Non, n’est pas un Mercedes Geländewagen. C’est un véhicule léger à quatre roues motrices produit par... Peugeot? That’s right: Peugeot. A Peugeot P4.
Because in 1981 the French Ministère de la Défense decided to finally replace the Willy’s Jeep (produced by French manufacturer Hotchkiss, and again: we’re talking about 1981!!!!) of it’s army as those Jeeps simply were outdated.
And of course there was a French chauvinist’s twist in the outgoing tender. Potential bidders knew that they didn’t stand a chance unless they were French or at least were allied with a French manufacturer.
This resulted in odd-looking combinations. Like Renault-Fiat, which presented a Fiat Campagnola powered with a Renault 20 engine. Well, maybe that’s not so weird as Italian Alfa Romeo (back then not part of FIAT btw) already license-built the French Renault Dauphine. But what about the combination Citroën-VW, which mounted a Citroën CX Athena drive-train in a Volkswagen Iltis!
So Peugeot had to come up with something as well of course. This was quite a big tender (15.000 units VLTT - Véhicule de liaison tout-terrain although some sources state the L for being “Léger”, light) so they contacted the maker they believed had then the most suitable off-roader for military or maybe even any use: Geländefahrzeuggesellschaft mbH (or GFG).
This was the infamous joint-venture between Mercedes-Benz and Austrian carmaker Steyr-Daimler-Puch. But again: It needed a French angle! So GFG and Peugeot decided that Mercedes would deliver the steering box and front and rear axles (with 5.33:1 reduction as fitted in the 240 GD) and Steyer-Daimler-Puch the chassis, transfer box and most of the body parts in unprotected and unpainted form. All Peugeot had to come up with parts-wise was the engine and main gearbox.
Early P4s were powered by an XN8 2000cc petrol-engine from Peugeot’s 504 and 505 or it’s 2500cc diesel. The 4-speed gearbox was taken from the 604. In the end the Peugeot factory in Sochaux assembled the body and mechanical organs and painted the cars.
This resulted in the fact the car was 50% French, according to some miraculous way of calculating the value of the inputs used to produce it. This, of course, was the minimum percentage to even be able to compete in this tender in the first place.
So, was there nothing else different except those engines and the transmission. Au contrair. It’s nose differed as well. Whereas the Normal G was blessed with round headlights, the P4 came with squared ones. And the blinkers moved from on top of the fenders to underneath those headlights. And of course, the infamous star was changed for a Lion.
And available it was, just like the G, in different sizes, hardtopped or softtopped. Peugeot mounted a PRV V6 for a Paris-Dakar adventure as well, at first to compete, later on as service-trucks for Ari Vatanen’s 205T16.
The Panhard-shot above is actually pretty accurate as production eventually was done at Panhard’s. Panhard was PSA’s subsidiary responsible for production of Military Vehicles. The agreement with GFG prohibited further export so only the French army and some French former colonies were allowed to buy these. They did try to make a civil version but with a price over 50% higher than Land Rover’s 90DT this proved to be quite unsuccessful.
The model itself is a Solido 1/43. It’s retracktable roof is a nice feature. Solido didn’t get an army-version for this one though, they built a from the Service départemental d’incendie et de secours. Some sort of chief-organizations over the various local Fire Departments.
It’s nice but definitely not a premium model. It so, so... Red? But never mind, I never run into a P4 before I saw this one so I had to get it. C’est ca, bon week-end!