Quickly, how many dual engine street legal cars were manufactured in the last half of the twentieth century? You may be hard pressed to find another. The Citroen Sahara was a utility model built to navigate the oil rich North African terrain. It featured identical front and rear engines and could be driven using either engine or both. Unique chassis modifications resulted in durability and off road utility. The cars were hand built by the Panhard division in separate facilities from the main production plants. 694 trickled out beginning in 1958 and few survive today.
Uber micro car collector, Dr. Mac Jones, had found his Sahara. A noted broker who specializes in museum acquisitions located a French built car in the Netherlands. It had been owned by a former Citroen employee and had its original engines, transmissions, body and chassis parts. The exhaust system had been replaced. Mac refurbished suspension pieces, cleaned out both gas tanks, replaced the fuel lines and top canvas and enjoyed the car on his farm maintaining it, driving it and enjoying it for 14 years before relinquishing it to its present owner.
“It would pull like a mule through the mud.”Dr. Mac Jones
The Citroen Deux Chapeux was shepherded along by two automotive giants. In the mid 1930’s Pierre Michelin became president of the bankrupt Citroen company. He sought a people’s car to appeal to the mass market and use more tires. Pierre Boulanger, eventual Citroen president and then chief of design and engineering, put together a development team for the Toute Petiete Vouture -very small car. (Ironically both men would die in separate motoring accidents on the main road between the Clermont-Ferrand and Paris.) The war intervened and the first units were delivered in 1949. The 2CV was soon a success and achieved an iconic status accorded such designs as Jeep and the VW Beetle. Production continued until 1990. Citroen began to build a special off road utility version in 1958. Costs were contained by using existing engines modified with a larger carburetor. Separate transmissions were engaged with a single hydraulic system activated by a single clutch pedal. Front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, and four-wheel drive could be employed at will. The cars were hand built, most in France and some in Spain and though the car looks like a standard CV, most parts and panels were specific to the Sahara and stamped with model specific part numbers. The greater markets proved to be the Spanish Police, rescue workers in the Alps and North African oil field workers. Many were thought to be consumed by desert sands and the Basque Separatist conflict.
In the hands of its present owner, who has an extensive experience with exotic cars, the Sahara has undergone a sympathetic restoration with parts sourced from Citroen Concours of America (Citroen Pieces) a former Citroen dealer who had purchased an extensive supply of OEM parts. Engine (two) out service was done; carburetors, brakes, and hydraulics were rebuilt. Paint and body panels were preserved. Wipers, brake lines, floor mats, door panels and seat covers were replaced as was a missing driver’s side mirror. Where possible, the originals were saved and accompany the car.
Don’t let the 2CV auction charts fool you. Enthusiasts have recognized the Sahara as unique in its attributes and engineering. Survivors are rare and those with original running gear even more rare. At Quail Lodge in 2008, a 1962 Sahara with a pair of replaced engines sold for $93,600. Contrast that with the unrestored Alex DuPont Citroen Sahara sold for $142,500 at the Bonham’s Simeone sale in 2012. Multiple articles followed suggesting the price was over the top or an anomaly. Not so. At the 2016 Retromobile sale by Artcurial Motorcars, a barn find Sahara with 11,367 km recorded, sold for 172, 840 € ($192,717).
It’s rare to find a Sahara with an original hood; most rusted beneath the mounted spare. Most survivors had engine replacement and this example is offered with original matching numbers powerplants. The extensive information and history supplied by the broker and owners suggests this to be a remarkable survivor able to be enjoyed on road, off road or in a collection of unique vehicles.