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Com­pletely weird French SUVs The Citroen Cac­tus is a won­der­fully quirky cross­over SUV that could only have come from France. The coun­try cer­tainly has a track record of bril­liantly weird cars. And, for that mat­ter, bril­liantly weird SUVs. To­day we take a

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT -

Mega Track

Aixam is a small French man­u­fac­turer which makes weird lit­tle city cars and tiny trucks and like all good French com­pa­nies it has had mo­ments that make ut­terly no sense to any ra­tio­nal hu­man be­ing. The Mega Track is one of them. Mega was Aixam’s ‘‘car’’ brand and one day it de­cided that it needed a su­per­car. Well, why not?

The Track was a thor­oughly mas­sive (al­most as long as a Mercedes-Benz S-class and wide as a Hum­mer H1) 4WD off-road su­per­car that packed a 6.0-litre Mercedes V12 and had an ad­justable ride height of up to 330mm. Ra­tio­nal? No. Awe­some? Most cer­tainly.

Citroen 2CV Sa­hara

Four-wheel drive sys­tems add com­plex­ity and weight to a car, not to men­tion all that messy de­vel­op­ment time and cost. So when Citroen de­cided to make a 4WD ver­sion of the iconic 2CV, it didn’t bother with all that. In­stead it just jammed a sec­ond en­gine in the boot to drive the rear axle.

A sin­gle gear­stick, throt­tle and clutch pedal were con­nected to both en­gines; the Sa­hara had a top speed of 65kmh with one en­gine run­ning and 105kmh with both. There was ac­tu­ally some logic to the twin en­gine set up, how­ever – the Sa­hara was de­signed for use in the French colonies in North Africa and the sec­ond en­gine not only made it 4WD, but also made it far less likely you would get stranded in the desert if one mo­tor let go on you.

Ma­tra-Simca Ran­cho

What do you do if you want to cash in on the SUV trend started by Range Rover in the 1970s, but don’t have the tech­nol­ogy or funds to get it? Just rope in Ma­tra to make you some­thing that looks like one and call it a day. Well, at least that’s what you do if you are French com­pany Simca.

The Ma­tra-Simca Ran­cho had no 4WD sys­tem what­so­ever and was based on the Simca 1100 (think of a French Austin Maxi), but it did look the part, even boast­ing a stepped roofline a decade be­fore the De­fender ap­peared. In fact it could ar­guably be said to have been sev­eral decades ahead of the play, with its car un­der­pin­nings hid­den by a raised ride height and plas­tic ex­te­rior cladding, much in the way mod­ern crossovers do.

Citroen Me­hari

Based on the Citroen Dyane 6 – the suc­ces­sor to the 2CV – the Me­hari didn’t boast the twin-en­gine set up of its an­ces­tor, but was ac­tu­ally avail­able with a proper 4WD sys­tem. A plas­tic body and diminu­tive size meant that the Me­hari was bril­liant off-road, even in FWD form, and was used by the French mil­i­tary for a num­ber of years.

Only around 1300 4WD Me­haris were built and it is now con­sid­ered quite col­lectable, although trans­mis­sion parts are ap­par­ently ‘‘vir­tu­ally un­ob­tain­able’’, which could be a prob­lem.

Break Dan­gel 4x4

The Peu­geot 505 is a leg­endary and much-loved car. The Break is the wagon ver­sion. Dan­gel is a French com­pany that has for many years built 4WD ver­sions of Citroen and Peu­geot ve­hi­cles. So you know where this is go­ing.

While the likes of Subaru and Audi may play around with raised up ver­sions of their wag­ons with a bit of ex­te­rior cladding slapped on and call them SUVs, Dan­gel went all the way with its 4WD ver­sion of the leg­endary Peu­geot 505 wagon. The 4WD sys­tem was de­signed by Peu­geot and Dan­gel for the 504 pick up (and was used in a wagon ver­sion of the 504): it packed a se­ri­ous 220mm of ground clear­ance. It was leg­en­dar­ily tough and could go al­most any­where.

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