Citroën 2cv Sahara History

© Copyright: J.Cats.

In 1954 the first 2cv 4x4 is built by M. Bonnafous by fitting a second 375cc engine to a 2cv. At about the same time some Citroën dealers do the same (albeit with 425cc engines). By 1958 Citroën wants to built a light all terrain vehicle, mainly for the french colonies in Northern Africa. The idea is to make a cheap car that consists of ordinary easily available parts as much as possible. Since Citroën doesn't have a powerfull engine to make a 2cv 4x4, the twin engine solution is chosen.

The first prototype.
Together with Panhard (owned by Citroën at this point) the first prototype is developed in 1957. After some tests in the Fontainebleau forrest, the car is introduced to the press in March 1958. The press introduction is held at Mer de Sable, an area that is not unsimmilar to the sahara. The car looks a lot like a normal 2cv, the AZLP, so with big rear window and metal bootlid. The only exterior difference compared with the normal AZLP is the bootlid. It has a small half circular hole in it for feeding cool air to the engine. While driving, the bootlid is put open a bit to provide sufficient cooling. It still has the normal 2cv dashboard mounted gearlever. Between the seats is a second lever (probably to operate the rear gearbox). The clutches are operated hydraulically. The gearboxes are fitted with the centrifugal clutch mechanism. The fuel tank is fitted below the driver's seat. The engines are fitted with an oilbath airfilter.

The second prototype.
On the Paris Salon in October 1958 the second prototype is unveiled. Exterior differences are:

  • Spare wheel fitted in the bonnet
  • No cooling vents on the sides of the bonnet
  • Cooling vents on the C post above the rear wing, all facing forward
  • Rear wings have a semi circular cutout
  • Bootlid runs up to the bumper, including recessed panel with round hole for the engine
  • Standard rear lights fitted to the bootlid
  • Tubular curved bumpers
The gearlever is now fitted on the floor. The gearboxes no longer have the centrifugal clutch mechanism. The engines are fitted with an oilbath airfilter.

The third prototype.
This one still has the long bootlid on which small lights and seperate reflectors are fitted. The bonnet now has the final shape, smooth top with normal vents on the sides. The rear wings have the final shape with a bigger cut out and they have been widened to accomodate the bigger wheels. The tubular rear bumper has it's final straight shape.

On October 11th 1960 the AZ 4/4 as it's officially called, gets type approval. In December 1960 production is started. All special parts have AW part numbers.

Characteristics of the production 2cv 4x4.

The body is a normal 2cv body, hand modified in some places. There are vents above the rear wings. The exact location of these vents differs. The firewall has a reinforcement for the twin voltage regulators. The lower part of the firewall is modified to make room for the bigger wheels/wings. The rear floor has extra mounts for the rear bench moved forward to make room for the engine. The rear innerwings are modified to make room for the bigger wheels. In the floors are 2 big round holes for the fuel tank outlets.

Unlike commonly thought, the bonnet is not a modified ripple bonnet but a purposly made item. It has the basic shape of the ripple bonnet but without the ripples. So the top is completely smooth with 1 reinforcement ripple running over the center line. Near the windscreen there is a big hole for the spare wheel. The spare rests in the bonnet and is secured by 3 straps.

The bootlid is a modified normal bootlid. It has a large funnel with a big hole to feed cooling air to the rear engine. The rear lights are fitted in the bottom corners of the bootlid but a re fixed to the body. The license plate is fitted to the top left corner of the bootlid.

The rear doors are normal doors. The front doors are modified normal doors and each have a hole for the fuel filler pipe. The front doors of the earliest cars don't have these holes.

The wings are modified to make room for the bigger wheels. The rear wings have a section attached to the inside lip.

The bumpers are tubular P.O. type bumpers. The front bumper has a sump guard attached running underneath the engine up to the front axle. The rear bumper is a straight tube and also has a sumpguard, running up to the rear axle.

The speedo is not fitted to the left bottom corner of the windscreen as ussual. In it's place is an electric wiper motor with the switch on the motor. On the normal pod above the steering tube the amp meter is in the usual possition. On the pod is the choke for the front engine (on the right of the amp meter). To the left of the pod there is a second pod on which the twin ignition keys, twin starter buttons and the twin charge warning lights are located. Below this pod is the small round speedo. The indicator switch (minuterie) is fitted to the right of the windscreen demister in the normal location. The light switch is fitted to the steering column as usual. On the steering colum there is a device that indicates the angle of the front wheels.

Gear change
The gear lever is not on the parcel shelf as usual but on the floor on top of a big transmission tunnel. On the right of the tunnel, next to the gearlever is a second lever to select either the front or both engines.

Fuel tanks
Two 15 liter fueltanks are fitted below the front seats. Checking the fuel level is done with a dipstick. The filler necks stick out through the front doors. The right tank is for the front engine, the left for the rear engine.

The chassis is not a P.O. type chassis but a specially made one.

The engines are based on the normal 12hp engines. There is a different oil pickup to ensure oil pressure in all positions. Special carburettors are fitted to provide enough fuel in any position. There are no acceleration jets so when pressing the accelerator, a non running engine doesn't get any fuel. The front carb is operated by the normal rod connected to the accelerator. The rear carb is operated with a cable connected to the front carb. The engines can be identified by the letters AW on the identification plate. When ordering a P.O. version sahara the engines have oil bath air filters.

The axles are specially reinforced items. Friction shockabsorbers (frotteurs) from an Ami 6 (improved damping) are fitted. The tyres are 155x400 fitted on specially widened rims with 4 vents. Sometimes 155x380 tyres are fitted on widened rims without vents. Tyre pressure is 0.7 bar (half that of a normal 2cv). The rear axle is not a modified front axle but a specially made item.

1960 December: Production is started.
1961 September: The compression ratio is raised from 7:1 to 7.5:1. Carbs are now 28mm instead of 26mm.
1962 Due to developments on the African continent, the Sahara name is dropped. The car is now called 2cv 4x4.
1964 September: There are seatbelt mounting points for the front seats.
1965 First the dashboard is modified. The September 1962 2cv dash is fitted with central wiper motor, speedo mounted on the pod, plastic cover below the windscreen, covering the wiper motor.
Later the front doors are modified so they open the other way around. No 3rd sidescreen is fitted.
1967 End of production.

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