MANUFACTURER(S): Panhard - France
OPERATORS: France; Italy; Nazi Germany; Syria
LENGTH: 15.72 feet (4.79 meters)
WIDTH: 6.59 feet (2.01 meters)
HEIGHT: 7.05 feet (2.15 meters)
WEIGHT: 9 Tons (8,200 kilograms; 18,078 pounds)
ENGINE: 1 x Panhard ISK 4F II bis 8-cylinder gasoline engine developing 105 horsepower.
SPEED: 45 miles-per-hour (72 kilometers-per-hour)
RANGE: 186 miles (300 kilometers)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Panhard Type 178 Four-Wheeled Light Armored Car.
Entry last updated on 7/13/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The Panhard Type 178 armored car was a further evolution of the Toe-M-32 system that was initially designed to police the reaches of the French Empire overseas, particularly in North Africa where unrest was prevalent. These areas were becoming evermore volatile and unarmored vehicles soon proved limiting in their tactical scope, forcing the requirement for an armored wheeled system instead. AutoMitrailleuse de Decouverte was the concern that produced the Type 178 and supplied it with a 4x4 four-wheel drive gearbox - the first of its kind for any armored car in Europe at the time. The engine was fitted to a rear compartment with the armament set within a 360-degree traversing turret emplacement. The wheels numbered four and were pushed to the extreme corners of the chassis for maximum surface displacement. The Type 178 arrangement proved so successful for the role that its style was quickly adopted by all of the major military world powers that spawned their own excellent wheeled armored cars.
In the French Army inventory, the Panhard Type 178 was formally designated as the AMD Panhard Modele 1935 and, as its designation suggests, entered service in 1935. Design of the vehicle was conventional by even today's modern standards and displayed faceted sloped armor for light ballistics protection. The overall appearance was rather clean and something like revolutionary for its time. There was a standard operating crew of four personnel with the driver in the center hull, his forward facing protected by a hinged armored slotted panel. Fenders covered each wheel system to help keep loose dirt and mud away from the surface of the vehicle. The Type 178 measured a running length of 15 feet, 9 inches with a height of just 7 feet, 7 inches. Armor protection was between 7- and 20-mm in thickness. Weight was approximately 8 tons. Power was supplied by a single Panhard 8-cylinder engine delivering 105 horsepower. The gearbox allowed for four forward and four reverse speeds and was efficient enough to allow up to 26 miles per hour in reverse. Top speed was 45 miles per hour with a maximum range of 186 miles.
Armored vehicles such as the Type 178 proved invaluable in the upcoming world war for they were highly flexible compact combat elements that could be rapidly deployed as needed. Their speed and inherent ranges made them excellent reconnaissance vehicles able to probe or harass enemy defenses as needed. As such, they were usually lightly armed and armored for the role and assigned to mechanized cavalry or infantry elements. The Type 178 was initially fielded with a short-barreled cannon along with one or two 7.5mm caliber general purpose machine guns. After some practice, the armament arrangement of choice became the fitting of a high-velocity 25mm L/73 cannon along with a coaxial 7.5mm machine gun. Armament counts included 150 rounds of 25mm ammunition and 3,750 rounds of 7.5mm ammunition. Other variants existed that dropped some or all of the armament for their intended roles including a command vehicle which fitted a fixed hull superstructure with no primary armament. These versions allowed for additional internal storage space for the implementation of additional radio and communications equipment.
The Type 178 was fielded in the German Invasion of France in 1940 and proved of some value. However, the original 25mm gun was found to be inadequate and appropriately replaced with a 37mm type and then further upgraded to a 47mm model. Production ramped to feverish paces but only a few were up-gunned in this manner. France soon fell and, with it, its war-making capabilities including existing products such as tanks, aircraft and, of course, the Type 178 armored car. Even the German Army found value in the excellent French Type 178 systems and reconstituted them back into service with their own forces under the designation of Panzerspagwagen Panhard 178 P204(f). Nearly 200 examples were given to German Army elements by the middle of 1941 and these represented the base French design with no German modifications whatsoever. A slightly modified form was only later fielded by the Germans and these were used to patrol railways. As such, the chassis was removed of its rubber-tired and steel wheels and fitted instead with rail wheels sporting flanges. These vehicles were used to patrol the areas ahead of vital supply trains to protect both train and track from ambush or partisan efforts. The railway versions were fielded on both the Eastern and Western Fronts of the war and at least 43 examples were modified for this use.
By 1944, the Germans were being pushed back along multiple fronts. The Type 178 was sent back to the Renault factory in Paris for the installation of the 50mm KwK L/42 cannon over that of the original 25mm system. This made for a more formidable wheeled vehicle that could tackle at least light-armored and soft-skinned vehicles and deter any direct enemy infantry actions. France proper was liberated from Axis control by the end of 1944 and, with it, came the liberation of the wartime facilities. In a short time, the Type 178 was back in production for the French Army as the Type 178B and served with Free French forces from there on.
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