Home » Gonzo The Great’s Car Was A Weird US-Spec Citroën Mehari: Cold Start

Gonzo The Great’s Car Was A Weird US-Spec Citroën Mehari: Cold Start

Cs Mehari Gonzo Top
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I noticed in the comments of yesterday’s Cold Start that people seemed to appreciate a reason to think about Muppets in the morning, be they of the Order or Chaos varietals. So, what the hell, let’s do it again, because it was noted that my Spirit Muppet, Gonzo the Great, drives a really interesting car. It’s actually even more weird than you may have realized: it’s a Citroën Mehari, yes, already an unusual car, especially here in America, but even more notably is one of the US market Meharis, which had a few notable changes that I’ll show you now.

The Mehari itself is part of a category of cars that I once labeled, quite cleverly,fun cars, and if you can get past the incredible effort I clearly put into that name, you’ll realize it’s a category that’s pretty much disappeared. A fun car is a modification of a mass-market economy car with a stripped-down body and interior, designed for light off-road use, utility, fun, and designed to be easy to get dirty and then clean, usually very open, as in an opening roof or removable doors or whatever. You know, fun. Think Beetle/Thing, Mini/Moke, and, yes, 2CV/Mehari.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Anyway, here’s the visual evidence of Gonzo’s Mehari, which was being used as Gonzo’s plumbing truck, and, I suspect, lived in with his chicken-girlfriend Camilla:

Cs Muppetmehari

In the Muppet Movie, you can see the front end of the Mehari:

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Yeah, Hollywood is the easy way! You tell ’em, Gonzo.

Anyway, the Mehari in that clip looks a lot like this Mehari, doesn’t it:

Cs Mehari 2

See the big headlights, and the grille shape, and that hood shape? Compare that to this Mehari I saw in Copenhagen:

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Cs Meharicopenhagen

…or this one from a European brochure:

Cs Mehari Euro

See? The Euro-market Meharis had smaller headlights, a whole different front face, different hood, and other details. US-spec ones had all the needed federalizing stuff like side marker lamps and a different rear decklid for the US-sized license plate and required lighting, and so on.

Cs Mehari 3

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These were only sold in America for two years, 1969 and 1970, and were classified as trucks so they could get away with being cheerful deathtraps with no seatbelts and generally less rigorous safety requirements. That wouldn’t have stopped me from wanting one even for a second were I alive and having Mehari-money then.

This is one of those rare cases where I think I prefer the US-spec look, too. I thing the bigger-eyed front end just looks better, and who doesn’t love a nice set of side marker lamps?

Back to the most famous US-spec Mehari owner, though; did you know a lot of Gonzo’s early work on The Muppet Show had a sort of automotive-focused performance-art feel? Look:

Eating a tire to music is pretty hardcore. So is destroying what looks like an Austin Seven to more music:

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These early versions of Gonzo as a sort of unhinged performance artist make me wonder if he was inspired by Chris Burden, who once crucified himself to a VW Beetle:

Oh, and if you didn’t know, I tend to hide pictures of Gonzo in my car review pictures, so see if you can find them!

 

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Andy Individual
Andy Individual
12 days ago

Not enough blue fur action going on. Hey, don’t kink shame.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
12 days ago

Good stuff here Torch. Anything that references the Muppets will always suck me into reading.

And chicks in skimpy swim suits always seals the deal. As evidenced by the top photo.

Girl: “Let me help you out of your scuba gear Bob.”

Bob: “Let me help you out of your bikini top Jan.”

Toyec
Toyec
12 days ago

I agree that the US Mehari is the best looking one. European version has its “eyes” too low, I don’t like that. As for the “fun cars” category, at least in France we already had a name for them, “beach cars”, because that’s where they are used the most. The Mehari was the only one a little bit successful here, later attempts like the Teilhol/Renault Rodéo, Teilhol Tangara, Mega Ranch, SIFTT Katar or La Petite Voiture Qui Roule Sous Les Etoiles (yes, that was a thing) were all more or less failures. It seams that this market is just too small to allow a sustainable business model.
(As for the recent Citroën e-Mehari, this badge-engineered Bolloré Bluesummer was a joke on its own. Someone here needs to do an article on Bolloré’s cars someday, to entertain the americans. After all, you were also submitted to this crap with “BlueIndy”.)

Drew
Drew
12 days ago

When is the Muppetopian site going to spin off? We need constant content. Muppets every day.

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
12 days ago

Chris Burden created one of my favorite auto-themed works of art, Metropolis II!
It’s a room sized sculpture of a city with 1,100 Hot Wheels cars whizzing around on tracks. I had no idea it was made by the same guy I read about shooting himself and nailing himself to a Beetle in Art History class! It’s on display at the LA County Museum of Art.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
12 days ago
Reply to  MAX FRESH OFF

At CalArts there was always someone putting little plaques on lockers reading “Chris Burden slept here“

I am particularly fond of his “The Big Wheel” ,very impressive when it is spun up, and that one with the Porsche 914 balanced by a meteorite

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
12 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

I haven’t seen either of those but they sound awesome. I remember seeing “A Tale of Two Cities” at the OC museum when I was a kid and it blew my mind that a grown up collected all of these historic toys and incorporated them into an expansive sculpture. My kids felt the same way when they saw Metropolis II.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
12 days ago

My first car was a hand me down Pontiac 6000 that my older sisters had hand and rattle can painted to look like that Studebaker Commander above.

Good times.

