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Citroen that took it to the extreme; classic wheels.

Byline: Ian Johnson

IF you spot a Citroen 2CV with the filler cap in the door and the spare wheel mounted on the bonnet it is more than likely that it is the rare and very strange Sahara built for extreme off-road conditions.

This variant of the French icon has been branded as both demented and brilliant depending on which way you look at it, but you have to admit that it worked.

It must be remembered that in the 1920s Citroen was king of the African desert, producing some extremely tough and durable half tracks for use in extreme heat.

So it was logical that Citroen should make at least one smaller vehicle capable of taking on some of the worst conditions that nature could throw in its way.

The four-wheel drive capability was achieved in a very novel way by using two engines and two transmissions - one set at either end. This lent itself very well to the 2CV which is legendary in its normal form for being able to drive over a ploughed field without breaking eggs in a box. One engine could be turned off for road use enabling the versatile little Sahara to be used as a conventional - if I dare use the word about a Citroen - road car.

The Sahara was just one of the amazing family of vehicles this utilitarian little car spawned. There was a roomy van which also had a "Weekend" version with collapsible, removable rear seating and rear side windows, enabling a tradesman to use it as a family vehicle at the weekend as well as for business in the week. This was the forerunner of today's Citroen Berlingo And one little known fact is that a pick-up version of the 2CV was used by the Royal Navy for pioneering Royal Marine helicopter carrier amphibious operations aboard HMS Bulwark and Albion in the late 1950s and early 1960s, because of the payload limitations of the RN's helicopters.

The Sahara's engines were the normal twin cylinder units, each producing 12hp and each with a separate fuel tank. They provided four-wheel-drive traction with continuous drive to some wheels while others were slipping because the engine transmissions were uncoupled.

As such it became very popular with off-road fans and is now a highly prized item, not just because of its rarity but also because of its capability.

Less than 30 examples of the Sahara are known to exist today. The top speed was a diabolically low 40mph on one engine, but this increased to 65mph with both units coupled.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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