The lady among the Sahara’s.
In January ’65, Mme. Peillon from St. Etienne bought this 2cv 4×4, then about one and a half years old. Where most Sahara’s were used by rough workmen, this one was acquired by a Professeur de Dessin, an art teacher.
Denise, her name, was also a musician, illustrated books and had an interest in nature and archeology. We found a book called Naissance de l’Époque, co illustrated by her in 1945. Around ’67 Denise rediscovered the historic source of Font Ria, near her residence. A place in the woods with a water well which the Romans and their predecessors used, and where flint tools were found.
A versatile and adventurous woman. Maybe Denise bought the Sahara to explore the hills and forests around her home and draw or paint there. We were told the bonnet with the spare wheel on it was changed for a normal ripple bonnet, as the original was too heavy for her to lift. The spare wheel didn’t fit in the back obviously, so it found its place on the roof. This adaptation was later on, in ’73, also used by a garagist near Grenoble because this Sahara was mainly used by his wife, using it in the French Alpes. This garagist, Marc Voisin, built 4×4 conversions on 2cv’s in the eighties, using a patented system based on a single engine. In 1990 these two paths crossed each other, when the Sahara was traded in for a 2cv Voisin at the garage of M. Voisin and his nephew. At that moment Denise’s granddaughter is the owner, but she feels it’s too difficult to operate the car.
Luc Palacios, the nephew, offered the car in La Vie de l’Auto, an iconic French classic car magazine. Just after it appeared Alan Brown, an Englishman living in the Vendée, entered his local Maison de Presse, got an LVA and was nailed to the ground when he read: “Citroën 2cv Sahara tel…”. The next day he was on the other side of France, buying his dream car, with then only 42.000km on the clock. The Sahara was picked up next September and driven home. A journey that started slowly and carefully, to get acquainted. The second day the confidence and speed grew, resulting in some XM-drivers left clueless after they had been overtaken by a classic 2cv with roaring engines, doing 120 kph.
In the following cold winter the Sahara showed its capacities. It kept the Brown family mobile and even pulled the Pastis perfumed neighbor and his Ford out of a ditch. On many occasions the Sahara was used, even to attend a Citroën meeting in the UK. Until in 2000 an offer is made that can’t be refused. With the mediation of an American Citroën broker, No. 556 travels to Arizona, USA. An American collector, with the same colourful last name, adds it to his collection. Fred Brown drives it occasionally at first, but later it’s just collecting dust. At the end of 2017 a friend of ours spots the car and we decide to buy it. In a container it returns to Europe.
We have not had such an original one before. The numbers of the technique, chassis and body have been checked at Citroëns Conservatoire, and they’re matching. Most Sahara’s, of which you may have seen some passing by in our garage, are seriously used and in desperate need of restoration to be ready for use again. No. 556 has only had some attention on its technique and the tires were replaced. And we dusted off some parts. We think not (much) more should be done to it and even the replaced bonnet has been with the car long enough to be a part of it and its history. Replacing it would be a shame, but feel free to decide for yourself, when you’re going to write its further history.