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Manufacturers / France / Panhard et Levassor

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Panhard et Levassor vehicles


Panhard et Levassor U9   (1910)

René Panhard and Émile Levassor built their first motor car in 1890 - a mid-engined dos-à-dos horseless carriage powered by a V2 powerplant built under licence from Gottlieb Daimler.

The following year, they produced their second model and this vehicle is generally reckoned to be the first to establish the architecture of the modern motor car - front mounted engine, clutch mounted between the engine and gearbox and driven rear axle (never mind that most modern cars, being front wheel drive, do not follow this layout; the statement holds true for the majority of cars built during the next eighty years - Panhard too adopted front wheel drive after World War 2).

In 1892, a Panhard car was the first to journey from Paris to Versailles without any major mechanical problems, and then covered the 140 miles from Paris to Étretat at an average speed of 6 mph.

Panhard et Levassor Y  concept (1910)

In 1910, Panhard licenced a valveless engine from Knight and this design was used until 1939.


Panhard et Levassor 6CS  concept (1930)

Pre-war Panhards were big, luxurious vehicles, powered by a Sans Soupapes (sleeve valve) 6 cylinder engine of between 2,6 and 2,9 litres.

The 1934 Panoramique was a majestic vehicle, very much in the then contemporary American mould

The Dynamic (they employed the Anglo Saxon spelling) of 1936 was pure Art Déco with its streamlined body, headlamps concealed behind grilles that matched that of the radiator and a near centrally placed steering wheel.


Panhard et Levassor Dyna X  concept (1946)

Les années grises meant an end to production and post war France was more concerned with reconstruction than in building large, decadent cars for the bourgeoisie. France had a socialist government which nationalised Renault in retaliation for its alleged co-operation with the Germans.

This government introduced the Pons Plan whereby motor manufacturers would only receive supplies if they concentrated on small and medium sized cars and commercial vehicles. The Pons Plan led to Citroën's 2 CV, Renault's 4 CV, Peugeot's 202, Simca's 8 and Panhard's Dyna - the name was chosen to recall the Dynamic but apart from the name, the car had nothing in common with its majestic predecessor.

The war years saw Panhard developing a small, horizontally opposed 2 cylinder engine, manufactured largely out of aluminium and employing air cooling. This motor was intended to power the "VP" or Voiture Petite which could be put into production very cheaply and would fill the niche that the company anticipated would exist once the war was over. Early designs called for a 250cc engine, later enlarged to 350cc. The 310cm body would have sat on a 220cm wheelbase.

Panhard et Levassor Dynavia  concept (1948)

This design was well under way when Panhard saw a prototype called the "AFG" or Aluminium Français-Grégoire (see pictures above and right) which had been built to demonstrate the possibilities of aluminium in car manufacturing. Panhard immediately started work on VP2 - a small, aluminium bodied, front wheel drive, four door saloon. VP2 was launched as the Dyna in 1947 with full scale production starting the following year.

The Dyna's engine (610cc, 22 bhp, bore and stroke of 72 x 75mm) was very advanced, featuring integral cylinder heads with inclined valves providing an hemispheric combustion chamber. Each cylinder had its own cooling fan but there was no ducting to guide cooling air over the cylinder barrels. The camshaft was driven by herringbone gears and the valves were operated by pushrods which were closed by tiny torsion bars which were house clear of the cylinder head and therefore away from heat. The torsion bars ensured that while one valve was open, the other was held firmly closed.

Suspension was provided by upper and lower transverse leaf springs up front and trailing arms with a V link torsion bar at the rear.

Panhard et Levassor Dyna X Commerciale concept (1948)

Transmission was 3 speed plus overdrive and the layout was unconventional, being engine, clutch, gearbox, differential as opposed to the "conventional" FWD layout of engine, clutch, differential, gearbox.

With a total weight of 560kg, performance was very good.

