is perfectly understandable, although their general lack of commercial success perhaps proves Citroën right in halting Méhari production when it did. More puzzling are the Méhari-like vehicles offered during its concurrent production run- why develop and build your own version on the same mechanical basis while there is
a proven design readily available?
The Fiberfab Sherpa at least could point to German legislation and the FAF offered a range of bodystyles but products like the Fredcar or Namco Pony are more difficult to fathom. Was a steel car perceived as more of a quality item when compared to ABS?
All of the companies have folded so the answer will probably elude us. Only Citroën survives, but it is questionable whether a “real” Méhari (the e-Méhari is not an entirely convincing reboot in my personal opinion) will ever return.
Special thanks to http://www.citroenet.org.uk for being an important source of information for this article.
4 thoughts on “Herding a Dromedary’s Lost Siblings (2)”
Wonderful article, Bruno. I never realised the Mehari was so popular and coveted by so many. And your question of why so variants on a tried and tested theme I sadly cannot answer.
Now, as to why we don’t see too many in the UK. This morning has visibility down to twenty feet due to fog, a steady drizzle and temperatures around five degrees. Who wouldn’t want to be sat in an ABS (or plywood) bodied bolide?
Yes, excellent stuff, thank you, Bruno. I guess the proliferation of models based on the Citroen floorpan and mechanicals was a function of the simplicity and ease of producing such vehicles. However, in the First World at least, safety legislation (and customer expectations, even of economy cars) has made such vehicles obsolete.
Thank you; I’m glad you enjoyed this overview. And yes- the Méhari is definitely better suited to milder climates, and it is indeed better not to think too much about the consequences of an accident at anything more than light moped velocities…..
What a very informative piece, I had three 2cvs in the 70s and 80s and became hooked on them. A move to Greece in 2000 and I found a Namco Pony in Kalamata, ideal for Greek roads and farms. Sold it when returning to UK and always regretted it. Kept looking for another or similar and ended up finding a 72 Bedouin that has not arrived with me yet so here’s hoping it is as good if not better than my rose tinted Pony. Lots of Meharis for sale but are too dear for a toy.