the oldest car brand produced by Citroën

René Panhard, grandson of a saddler who was then a coach-drawn coach, studied at the Ecole Centrale. In 1867, as a partner in the company “Périn, Panhard et compagnie”, he called a fellow student from the Ecole Centrale, Emile Levassor, who also became a shareholder in the company.

From 1875, the company became interested in gas engines, then Gottlieb Daimler’s oil engine. In 1886, the company took the name “Panhard et Levassor”. In 1891, Emile Levassor developed the incandescent ignition, the brand’s first patent, which produced its first five cars in November 1891.

The automotive industry was just born.

Success at the high end

Panhard et Levassor then won the greatest victories in motor racing, especially the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris in 1895. After the death of Emile Levassor in 1897 (following an accident in competition), René Panhard began to reduce the competitions and opened the capital of his company, where he entrusted the management to Arthur Krebs.

The latter, at the head of the business until 1915, reinforced the manufacturer’s reputation for quality and seriousness, the financial base, and the top-of-the-range positioning of the models, especially in the selection of valveless engines with scope fitted. on all cars of the brand until 1939.

The war effort

During the 1914-1918 conflict, the Panhard & Levassor brand participated in the war effort and remained one of the main suppliers of the army.

From 1919, the house on avenue d’Ivry preferred to keep the traditions that, until then, ensured success: production was limited to around ten cars a day, luxury and sports cars whose bodywork was designed by Louis Bionier. It adds to it the production of petroleum, diesel or gas-producing trucks, engines for railways or for airplanes.

In 1929, the Panhard bar was patented by the brand: an anti-roll stabilizer bar, which is still used for the rear suspension of many solid axle vehicles.

The two small windows added between the windshield and the door pillar are intended to improve the driver’s vision. Photo Osenat

Make way for aerodynamics

In the 1920s, Panhards were equipped with 4, 6 and 8 cylinder engines from 10 to 35 HP. The 1930s saw the arrival of the 6-CS, 6-DS and 8-DS, with 6 and 8 cylinders from 13 to 29 CV.

At the beginning of the 1930s, car manufacturers were concerned about the aerodynamics of their models. In 1934, the brand evolved with “Panoramic” bodywork. Two small windows, strongly curved, on either side of the windscreen ensure total visibility, without blind spots.

This was the golden age of the brand which continued in 1936 with the Dynamic.

Vibrant style and failure

The Dynamic is a very modern car: self-supporting steel body, dual-circuit hydraulic braking, four-wheel torsion bar suspension, independent front, panoramic windows, and of course a six-cylinder valveless engine.

The presentation of the Dynamic took place in May 1936, in the midst of strikes associated with the arrival of the Front Populaire. This was a time when the bourgeois client was looking for discretion and therefore forgot about the car.

The Dynamic would be a commercial failure with 2,600 cars sold in four years.

In 1953, the Dyna Z was finally Panhard's last sedan.  The Pl 17 uses the Dyna Z platform and engine. Photo Archives Panhard

In 1953, the Dyna Z was finally Panhard’s last sedan. The Pl 17 uses the Dyna Z platform and engine. Photo Archives Panhard

Popular builds

After the Second World War, the Pons Plan established a list of manufacturers authorized to continue their activities according to a narrow schedule in which each manufacturer was allocated a type of production: popular, mid-range car, etc.

The Panhard et Levassor brand becomes Panhard and must follow making more affordable vehicles. To avoid the restrictions, the brand uses aluminum, especially for the bodies of the Dyna X and the first Dyna Z.

All models are powered by an air-cooled flat-twin engine that benefits from impressive efficiency.

New models, but little distribution

In 1953, Panhard presented the Dyna Z: a ​​very streamlined four-door sedan, with an aluminum and magnesium alloy body. Created by bodybuilder Chausson, it offers a Cx of 0.26. Then steel will be used. In 5 years, 139,632 cars found takers.

In 1959, put on PL 17 (for Panhard & Levassor and the sum of 5 Cv + 6 places + 6 liters per 100 km). The center section comes from the Dyna Z while the front and rear are modern. More than 166,000 PL 17s were produced. A PL 17 would even win the Monte Carlo rally in 1961. A break model was also produced in very small quantities.

The PL 17 in all its glory.  It comes from the Dyna Z with a modernized front and rear.  It is sold only in Belgium and France.  Panhard Photo Archives

The PL 17 in all its glory. It comes from the Dyna Z with a modernized front and rear. It is sold only in Belgium and France. Panhard Photo Archives

Citroën rescue

In 1955, Panhard appealed to Citroën (which took 25% of the capital) to overcome its difficulties associated with a reduced range and a distribution limited to France and Belgium. In addition, mechanics with delicate maintenance will cause concerns.

In 1958, Citroën increased to 45% of the capital. However, Panhard continued to build new cars such as the 4-seater Panhard 24 BT (24 Hours of Le Mans) coupé, 28,651 of which were built between 1963 and 1967. A shorter 24 version of CT was also born.

They are characterized by thin uprights for visibility and a self-supporting hull that ensures optimal road holding.

Execution of Citroën

In 1965, Citroën bought all the shares and became the owner of Panhard. At that time, new projects were in the pipeline: a convertible, a four-door sedan, a station wagon…

Citroën started by marketing Panhards through its dealers but refused to invest to study new engines and models that could compete in its own range. He will use avenue d’Ivry chains to build 2 CV vans.

Sales declined rapidly and production ceased in 1967. The Panhard brand is still owned by Stellantis.

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