Production of the Peugeot P4 began in 1981, but its history began much earlier, in the early 1950s. It took only a few years after World War II for the forces of liberated France to start thinking about replacing Jeeps systematized as a coercive solution.
The demand was undoubtedly formulated at the political level, but its realization was hindered by market reasons. Slightly more than ten thousand light cars would have had to be replaced, an amount incomprehensible to the rapidly recovering French car industry. Small manufactories, body shops, smaller manufacturers, and other specialists would not have won production, but for large companies, the number of pieces was too small to be economically put into series production.
Delahaye, a former luxury brand struggling to survive, came up with a promising proposal, albeit technically complex and quite expensive, and produced the desired amount in a matter of years. However, the company got caught up in production, not least because the planned civilian version proved to be a huge downfall. The brand finally pulled down the blinds in 1954, and its military business was bought by the company Hotchkiss, which makes Jeep clones – and the French army could start the search from scratch.
In the 1960s, European cooperation sought to find a solution to an increasingly urgent problem. Together, the French, West German, and Italian armies represented purchasing power that would have made the development of a common model already marketable. However, the Europa Jeep project ran from a dead end to a dead end, until eventually the Germans got bored of filing and got out of the project.
France almost found the solution around this time: the Hotchkiss M201 was fitted with Peugeot’s brand-new, ten-year-old diesel engine, which had already been introduced ten years earlier. The 1.8-liter resource has once again made the model valuable to the military, and policymakers have recognized the potential of technical cooperation.
In the mid-1970s, the three major French carmakers were asked to find a partner within the NATO camp and jointly develop a car capable of transporting their four main and riding gear and radios, small and light enough for air transport and parachute deployments.
Renault partnered with Fiat and Citroën with Volkswagen, while Peugeot chose Mercedes-Benz with the brand new design. For the Peugeot P4, which uses the G-Class’s body, chassis and all-wheel drive, the finest components were selected from the French brand’s powertrain warehouse: the engines came from the Peugeot 504 and the transmission from the 604.
In addition, Peugeot supplied the vehicle’s electrical network, and Peugeot’s central plant in Sochaux was used to weld the raw body parts, cataphoretically paint the chassis, and then assemble the finished vehicle. As these modifications made the Peugeot P4 a powerful competitor to G-Wagen, Mercedes stipulated that the car could not be exported to European markets or sold for civilian use.
Following rigorous tests – two prototypes of the vehicle, for example, were stylistically introduced to a off-road vehicle at the site of Peugeot’s early rally successes in North Africa – the P4 confidently won the military order and began production from 1981.
The French army ordered 15,000 cars from Peugeot, which was later reduced to 13,500 due to downsizing of the fleet.
After producing 7,500 units, Peugeot moved production of the P4 to Marolles-en-Hurepoix, a Panhard plant belonging to the group, south of Paris.
For the next 30 years, the P4s were made here, both in their basic version and in their specially equipped versions. In 1992, all the petrol-powered P4s produced until then were converted to diesel operation, a lightweight, heavily armed version made at the request of the 1st Parachute Regiment, and also produced in an armored version in a small series.
The Constructions Blindées of Hardricourt (CBH), which carried out the latter conversion, increased the power of the 2.5-liter diesel engine to 150 horsepower to offset the higher weight of the armor, making it possible to achieve significantly higher top speeds.
Manufactured in countless body variants with a variety of weapons, the Peugeot P4 remained in service in France until 2016, when its last few hundred units were soon overrun by the army. These late pieces then popped up on various used car dealer sites one after another, but one should be disappointed with those who want to get this special, rare product from the European car industry for pennies.
Due to their rarity and reliability, as well as their relatively modest mileage, they are offered for sale at a fairly high price – a quick search will give an average price of 16,000 euros (5.6 million HUF) for P4’s thirty-year-old copies, and .