If we were to pick one car that would perfectly illustrate basic European motoring, it would be the Citroën 2CV. But this isn’t an ordinary version of the cheap and cheerful “deux chevaux” (French for “two horses”). It’s the obscure 4×4 Sahara model of which only 693 units were ever made.
Calling it an all-wheel-drive version of the 2CV would be an understatement since the car had two engines that worked independently. It meant owners could choose between driving the car in front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive. The Late Brake Show’s Jonny Smith had the opportunity to get acquainted with a fully restored example of the rare breed, and boy, we’re in for a treat.
The budget off-roader sold from the factory with two engines and two gearboxes had a reinforced chassis and beefier suspension arms to better endure rough terrain. The French engineers gave it sturdy tubular bumpers along with two fuel tanks to feed the front- and rear-mounted engines. Even with the gas tanks full, this 2CV 4×4 still weighs only 735 kilograms (1,620 pounds).
The starting procedure is as straightforward as you can imagine since there are two ignition keys – one for each engine. The key closer to the steering wheel column turns on the front engine while the outer key fires up the rear-mounted engine. This 2CV has two identical 425-cc, flat-twin engines each producing 13.5 horsepower and 19.53 pound-feet (26.48 Newton-meters) of torque. With both engines running, the car tops out at around 60 mph (nearly 100 km/h).
Because the two fuel tanks are beneath the seats, there are holes in the doors for the gas pump to go through. There’s a separate lever used by the driver to synchronize the two gearboxes. Citroën had to make several changes to the body to accommodate the new hardware, making the 2CV look even quirkier.
The wheel arches are cut differently and there are slats in the rear fenders to cool the engine. It also has bespoke taillights flanking the cooling fan needed by the extra engine. At the front, the 4×4 Sahara came with a redesigned hood with a cutout for the spare wheel.
With virtually no soundproofing while you’re being flanked by two engines, the car is predictably loud. The price was also an issue since it cost twice as much as a regular 2CV. As such, it wasn’t a commercial success but more like an experiment.
If you’re wondering how much these cars are worth, Bonhams sold one for €86,250 at an auction in late 2019. The same year, another car fetched $106,400 at a Pebble Beach auction organized by Gooding & Company. Also in 2019, RM Sotheby’s sold the holy grail of 2CVs for €74,750 at an auction held at Villa Erba.