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A Total Panhard & Levassor Racer Makeover

A Total Panhard & Levassor Racer Makeover

Sometimes a photo comes by, which makes you scratch your head at first. Formidable in appearance, where both the length of the bonnet as well as the large chain wheel point at a very powerful car. Several possibilities pop up in your mind, but none lead to a solution. The six-spoke sprocket wheel is a mystery, no car ever seems to have had one. But then the fog is slowly lifting because the building looks in a way familiar. A vague reminiscence of the Panhard factory comes to mind. And yes indeed, it turns out to be the 'Atelier de réparation' of this famous make!

The next thought was: what if this was a former racing car? This thought led me to the Panhard racers of 1902 and 1903, which in these years were equipped with six spoke sprocket wheels, more or less similar to the one on the photo. A difference was that these cars had a transverse front spring, but it is questionable if this had lead to better road behavior. So while transforming the car for touring purposes the choice for more conventional springs may have been understandable. Other changes were the more modern flat type of radiator instead of the original tubular radiator, the slightly lengthened bonnet and of course the tonneau body, which appears to possess a rather luxurious interior, judging by the glimpses of what just can be seen.

Still, questions remain, like; which car was the basis for this makeover. Could it have been Jarrott's car, with which he had won the Circuit des Ardennes? His car has several details which seem to be identical. And who was the coachbuilder? He must have been a renowned one like Rothschild, Kellner or Labourdette when looking at the details of the body. And finally, who had commissioned this car? All these questions are still waiting for answers, which the future hopefully will bring.

Whatever the answers, the result of the makeover is astonishing: a very powerful and luxurious 'voiture sport de tourisme' with an engine of at least 70 HP, for which every speed limit must have been a nuisance. Definitely a unique car, of which I've never seen pictures before and which must have been one of the fastest touring cars in its days!

Words and photos by Ariejan Bos



#2 John Riley 2017-11-19 12:34
You would not expect a car with a transverse front spring to handle well, and presumably this is why Panhard installed a transverse rod pivotted at one end to the chassis and at the other end to the front axle to prevent sideways movement of the axle. This became known as the "Panhard Rod", and in later years was mainly used to locate rear axles transversely.
#1 Peter 2017-11-19 09:13
While both sprocket wheels are six-spoke, the one on the 'touring' car definitely appears to be different from that on the racing version. Thicker spokes (the cut-outs appear smaller and different in shape), slightly larger center with a little more space between the rivets and the outer edge. On further examination also slightly smaller in diameter.
So, perhaps we still have a mystery.

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