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Baby Brousse

Or does the story start even earlier?

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Originally conceived in 1963 by two Frenchmen, Mr. Letoquin and Mr. Lechanteur,who were the owners of les Ateliers et Forges de l’Ebrié, a company in Abidjan in the Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), the Baby Brousse was originally based on the Ami 6 chassis and mechanical components but with a pressed steel body that required no welding.

It can thus be seen as a sort of metal-bodied Méhari. It is often suggested that the Méhari was inspired by the Baby Brousse although the construction of the two vehicles is totally different.

Some 800 vehicles were produced "unofficially" while negotiations continued with Citroën to put things on a more formal basis.

In 1969, Citroën bought the licence for the Baby Brousse design from Ateliers et Forges de l’Ebrié with a view to putting the design into production in other countries. That same year, the Dalat went into production in what was then South Vietnam. Whether there was input from Citroën is not clear; indeed the fact that in 1973 Citroën brought three Dalat bodies to France from Vietnam and analysed the design would suggest not. From these studies they designed a vehicle whose simple manufacture could be carried out without requiring heavy investments in pressing tools and used the Baby Brousse name originally used in Côte d'Ivoire.

Additionally, Dalat proposed a 4x4 version of the car but Citroën were not interested. The sole example was sent to Citroën for study.

The later Baby Brousse was based on the mechanical underpinnings of the 2CV Fourgonnette and it was intended that the mechanical components would be exported from France as CKD (completely knocked down) kits for assembly in countries without the industrial infrastructure to build automobiles. It was thus quite similar in concept to the FAF and Africar.

The bodywork was made of pressed steel, required no welding and was bolted to the chassis.

Because of the artisanal nature of the vehicle's construction and problems with obtaining components, a number of modifications were frequently made locally which resulted in changes in appearance.

In 1977, Citroën signed a framework agreement with Guinée Bissau to produce 500 vehicles (whether Baby Brousse or FAF is not known) per year and in 1979, Citroën entered into agreements for the manufacture of the FAF in Sénégal, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinée Bissau and République Centrafricaine.

Towards the end of the nineteen fifties in Abidjan in the Côte d'Ivoire a French expatriate named Maurice Delignon who found himself in Côte d'Ivoire at the end of the Second World War proposed what might be seen as the ancestor of the Baby Brousse.

By trade a cabinet maker, he was an inventor at heart and also designed and built a submarine which for years was moored in Abidjan where it was used as a restaurant. Delignon took it with him when he returned to France in the mid nineteen eighties and it was moored at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and was then moved in the early nineties to a mooring between the pont de Puteaux and the pont de Suresnes.

Delignon

The car design was viewed as "eccentric" and was not put into production.

The idea was revived several years later by Messrs Letoquin and Lechanteur and the Baby Brousse was born. It is not known whether they were aware of Delignon's propsal but geography and being members of the same expatriate community would suggest that they were.

Baby Brousse or FAF?

The FAF design drew strongly on the Baby Brousse but differed in two major respects - it had a roof (although the Patrol was open-topped) and the body comprised spot welded panels which were bolted together.

The Baby Brousse was built in a number of different countries:

Côte d'Ivoire

With the agreement of Citroën, manufacture started in the Ivory Coast in 1970 and the Baby Brousse quickly acquired a reputation for being both robust and economical. The Baby Brousse provided four seats in a body without doors and a folding windscreen. It can be recognised by its trapezoidal air intake. Citroën's records indicate that 1,320 cars were built.


Vietnam

SAEO (the Vietnamese subsidiary of Citroën), decided in 1969, in view of the success of the 2CV vans that had been imported, to build a vehicle equipped with a pressed steel body, using the 2CV chassis and engine. The Dalat was very similar in concept to the Baby Brousse and can be recognised by its square grille and Dyane headlights. It was available as an ambulance, taxi-bus and police car in addition to the regular "metal-bodied Méhari" body style. It is believed that more than 5,000 examples were built between 1970 and the fall of Saigon in 1975 although Citroën's records indicate that the number was 2,895 with 30 being built in 1985.


Iran

The Baby Brousse (called Jiane Mehari) was built by Saipa who had previously assembled 2CVs. The car was built alongside various Dyane variants from 1970 to 1979. Citroën's records indicate that 9,315 were built between 1970 and 1976.


Sénégal

The Baby Brousse (called Méhari) was built by Etablissements Marchand from 1979 to 1983 and it can be recognised by its "jeep" grille. It is believed that about 500 examples were built although Citroën's records indicate that the number was 60 with 15 FAFs.


Chile

In Chile, alongside local variants of the 2CV a version of the Baby Brousse called Yagán was built. It was built between 1972 and 1976. 651 examples.


Greece

Namco, the Greek Citroën concessionaire assembled a vehicle called Pony in a factory constructed specifically for the purpose in Thessalonika. This vehicle is probably closer to the FAF (although it pre-dates that design) than it is to the Baby Brousse and was available as both an open top version and a roofed one. The Pony used the mechanical components of the Dyane 6 and was better built and equipped than the other similar vehicles and a wider range was marketed. They were exported to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Tunisia, Egypt and Germany. Some 17,000 examples were built.


Guinea Bissau

In addition to the FAF, a number of Baby Brousse cars were built in Guinée Bissau. It is rumoured that these vehicles, including a hypothetical 4x4 were used by the Portuguese Army in Angola. It is possible however, that the military vehicles used in Angola were constructed in the Citroën factory in Portugal.


Indonesia

480 Baby Brousses were built in Indonesia between 1982 and 1987 and 630 FAFs were built in 1979 and 1980.


Central African Republic/République Centre Africaine

180 Baby Brousses were built in the Central African Republic in 1982 and 1983 and 60 FAFs were built in 1980.


Official production figures - it should be noted that these are probably not very accurate...

BABY BROUSSE

1970

1971

1972

1973

1974

1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

Total

Greece

30

120

450

1,620

3,330

4,710

2,880

2,040

1,020

480

16,680

Côte d'Ivoire

45

45

90

180

420

300

210

30

1,320

Guinea Buissau

120

120

République Centre Africaine

60

60

60

180

Sénégal

30

30

60

Indonesia

360

90

30

480

Iran

585

1,485

1,125

2,070

3,510

540

9,315

Vietnam

30

2,385

450

30

2,895

660

2,430

2,025

1,125

2,280

4,050

1,290

1,830

3,360

4,710

2,940

2,100

1,590

600

30

30

31,050

FAF

1970

1971

1972

1973

1974

1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

Total

Portugal

180

30

180

240

180

810

Guinea Buissau

120

180

300

République Centre Africaine

60

60

Sénégal

15

15

Indonesia

60

540

600

180

30

360

1,020

195

1,785

© 2009 Julian Marsh/Citroënët
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