The French Panhard EBR armored car of the 1950s actually maintained design origins in the years leading up to World War 2. Paris-based Panhard et Levassor stood as one of the more important French defense contractors concerning armored vehicles and was selected to design and develop a new 8x8 armored reconnaissance car. Armored ground reconnaissance elements played a key role during this time in military history. They were typically fast, lightly armored units intended to "spy" on enemy positions and report progress back to commanders as required. Unlike other global attempts at reconnaissance vehicles, the French were keen on developing well-armed reconnaissance units that could tangle with enemy armor if need be. The French Army of the 1930s largely fielded 4x4 type armored cars so a move to multi-wheeled, improved cross-country performance vehicles was in the works.
Design work began in 1937 to which Panhard produced an evaluation prototype in 1939. The design incorporated the requisite 8x8 wheel configuration with a 25mm main gun fitted to a turret, defensed by a 7.5mm machine gun in a coaxial mounting. The German conquer of France ultimately derailed any further work on the vehicle. With the war in Europe concluding by June of 1945, work on rebuilding the French military began. The French Army charged both Panhard and competitor Hotchkiss to each produce an 8x8 and 6x6 armored car respectively for procurement consideration to which the Panhard design was ultimately adopted as the Panhard EBR.
The Panhard EBR was characterized by its eight large road wheels, fitted as four pairs along a rather long hull. The outermost set of wheels were conventional rubber tired systems featuring steel rims while the inner most pair of wheels were all-metal. This configuration allowed the vehicle to raise the metal wheels for road travel along its rubber sets and lower the metal wheels for improved ground control when going off road - particularly over "soft" terrain like mud (the additional wheels effectively lowered ground pressure). Additionally, the "never flat" tires benefitted from use of nitrogen-filled pockets within, allowing the tires to take damage from small arms fire without loss of traversal quality. The length of the hull forced engineers to provide two driver positions - one at the front and the other at the rear, each position housing redundant controls. This allowed the vehicle to escape at speed without having to be turned completely around. A switch controlled the drive transfer power from one driver position to the other. The FL-11 series oscillating turret was centered at the middle of the design and consisted of a two-piece assembly mounting a 75mm SA49 main gun (Canon 75mm SA49). The barrel was capped by a muzzle brake while the turret held a full 360-degree traversal. Along the turret roof was a convex cupola sporting vision blocks while there was noticeable turret overhang at the rear. The oscillating nature of the turret design allowed a large-caliber main gun to be fitted atop a relatively light hull assembly - very few frontline production vehicles actually fielded this design element - for the main gun was directly attached to the upper turret section. Overall weight was 14 short tons with a running length of over 20 feet (gun forward), a width of nearly 8 feet and a height over 7 feet. The vehicle was crewed by four personnel - two drivers, a vehicle commander and the gunner. The drivers were positioned at the center hull at each respective hull end under two-panel hinged hatches with applicable vision blocks, flanked by the large wheel fenders. Headlamps at the true front end of the hull provided for night time travel. "Pioneer" tools could be clamped along the sides of the turret or over the fenders as needed.
Power for the Panhard EBR was supplied by a single in-house designed Panhard 12 H6000S series 12-cylinder, liquid-cooled gasoline-fueled engine developing 200 horsepower. Drive power was sent to all eight wheels, thusly providing the vehicle with a top road speed of 65 miles per hour with an operational range of approximately 354 miles. However, the placement of the engine was such that the entire turret would have to be removed for repairs to be conducted as it resided under the hull floor with no easy access.
Production of the Panhard EBR was ordered in 1950 to which the first series mark appeared in 1951 (as the "EBR-75" or "Version 1951"). In 1954, a longer 75mm main gun - the 75mm SA50 series - was introduced. In 1963, the line saw its final variant revealed, now upgunned to a 90mm Model F2 main gun (to become the "EBR-90"). This weapon promised tank-killing firepower more consistent with medium/main battle tanks of the time. All vehicle marks were defensed by up to 4 x 7.5mm MAC34 REIBEL machine guns though two was the typical standard fielding. One machine gun was positioned in a coaxial mount in the turret while another was managed by the vehicle commander. Each driver managed an optional (though fixed) machine gun fitting at their respective positions. Each side of the turret was also home to 2 x electrically-operated smoke grenade dischargers for covering offensive and defensive maneuvers (four total grenades). The main gun was cleared to fire standardized HE (High-Explosive), HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) and Smoke projectiles as needed. A canister "shot" was also introduced. Some production forms were later fitted with the FL-10 series turrets of AMX-13 Light Tanks (75mm main guns) for improved hitting power. These turrets provided twelve "ready to fire" 75mm projectiles from two magazines in a repeat-fire fashion. The major drawback to this modification was the increased side profile and ammunition resupply required from outside of the vehicle.
In all, 1,200 examples were produced by Panhard with manufacture lasting until 1960 and it served as the standard French Army armored car during its tenure. Sources list key operators of the EBR (beyond the French Army) to include Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and Portugal. The type saw combat service with French armed forces during the Algeria War of Independence of 1954-1962. The Portuguese Army utilized the type in anger during several of its colonial wars - in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau - spanning from 1961 to 1975. In action, the vehicle's tactical scope naturally broadened from frontline armored combat system to general security in defense of key positions.
Panhard replaced the EBR series with the modern AMX 10 RC 6x6 armored vehicle of the 1980s. The French gave up use of their EBRs in 1987, some 36 years after its introduction. One known variant of the EBR family was a converted armored personnel carrier designated as the "EBR VTT".