|THE FINAL HOTCHKISS JEEP|
In 1966 agreement was
reached between France, W. Germany, and Italy to develop a new
'Europa-Jeep' that would meet the need of their respective
armies. It was to be a light-weight (500 kg) amphibious 4x4
design that would replace the French M201, German Munga, and
Italian Campagnola. Two consortia were formed to compete in the
production of prototypes made to a common specification. One
consortium consisted of Saviem, MAN, and Fiat,
in the other Hotchkiss worked with Büssing and Lancia. In France
the new jeep was designated as a VCL (vehicle de commandment et
de liaison) although it was more generally referred to as the
It was intended that prototype vehicles like the Büssing-Hotchkiss-Lancia (BHL) example (below) should have been ready for field trials and evaluation by 1970 but the project made only slow progress. The whole project collapsed in 1976 after France pulled out and the only vehicles to actually enter service were a few Fiat/MAN/Saviem (FMS) VCLs ordered by the Italian army. By this time Hotchkiss-Brandt had been taken over to become Thomson-Brandt SA. The failure of the VCL project meant the end of the company's involvement with jeeps and the use of the Hotchkiss marque.
In looking for a replacement the army once again turned to the French car industry to come up with proposals just as it had in the early fifties. Given the costs of developing a specialised vehicle which would only ever be manufactured on a relatively small scale it is hardly surprising that no truly new designs emerged. Renault offered the TRM50, a re-engined Fiat Campagnola jeep. Citroën offered the C44, a CX-engined VW Iltis jeep, and Peugeot came up with the P4, a Steyr-built Mercedes G-Wagon equipped with their own engine and other parts. They were all essentially licensed versions of jeeps made in the former partner countries and none met the original requirement of being amphibious. In 1981, a contract for 15,000 Véhicules Lègers Tous-Terrains was awarded to Peugeot, mainly because it was the model that offered the greatest number of variants. The rest is, as they say, history!