Rare Rides: Rad Van Time With the 1998 Citron Berlingo Calao, by Sbarro

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides rad van time with the 1998 citron berlingo calao by sbarro

Today’s Rare Ride started off as a standard and rather uninteresting Citroën Berlingo van, and was then thoroughly edited by Sbarro into a windsurfing-oriented beach vehicle.

It’s a lot to process, visually speaking.

The Berlingo went on sale for the 1997 model year, alongside its twin the Peugeot Partner. Two body styles were available in the Berlingo’s first generation, a small panel van with four or five doors, and a five-door “leisure activity vehicle,” which is the European name for a short-wheelbase van like the Ford Transit Connect.

Power was provided via a range of inline-four engines that ranged in size from 1.4 to 2.0 liters. There were a few EV examples too, sold as the Berlingo Electrique. In very European fashion, all vans were equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. Tidy in its dimensions, the Berlingo was just 162.8 inches long. To put that in perspective, Berlingo was a full 21 inches shorter than the second generation Chevy Cruze.

The Berlingo and Partner lived a very long time in their first generation, with singular facelift for 2003. Sales of the first-gen continued in Europe through 2013, and continue on in Argentina today. They just love the ancient Berlingo.

Shortly after its release, Italian car designer Franco Sbarro dreamed up a funky concept version of the Berlingo for a very specific audience: Windsurfers. His Swiss company, Sbarro, set to work and reimagined the Berlingo almost entirely. Gone were the doors and roof, the former replaced by hollowed-out panels to hold windsurfing boards and accouterments. The roof was changed to a connected roll bar setup and added a roof rack to hold additional equipment. Up to six windsurfers were seated on its teal and banana-colored seats; the rear cargo area provided two additional jump seats.

The exterior continued the teal/banana color scheme, and up front a decorative silver plastic brush guard was fitted for extra off-road sand adventure vibes. At the back, a drop-down tailgate wore the same perforated aesthetic as the brush guard. With no roof and no windows beyond the windshield, a windy driving experience was assured by the Calao.

The very Nineties Calao ended up in the hands of Peugeot-Citroën, at their Adventure Museum. PSA decided to thin their collection in 2020 and sold the Calao without registration and a disclaimer about its lack of regular use. That wasn’t a joke, as in 2020 the Calao had accumulated just 363 kilometers. It sold for $26,000.

[Images: Sbarro]

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3 of 5 comments
  • Wolfwagen Wolfwagen on Sep 29, 2021

    What. The. Hell. Is. That? The headline picture has a lot going on too: - The surfboard appears to have the silhouettes of an SR-71/A12 - Model holding the surfboard is wearing a dress with platform shoes. I have never seen a woman wear such an outfit to the beach _ Model in the car is wearing jeans. Again, I have never seen a woman go to the beach wearing jeans The last picture looks like that teal and yellow didn't hold up real well for NOT being in the sun as it was intended

  • Cicero Cicero on Sep 29, 2021

    I guarantee that the woman with the surfboard had never seen one of those things in her life before the photographer made her stand next to it.

  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.