Two engines at different ends of the car, two carburetors, two gearboxes, two ignition keys: It's a miserable thing to drive. I should know, as I owned one and commuted in it daily for six years
The slab-sided, roll-top Citroën "Deux-Chevaux" was conceived as a people's car, a front-wheel drive contemporary of the Volkswagen Beetle. The first 2CV was introduced in 1948, powered by an air-cooled, twin-cylinder, 375-cc engine. By the time the last one rolled out of the factory in Vigo, Spain, in 1990, around four million had been made. In the late 1950s, French oil company Total needed a rugged vehicle for desert exploration. Citroën dispatched recent acquisition Panhard to design a prototype based on the 2CV. The result was the Sahara, fundamentally a 2CV with another engine and gearbox mounted in the trunk, driving the rear wheels. The rear deck was modified to include an air intake for the fan-cooled engine and the rear carburetor breathed through louvers over the rear wheel wells. The wheels were widened to take 155-15 tires and the rear fenders cut out to accommodate them. Tube bumpers were fitted at both ends and the spare tire was moved into a recess on top of the hood, held down with three straps. Inside, the driver faced a minimal dash panel with a speedometer, two ignition switches, two red generator lights and two keys. The gearshift was between the front seats, under which sat the fuel tanks, with the filler necks protruding through holes in the doors. A lever could be used to disengage the rear motor so on smooth roads the car could be driven on the front one alone. It was also possible to lock out the front motor and drive on just the rear one. Citroën built 693 Saharas between 1960-66; the 694th is claimed to have been assembled from spares in 1971. About 25 2CV 4x4s are believed to survive. This 4x4 Sahara was built from at least three cars, the best one found in Israel, sans motors. Another Sahara donated its engines, while a standard 2CV was harvested for the remaining parts. It is said to be the subject of a three-year restoration to a very high standard, and is sure to be the hit of the next all-French car show.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1962 Citroen 2CV Sahara 4x4 sedan
Years Produced:1960-66
Number Produced:694
Original List Price:Approx. $2,000
SCM Valuation:$10,000-$25,000
Tune Up Cost:$100
Distributor Caps:None
Chassis Number Location:On cross rail behind front engine, right side
Engine Number Location:On front of engine case
Club Info:Citroen Club of America, 8585 Commerce Ave, San Diego, CA 92121
Alternatives:1968-1977 Citroen Mehari, 1971-1975 Volkswagen Thing, motorized skateboard with engine at each end
Investment Grade:C-

This Citroen 2CV 4×4 Sahara sold for $23,392, including buyer’s commission, at the Christie’s Holland auction on Aug. 31, 2003.

While a 4×4 2CV Sahara is the ultimate conversation piece for a Citroën aficionado, it’s a miserable thing to drive. I should know, as I owned one for six years and used it as a regular commuter. Two engines at different ends of the car, two carburetors, two gearboxes, two ignition keys: Only the French could come up with something like this.

The two clutches operate through a single pedal (thank goodness), and a single master cylinder, so it helps to be an experienced drag racer to manage the heavy pedal. If you run the car on one engine, the weight of the extra motor limits you to 40 mph, about the speed of a competitive cyclist. Even with both engines running, 60 mph feels like the spin cycle in a washing machine.

In theory, the two clutches take up together, but in practice they never seem to. This means you’re always stalling one engine at a traffic light and having to bump start it with the other, a kind of primitive version of the engine-stop feature found in new hybrids like the Honda Insight. Of course, if the throttles aren’t exactly synchronized, there’s little cause for worry-with only 12 horsepower at each end, the car can’t tear itself apart.

Sahara collectors face an inherent problem: These Saharas were built to go in harm’s way and most did. A serious collector might search in Spain, where the Guardia Civil used a number of Saharas. Swiss rescue units were fond of the cars and several have been found there. Others went to police departments in French South Sea islands, but good luck finding any survivors there-salty ocean water and 1960s-vintage sheetmetal don’t get along well.

But the problems don’t stop with the sheetmetal. Correct NOS spares are non-existent, and many parts are unique, including the rear deck, the complicated dual shift linkage, and the electric wiper motor, among others.

The Sahara hood is not a corrugated early hood, as is often thought, but a special part with an early grille and a single rib leading up to the spare wheel well. The super-duty frame is unique to the car, with reinforced axles, suspension arms and Ami 6 friction shocks.

The engines (identified by “AW” on the identification plate) have special modifications, including revised carburetors and oil pickups to allow for off-road, high lean-angle use.

Many body parts can be grabbed from ordinary cars and it’s easy to cut out the rear fenders to make room for the wider wheels and bigger tires. In the mid-1970s there was even a short run of old-style bodies without the third side window, so it is possible to re-body a Sahara using one of those.

This Sahara was seemingly a nice enough car, and in fact may be “the best in the world,” as the 2CV 4×4 universe is a limited one. Its price is certainly on the high side of what I have experienced, as while Saharas are hard to find, not many are looking for them. This buyer should be pleased he’s got his fantasy 2CV, and this seller should be glad he found this buyer.-Paul Duchene

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