The Dyna was inititally available as either a four door berline or three door camionette. The body parts were manufactured by Facel-Métallon who would later build the Facel Vega.

Over the next few years, the Dyna was modified - headlamps incorporated into the front wings, a new grille, fully hydraulic brakes and a larger 32 bhp engine of 745cc, later upped to 750cc and 36, then 37 bhp. These latter models could exceed 120 kph/75 mph.

Increasingly baroque body decoration led to the range being nicknamed "Louis XV". By 1953, the range had been expanded to include a décapotable, two breaks and the Dyna Junior, the latter being a 2 door steel bodied roadster designed by Di Rosa.


Panhard et Levassor Dyna Junior Roadster concept (1950)

In 1954, the body was redesigned and the car was renamed Dyna Z.

More and more steel crept into the body construction over the next few years until by 1957, aluminium had been totally replaced.

The inevitable increase in body weight was countered by a further increase in engine capacity - to 850cc and in 1959 the Tigre version appeared with 50 bhp on tap - developed from special cars built for the 24 Heures du Mans.

Panhard et Levassor Dyna Junior Coupe concept (1950)

Panhard proved to be extremely competitive in motor sport and a number of plastic bodied sports cars were built by Charles Deutsch and René Bonnet, achieving success at Le Mans between 1950 and 1953.

Without doubt, the best known and most elegant of their creations was the DB HB R5, one of which was driven with some success by Joe Judt, Editor of the Citroënian, in competition in the early sixties.

The quasi-official DB range was sanctioned by Panhard.

Panhard et Levassor Scarlette  concept (1952)

By the beginning of the sixties, Deutsch and Bonnet's relationship was beginning to fragment and Deutsch took his latest creation to Panhard where it became part of the official range with the name CD.

Deutsch had managed to extract 60 bhp from the 851cc flat twin.

To put this into perspective, the VW Beetle of the era had 40 bhp from 1200cc, the Morris Minor managed 37 bhp from 850cc, the Renault 4 offered 28 bhp from 750cc and the Ami 6 achieved 20 bhp from 602cc.


Panhard et Levassor CD Le Mans concept (1962)

1960 saw the launch of the PL 17 range which would be sold by Citroën dealers.

The two companies had been co-operating since 1955 - indeed the 2CV AU and AK models had been built alongside one another for years.

The PL 17 was a Dyna Z with new front and rear but looked completely different.

Panhard et Levassor 24  concept (1963)

The car was available with Jaeger semi-automatic transmission which employed electromagnetic powder as a clutch.

The range was extended to include a break and a 2 door cabriolet.

In 1963, the stunning 24 series was launched. Its design was very modern and even now looks timelessly elegant.

Panhard et Levassor MEP X2 concept (1965)

The headlamps, mounted behind a transparent housing, anticipated the restyled DS of 1967; the front and rear pillars were symmetrically styled, the body, unlike earlier models, was free from adornments apart from a Corvair style strip of brightwork that emphasised the belt line.

Only two body styles were ever offered - a 2 + 2 and a slightly lengthened (by 25cm) 4 seater. A variety of trim options were available and the standard engine produced 50 bhp while the Tigre models had an extra 10 bhp.

By 1967, it all came to an end. Citroën needed the factory space for its own models.

Panhard et Levassor MEP X27 concept (1967)

Panhard were working on a new radially opposed four cylinder air cooled engine at the end and the 24 body, suitably lengthened had been employed for the proposed new Citroën-Panhard - a DS chassis with a 145 bhp 2 litre engine based on the new short stroke D engine.

Citroën decided instead to go ahead with the project that would lead to the SM.

In an effort to plug the gap between the 2 CV and the ID, in 1959 Citroën considered fitting the Dyna two cylinder engine into the ID body. Hydraulics would have been preserved for the suspension but steering, brakes, clutch and gearchange would all have been unassisted. With a power output of 42 bhp, top speed would have been 120 kph.

Idea and design © 1999-2016 van Damme Stéphane.

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