Desert conqueror – the Citroen 2CV Sahara

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For those of you interested in automobile history, a very rare twin-engined, four-wheel drive 1965 Citroen 2CV Sahara is up for auction at the Practical Classics Classic and Restoration Show Sale in Birmingham this April. Number 657 of just 694 models built for use in the French colonies in Northern Africa, this particular 2CV variant featured separate 12 hp engines to power the front and rear wheels, as well as twin fuel tanks underneath the front seats. Top speed with both engines running was 105km/h (65km/h on just one engine).

Believed to be one of only 100 still in existence, this particular model has the distinction of having crossed the Sahara desert twice. The 2CV was first delivered to Nigeria in December 1965, bought by an Englishman who was working as an anthropologist with the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. As the story goes, he chose the Citroen because it was seen as a far more friendly car – he found that if he used a Land Rover for his travels between remote villages he was regarded as being a Government inspector.

In 1967, civil war broke out in Nigeria as the Republic of Biafra attempted to secede, sparking a conflict that would last for almost three years. The researcher packed his bags and set off for home in his trusty 2CV, undertaking a difficult journey of more than 1,000 miles across the Sahara desert, loading his car with as much fuel and water as possible. Despite difficult terrain, sandstorms and a broken hydraulic pipe, both car and driver made it across. Clearly the journey wasn’t too off-putting as, on his return to Nigeria two years later, he made another successful crossing.

Though the car briefly passed out of the original owner’s hands in the 1970s, they were reunited again in 1980. Discovering the car was barely used and in a state of disrepair, arrangements were made to return it to the UK where it was registered the following year. However, like many other projects around the world, plans to restore the 2CV were hampered due to a lack of spare parts, and the car wasn’t rejuvenated until a third owner bought it and had the body completely restored in 2012. The original front engine has survived the decades, as has the original registration document from Nigeria, alongside several photos of the car during its trek through the Sahara.

“There are believed to be less than 100 examples left of these unusual 2CVs, maybe 30 of which are in running condition, making this a truly rare vehicle,” explains Nigel Gough, classic car specialist, CCA. “Not only is it a rare 2CV, but also has a unique past and fascinating story, one that will certainly appeal to collectors. With such limited numbers these models are now internationally sought after, and have achieved some seriously high prices at auction. This one will definitely get people talking.”

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