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 4×4 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.