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Armored Cars: Ashok Leyland Colt LTV

May 7, 2017

The original PVP in French use. It’s marketed by Renault as the Dagger but is better known as the Panhard PVP.

The Colt was a short-lived attempt by a giant of India’s automobile industry to corner the tactical vehicle market. Unveiled at an arms show in 2012, the Colt LTV was a licensed version of a proven French model from none other than Panhard, which is now a brand under the Renault umbrella.

Despite the premium appeal of French technology in South Asia, the Colt didn’t make as large an impact as intended. Ashok Leyland’s efforts at cornering lucrative tenders never led to the sought after contracts from the military. This is remarkable since the Indian Army are very fond users of jeeps–and the Colt is a jeep in new clothing.

The Colt LTV is better known in Europe as the Panhard PVP, which is a current favorite of the French armed forces, who’ve brought it to Afghanistan, the Balkans, the Central African Republic, Lebanon, and Mali. After all, the French are firm believers in mobility and the greatest attribute of their Panhards are wheels–for asphalt, gravel, mud and sand.

But the original PVP, or Petit Véhicule Protégé, didn’t belong to Panhard. Another French truck manufacturer, Auverland, came up with the PVP at the turn of the century after decades spent perfecting knockoff jeeps. The PVP was different, however, because it gave the French army a small and air transportable (by helo or C-130) workhorse to accompany its mechanized forces anywhere.

The PVP is a jeep optimized for protection and ruggedness. It runs on an Iveco diesel engine and uses automatic transmission. Weighing just 5.5 tons, with a maximum payload of 1.3 tons, the PVP can ford bodies of water at least a foot deep.

The cab offers enough space for the driver and co-driver. A total of four passengers enter via a rear swing door. A very basic roof hatch can double as a machine gun turret with a protective cupola resistant to 7.62mm rounds. The PVP is encased in a reinforced aluminum shell fused with ceramic plates, giving it STANAG II protection at best.

The PVP is suited for military, police, and emergency services. As an incarnation of a jeep it can perform different tasks and be modified for these roles. The PVP’s configurations so far include a mobile command post, a troop transport, an ambulance, a recce vehicle, an artillery spotter, and a riot truck.

The Panhard PVP XL is a completely new vehicle for customers looking for an armored SUV with superb protection levels. Via Panhard.

Auverland’s success with its PVP allowed it to acquire the original Panhard, whose classic armored cars kept France relevant through the Cold War, and Panhard was eventually snapped up by Renault, the same company responsible for the VBR and the Sherpa, in 2012.

The first orders for the Panhard PVP came in 2004 and more than a thousand are now in service with the French Army. Smaller batches of the PVP were sold to Chile, Germany, Romania, and Togo.

The unlikely success of the Panhard PVP together with the skyrocketing demand for armored cars compelled the debuts of two further variants, the PVP XL and the PVP HD. These exceeded the five-ton threshold of the original PVP and offered greater ballistic protection and spaciousness. But orders didn’t materialize. A probable effect of market saturation.

Given its decent track record it’s a shame the PVP’s hopes were dashed in India. Ashok Leyland had the ultimate opportunity to sell a proven model. It even went so far as offering a rebranded five-door PVP XL as the Colt LAV and an open top commando variant as options. With its indisputable track record the PVP was ideal South Asia’s climate; be it wet, humid, hot, or freezing cold, and for use in humanitarian, counterinsurgency, or police operations.

Countries with modest budgets and serious requirements for a tough little armored car should consider the PVP. It’s paid its dues and is a step above a Land Rover with better chances at surviving the rigors of battle than a pickup truck. It won’t ever be as sexy as an Oshkosh, but it has seen just as much combat at this point.

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