Peugeot 203 Rurale
The off-road vehicle never born.
1950: after the difficult years of the war and the turbulent years of the immediate post war made of limitations and restrictions also on raw materials destined for industrial production, finally the economic climate changed and in Peugeot, there was an air of renewed trust and hope.
The Peugeot 203, the new model launched two years earlier, was proving to be a great success, the demand was so high that the waiting list to get hold of a new specimen exceeded well over twelve months.
Peugeot 203 Berline
The 203 was quickly declined in different versions, from the break to the family, from the commercial to the pick-up without forgetting the exclusive convertible. It seemed unstoppable, its qualities of reliability and robustness were not random and the traditional qualities of the Lion Mark were added to the many innovations introduced such as the Alpax head with hemispherical combustion chambers.
Peugeot 203 Familiale
In this climate of euphoria, it was therefore assessed how to make the most of the qualities of the Peugeot 203 by further diversifying the "product"; Thus was born the idea of creating a derivative of the 203 to be presented to the General Staff of the French Army, which in the meantime was trying to reorganize with equipment other than those left by the Americans at the end of the conflict. In fact, France had the need to restart the production of military vehicles in its territory, exactly as before the war, in order to become autonomous, completely freeing itself from supplies from abroad.
In this context, the suitably modified Peugeot 203 could represent an excellent basis for developing a light vehicle with four-wheel drive, as a valid alternative to the Jeep Willis. In July 1950, the first prototype was ready for off-road tests and was immediately christened "203 Rural": it was equipped with a differential lock, raised and reinforced suspension, 16 "wheels with five anchor bolts and section tires. increased. The mechanics relied on a new engine derived from the standard one that equipped the 203, but with higher displacement and power.
Peugeot 203 Rurale
Some prototypes were delivered to the French army, which in the meantime had formalized the tender for the request for a 4x4 light vehicle to be used for the reconnaissance and connection role, to carry out comparison tests with other projects. Some of the main French car manufacturers responded to the appeal, each with their own proposal. Delahaye, who had been working on a project of this type for some time, anticipated everyone by bringing her prototypes to Landau, in the French territory of influence of Germany at the end of December 1949 where, in the presence of some managers of the French General Staff, the first comparative tests took place with the Jeep Willis. The verdict was in favor of Delahaye and since then the selection process for the off-road vehicle V.LR (light reconnaissance vehicle) in favor of Delahaye was all downhill. The final decision, made in 1950, therefore rewarded the project presented by Delahaye, entrusting it with the contract. In fact, when the Peugeot 203 4x4 was presented to the French Army General Staff, the de facto decision had already been taken and, although at first there was talk of the possibility of putting two different models of Reconnaissance Light Vehicles online , this hypothesis was quickly discarded.
Most likely the decision weighed at least in part, even a certain political will: Delahaye was experiencing serious economic difficulties, the range of his cars was destined for a medium-high market segment and, technically, not fully in step with the times. PEUGEOT, for its part, if the 203 4x4 project had been accepted by the Army General Staff, in all probability it would have had problems in honoring requests without opening a new plant.
The French Army within three years passed approximately 9,330 orders for this model to Delahaye. The numbers linked to delivery times, although not in themselves particularly high if compared to a large series car, would have actually required Peugeot to have an additional dedicated space, being a model to be assembled almost by hand. Peugeot would have probably had problems respecting delivery times since its production sites were totally absorbed to try to respond to the very strong demand of the different versions of Peugeot 203. Maybe it was a good thing not to distract attention to other projects, concentrating on the 203 of normal production and thus contributing to the great market success of a model that, during the twelve years of his career, was built in almost 700 thousand specimens.