Last edited 12 days ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
EricTheViking
EricTheViking
12 days ago

When I visited Colonía, Uruguay in 2016, I was surprised to see at least ten of Mehari there. It has been years, if not decades, since I saw any Mehari in Europe.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
12 days ago

My favourite thing about all three different faces on the Mehari is the little hole in the middle just above the licence plate, which is where the starter handle goes.

Yep, you can start your Mehari the maximum effort way, if you want.

Last edited 12 days ago by Captain Muppet
Torque
Torque
11 days ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

Makes sense it mechanically is basically a 2CV which of course could also be started manually.

Related thought… It seems kind of weird to think with manual trans cars pretty much non-existant in the US, any younger person just starting out driving will likely never experience driving a manual transmission car nor ever push start one.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
11 days ago
Reply to  Torque

I never dared use the starting handle on my 2CV.

I was worried about getting smacked by the handle.

Torque
Torque
11 days ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

Yeah besides very small engines (mopeds and when I was a kid gas lawn mowers) I’ve never hand cranked to start any engine
I of course have seen videos of people hand cranking cars to start.
Seems when it is a “clockwise” rotating when facing the engine, right foot forward and crank up with your right hand, with your thumb in line with the rest of your fingers ‘cupping’ the handle so to speak, so approx. 7-9 o’clock position pulling up and over 12 o’clock position, that way if the engine does kick back unexpectedly, it will be doing so towards the weakest part of your grip, which seems to be the safest way.
The other way, i.e. trying to “push” the crank handle with your weight on top, i.e. starting around the 12 o’clock position and pushing over to the 4 o’clock position, seems much more likely to be potentially dangerous and could result in broken bones

10001010
10001010
12 days ago

You gotta keep Muppet Week going Torch! Can tomorrow’s cold start cover a bear’s natural habitat or the Electric Mayhem’s tourbus? How about the USS Swinetrek?

Autonerdery
Autonerdery
12 days ago
Reply to  10001010

The “Pigs in Space” ship allegedly (allegedly) inspired the shape of Saab’s high-back bucket seats with the wrap-over headrests, introduced in the early ’80s and evolved almost to the very end. There’s a research project for ya, Torch!

10001010
10001010
12 days ago
Reply to  Autonerdery

This is exactly the sort of factoid I would expect to learn in an article about Pigs in Space on an automotive site. Good job!

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
12 days ago

Jason Torchinsky: New king of Gonzo journalism.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
12 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I am SO here for that

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
12 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Jason S Torchinsky. Kind of has a ring to it.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
12 days ago

Let’s just keep him away from hooch, dope and firearms.

Chronometric
Chronometric
12 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

And deer, wiring, and chainsaws.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
12 days ago

You hide Gonzo in review pics???? There goes my day…. Also, I’d say fun cars like this are dead cause no one can afford them. Not gonna finance a “fun car” (sporty coupes fall into this too) for 7 years when you figure you’ll be trying to start a family or something by then, or you’ll have to move to a new apartment every year and need the room in the car for that. And that’s for the relatively few young millennials/older gen z(can we come up with a better term them please?) in the new car market to begin with. And the older folks who want/can finance toys to the moon pick up side by sides and the like instead.

Last edited 12 days ago by Shooting Brake
Tbird
Tbird
12 days ago

I see through your master plan for driving site traffic. Making me re-read all of Torch’s old reviews to search for the hidden Gonzo. I will not fall for you’re devious plan.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
12 days ago
Reply to  Tbird

Speaking of re reading old articles:

When you are looking for old articles under the “Review” tab or a specific author, each page includes only four articles. Resulting in 24 pages of reviews, and 293(!) pages of Torch articles.

This is bad. Website admins, is there any way this can be changed? There should be like 20-30 articles per page(at least), like the front home page already is.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
12 days ago

Gonzo is the greatest Muppet ever.

I will die on this hill.

#2? Cookie Monster.

Fineheresyourdamn70dollars
Fineheresyourdamn70dollars
12 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

How can you make such a claim when Sam Eagle stood in for all that is good and right in the sensible 70’s? Without Sam Eagle’s guidance and voice of reason the Muppet Show would have descended into chaotic nonsense!

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
12 days ago

Someone on The Autopian advocating for reason? What madness is this?!?

Wait…

Narc!!! NAAAARC!!!

Utherjorge
Utherjorge
12 days ago

Sam Eagle is the answer

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
12 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Enjoy your hill. There is one Frog, one Frog to RULE THEM ALL!!!!

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
12 days ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

I don’t want to pull rank here, but…

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
12 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

The Swedish Chef would like to have a bork with you about that.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
12 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Kinda partial to Sweetums, myself.

“Sweetums get that froggy now
Froggy will be Sweetums’ chow
Sweetums get that frog and how

Polly-wolly froggy get a mighty pow!”

SageWestyTulsa
SageWestyTulsa
12 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Remarkably similar to my favorite verse from one of Kermit’s Calypso numbers on TMS:

Frog is here to have his say
Pig will never get her way
Bib and napkin, knife and fork
Is the only way that I’ll touch pork

Last edited 12 days ago by SageWestyTulsa
Torque
Torque
11 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Muppets has many great characters
Animal (hidden intelligence behind his bazerker rage)
Beaker
Rizzo the Rat,
Pepe the king prawn
Swedish Chef

Oh and besides Stan the Eagle, perhaps the best duo the balcony guys Statler and Waldorf!

Last edited 11 days ago by Torque
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