Panhard to meet the requirements of the expanding French army before the second world war developed two distinctive armoured cars – the Panhard 178 and the Type 201.
The 201 (first picture to right) was an eight wheeled variant with four pneumatic wheels and four central steel wheels. Only two prototypes were produced before the outbreak of the war and one was destroyed with the other smuggled to Morocco, where it was subsequently ‘ lost’ in the sahara desert. The 201 had instead of a mantle holding the main armament, oscilated its turret to give elevation. The 201 design was modified after the war and evolved into the Engin Blinde de Reconnaissance – or the familiar Panhard EBR. The design, in an effort to keep the profile as low as possible, resulted in the engine being mounted below the turret and utilising a flat 12 cylinder air cooled engine. This engine position resulted in the need for an elaborate cooling system and any engine maintenance needed the turret to be removed.
Meanwhile the 178 (second picture to right) was a smaller four wheeled vehicle with small rotating conventional turret. It had four wheel drive and mounted the engine at the rear. The wheels had large run flat design tyres and had an excellent on road capability. 360 had been produced before th e war and these were captured by the german froces who used some 190 in battle. Many survived the war and were used in French colonial outposts.
With the ‘War’ in Algeria escillating in the 1950’s – the French army had the need for a smaller lighter reconnaissance vehicle – the EBR (third picture to right) was weighing in at 13 tonnes and its complex design meant field maintenance was nearly impossible. As a stop gap measure the French government purchased a number of British Ferret Mark2 scout cars. These were too lightly armoured and resulted in the 1956 specification for the new Automitrailleuse Legere, or the’ AML’. The first prototype was completed in 1959 and by the end of 1961 an entire French cavalry regiment in Algeria were equipped with AMLs.
Early AML from first batch released shown in final picture to right.