M201 FACTORY & MODIFIED VERSIONS

FACTORY MODELS

Hotchkiss military jeep production consisted of two models only. There was the standard jeep and the Sahara model adapted for use in North Africa. All other variants of the M201 which were mainly weapons carriers were conversions to standard jeeps carried out by ERGM at la Maltournée. From 1956 - 1960 M201s were produced as 6 volt models, then from mid 1960 - 1966 as 24 volt models. The 6 volt models were very similar to the wartime MB, with the very earliest licence production even having wood blocks on the bonnet.

MODIFIED VERSIONS BY ERGM

The ERGM works at la Maltournée was responsible for the modification of standard M201 jeeps to provide a range of specialised jeep based vehicles for the army.  On the whole only new M201s were used but as weapons systems became obsolete and the Sahara jeeps made redundant with the end of the war in Africa these were rebuilt to carry different weapons.

SS10 and ENTAC

Technical data sheet: EMA 2745-10

The first French Army jeeps to carry an anti-tank system were fitted with the wire guided Aérospatiale SS. 10 surface to surface missile. Although SS10 dated back to the early 1950's conversion of jeeps to carry it did not begin until 1963. Relatively few vehicles (mainly M201s rather than MBs / GPWs) were converted as the later ENTAC system did substantially the same job. A few vehicles like the one pictured above were modified to test fire the Aérospatiale SS. 11.

Technical data sheet: EMA 2745-11

The ENTAC (Engin Téléguidé Anti-Char) portable infantry weapon was first introduced in 1957 and the earliest record I have located indicates that it was fitted to jeeps from 1963. I suspect that relatively few jeeps were converted at this time for evaluation. More jeeps were converted to ENTAC carriers by the ERGM La Maltournée workshops in October 1966.
 
MILAN
 

The ENTAC system was superseded by the second generation, semi-automatic MILAN ATGW (Missile d'Infanterie Léger Antichar) and conversion of jeeps to provide a mobile platform for it began in 1975. Three missiles were carried in tubes on an aluminium rack mounted across the back of the jeep. This meant moving the spare tyre to the side and the jerrycan holder to the step just behind the fender. The overhanging rack at the rear also meant fitting a second set of bumperettes onto the normal ones. The firing post was fixed to a solid steel plate which was bolted to the floor of the jeep and had a seat for the operator which rotated with the post. A second small operator seat was bolted to the rear wheel arch behind the driver. Photo: Steve Rossall's MILAN at Kemble show 2003.

 
 

Technical data sheet: EMA 2222-16

This M201 conversion was based on a US supplied M-40 106mm recoilless anti-tank rifle and M79 wheelbarrow mount designed to be fitted on jeep type vehicles. The kit also included a modified M38 windscreen. In the case of the M201 the rear panel was cut out and the body tub strengthened at several key points. Like the MILAN, the spare tyre and jerrycan were moved to the side and a small folding seat mounted on the rear wheel arch. Both models were fitted with additional rear coil springs to support the load. The weapon also included  a telescope sight and .50 calibre spotting machine gun. The rounds for this were shorter than standard .50 cal and were tracer with phosphorus tip creating a puff of smoke on the target to check that the gun was accurately aimed before firing the main round. Photo: by Simon Thompson of my 106SR at Horndean show 2005.

M201 - M621 20mm GUN
 

The M201 shown above is the prototype of an M201 Field Car, Weapon Carrier fitted with an M621 20mm gun.

It was displayed at one of the Satory military equipment exhibitions but this particular example never actually went into active service.

 

In the version that enterered service the gun could be elevated from -5 degrees to +50 degrees and operated from the vehicle itself from the special rear seat or from beside. The above jeep, M201 N° 14599 with the registration 211-2494 (now minus gun) is currently owned by Nicholas Benoit in France who added that it was rebuilt but not re-registered on 23 09 1975 at La Maltournée. It then served with the 8° RPIMA ( 8th Marine Airborne Regiment ) at Castres until 1997 when it was finally pensioned off.

M201 - RASURA

The M201 on the left is fitted with the RASURA close-range battlefield surveillance radar system. RASURA was first issued to the infantry in the early 60's as a portable system for locating personnel and vehicles to support the use of weapons fitted with infra-red equipment.

 Later in the 60's an M201 conversion was designed to provide a mobile platform for RASURA. M201s thus equipped remained in service during the 70's and 80's. The jeep was fitted with a modified vinyl canvas with with an almost full width fold down flap at the rear.

M201 - RITA

The final example on the right with the complicated aerial arrangement is fitted with RITA (Le réseau intégré des transmissions automatique). RITA, which is still in use today, is a secure nodal field communication system capable of telephony and radiotelephony, telegraphy, transmission of images, and even data transmission under certain conditions. This is the only photograph I have ever seen of an M201 fitted with this equipment and I suspect that relatively few jeep conversions would have been made and then only for the purpose of testing and evaluating the system.

EPILOGUE

The weapons and special equipment in all of these modified jeeps were removed before the jeeps were demobbed and sold at auction but some evidence of their past may remain. Additional coil springs to support the load (106 SR & MILAN), holes drilled in rear bumperettes (MILAN), holes for a folding seat on the wheel arch (106SR & MILAN), strengthening to corners of the tub (106SR), side mounted jerrycan & spare wheel (106 SR & MILAN), a carrier for synthetic cammo net 1962 No. 1 between the front bumper and grille and other holes where equipment was once mounted, some of which remain a mystery.

OTHER MODIFICATIONS

The hard top 'break d'aviation' was produced in small batches for the French Air Force by ERGM. Sorry looking examples (above) were awaiting their fate at a government auction. Most if not all of these were conversions made to Willys, Ford, or ITM jeeps rather than M201s. Hard-top conversions were also produced for use by the Gendarmerie. Although not strictly a military modification WW2 jeeps and some M201s were converted into Civil Defence fire tenders. Maheu-Labrosse of Lyon were notable for these conversions and their catlogue included models based on both the civilian JH102 and the military M201 jeeps. However, only three M201s are known to have been converted for fighting heath fires, two in 1958 and one in 1960.

ODDS AND ENDS

 

A significant number of Sahara jeeps were converted to ENTAC missile launchers when they were no longer needed for North Africa. As the jeep was converted rather than being rebuilt it retained its original registration 221 2291. It also retained its directable windshield mounted light unit (hence the clue to its Sahara origin.

MILAN parts that have just been removed from a jeep. They include firing post, operators seats and a rack for missile tubes. The jeep in question also had a modified hood to accommodate the extra height of the post.

The ENTAC missile (note spelling mistake above) was controlled by wire with the operator safely away from the jeep.It was not a good idea to fire the missiles whilst still sitting in it.
2009 saw the appearance of a new exhibit at the musée des blindés (Tank Museum) at Saumur in France - an M201 ENTAC. Photos below by JLM.

 

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