Welcome to Ridiculous Rebadges, a series of articles in which I go through and examine the details and circumstances surrounding some of the more infamous and some of the more esoteric vehicular rebadges throughout automotive history.
For nearly 40 years now the name “G-Class” has been associated with off-road prowess as well as the SUV image. Introduced in 1979, the mighty Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen was codeveloped with Steyr-Daimler-Puch who produced the vehicles according to the Mercedes design. Because of this relationship, Daimler-Benz allowed its manufacturing partner to sell G-wagens under its own brand, thus Puch models replaced equivalent Mercedes models in markets such as Austria, Switzerland, and much of Eastern Europe.
Despite this interesting business synergy between the German and Austrian brands, the rebadge today does not concern Puch and Benz alone. Now, many of you from France and the surrounding region are likely familiar with this vehicle, but don’t get too excited just yet.
In the late 1960s, the French military realized that its aging fleet of WWII era Jeeps made by Hotchkiss were rapidly approaching obsolescence and thought it wise to seek a replacement within the next decade. It wasn’t until 1981, however, that the big three French automakers would display their contenders for military use (during the ‘70s they used Meharis as a temporary solution). Thus, throughout the 1970s, Peugeot heard news of Daimler’s new SUV sensation and found it fit to ask the German cohorts for some G-wagens. By the time 1981 rolled around, Renault had managed to fit a 20 engine into a Fiat Campagnola and badged it ‘Saviem’ under Renault’s truck division.
Meanwhile, Citroën crammed a CX powerplant into a Volkswagen Iltis, creating the C44.
Neither of these rebadges was very notable, likely because neither Fiat nor Volkswagen had much of an offroading pedigree. Thus, Peugeot was awarded the contract and proceeded to work out a deal with Merc: Daimler would provide most of the parts as well as the basic assembly, while Peugeot would bring their own power from a 504 engine and a 604 transmission and complete the car by installing electrics and welding and painting the exterior. Most of this was done at the border plant in Sochaux, allowing Peugeot to claim the vehicle 50% French 50% German, which was enough for the French military.
A civilian version was introduced alongside the 13,500 initially ordered by the military, but it ultimately failed due to its lack of power in comparison to the G-wagen (75-83 hp).
Meanwhile, PSA had passed production of the imaginatively named Peugeot P4 over to Panhard, the company’s military division after Citroën purchased it in 1967 and ended civilian production (a shame, really). Since then, most P4s have been rebadged with Panhard labels, now known as the Panhard VPS.
So there you have it: the story of the time when France turned to Germany in order to defend itself. Ironic, isn’t it.