Panhard 178 armoured car
Probably the most successful French armoured car, in production before, during, and after WWII.
Initially ordered for the French cavalry as the Automitrailleuse de Découverte Panhard Modèle 1935, with first deliveries only starting in early 1937. Highly advanced for its day, the only significant changes to the design were in the turret and armament.
Pre-war French doctrine had the vehicles not fitted with radios, instead 1 in 12 was to be an unarmed command vehicle with a fixed turret and long-range radios.
A version was designed for operations in North Africa, but differed from the standard version only in fitting of heavy-duty radiators. None of these vehicles ever reached North Africa, as with delays in receiving the radiators and turrets none had been completed as designed before the German invasion.
For colonial IndoChina a version was made with a smaller turret. Four were delivered to IndoChina and a least one was eventually captured by the Japanese. A second batch of 4 was also constructed, but again turret delivery problems meant they were not completed and instead delivered to the French Army turretless after the German invasion.
Panic programmes were instituted to create tank destroyers from the 178 as the panzers were already rolling across France. Renault designed a new manual turret to carry a heavier gun, but only 1 vehicle was built before Paris was evacuated. It was able to claim at least 2 tank kills before being destroyed by its own crew.
After the Armistice the Vichy government was permitted to retain the 178 for policing duties. These vehicles had their main gun removed, or operated completely without the turret.
Clandestine work continued on the 178, with Renault engineers designing a new turret for fitting to hulls hidden from the Germans. With the German occupation of all of France most of these vehicles were dumped in lakes, although some may have found their way to the French Resistance.
German took over captured 178's and used them within France and after the attack on the Soviet Union, on the eastern front. Better understanding the need for communications, most 178's were fitted with radios, although unarmed command vehicles were also used.
With the capture of Vichy vehicles they were also impressed into German service, with the unarmed vehicles being equipped with machine guns.
The Germans also trialed the 178 with an anti-tank gun, with some fitted with an open-topped canopy and a 50mm gun.
On the eastern front 43 vehicles were modified as draisines to provide railway protection.
In late 1944 another new turret was designed, and post-war production started with this turret, a new engine and radios as the 178B. Over 400 vehicles were used by France and the colonies, with French service ending in 1960 and use in Syria continuing until 1964.