Citroën re-invents the Mehari

  • 30-Nov-2010 02:52 EST
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Lacoste sporting themes can be seen in the golf ball style wheels and tennis ball yellow grab handles.

Historical references for Citroën’s Lacoste concept from the 2010 Paris Motor Show are plenty. While all utilitarian open cars can possibly trace their ancestry back to the Willys Jeep, the Lacoste owes more to post-WW II European beach cars. Models such as the Fiat 600 Jolly; DAF 44-based Royal beach car, designed for the Dutch Royal family by Michelotti; the Mini Moke; and then there was Citroën’s own entry in the sector, the Mehari.

The Lacoste borrows from most of them—the wicker seating of the Fiat and Daf, echoed in cotton in the Lacoste, cutouts in place of doors, the small engines that powered them all, and the outdoor and sporting themes reinforced here by the Lacoste name.

Electric power may have been a theme of the Paris show, but Citroën chose a more conventional means of propulsion for the Lacoste, which uses a small three-cylinder gasoline engine. The Citroën C1 city car, built in a joint venture with Toyota, is fitted with a Daihatsu-sourced three-cylinder, but Citroën could not confirm if the same power unit is used in the concept.

Overall, Citroën describes the concept as a vehicle aimed at "putting an end to the 'always more' mantra that often reigns in the automotive industry.” Minimalist design is certainly at the heart of the Lacoste, featuring an open-air design and a windscreen that can be lowered out of sight. Driver access is helped by a steering column that tilts forward against the dash panel.

To counter the sense of vulnerability that might result from the cutout doors and to create a sense of traveling in rather than on, the Lacoste has been given a high waistline, while the outdoor and sporting themes are reinforced by the short overhangs, bulging wings, and golf-ball-style alloy wheels.

At 3.45 m (11.3 ft) long, 1.80 m (5.9 ft) wide, 1.52 m (5.0 ft) tall, and with a 2.30-m (7.5-ft) wheelbase, it’s a compact car. But it’s designed to carry four, with the rear bench seat accessed by jumping over the sides. Alternatively, the rear seat will fold away into the trunk, providing greater luggage space.

Discreet storage spaces are located under the dashboard and the bench seats—with access through sliding covers. The seats are finished in stitched white cotton, said to resemble a polo shirt over a rope-like cotton fabric. The polo shirt theme from the seat detailing is carried over to the seatbelt anchorage points. Soft rubber in yellow is used for the finish on the grab handles to give the appearance of a tennis ball.

The overhead “backbone” structure serves several purposes. It aids access to the vehicle and conceals an automatic inflatable hood to protect occupants from the weather. The canopy is finished in the same yellow as the grab handles.

Driver information is displayed on the dashboard fascia strip using icons with oversized pixels. Externally, both front and rear lights have been disguised by mounting them in dark blue panels so that they remain almost invisible until switched on.

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