Coachwork by Clément-Rothschild
René Panhard was an engineer whose business, based in Paris, made woodworking tools and built engines under license. With his partner, Émile Levassor, he experimented with horseless carriages using engines licensed from Daimler. In 1891, Panhard & Levassor offered for sale what was arguably the world’s first production car, using a Daimler engine. Above all, the firm was responsible for bequeathing the automobile world the Système Panhard, which embodied the now familiar layout of a front-mounted engine driving the rear axle via a clutch, gearbox and differential. The modern motor car had been born.
Panhard & Levassor swiftly established a reputation for fine engineering, excellent craftsmanship, superior reliability, and outstanding performance, qualities that placed the company at the forefront in early motor sport, notably the great Continental city-to-city races of the time. Little wonder therefore that such notables and sportsmen as the Hon C S Rolls, Chev R de Knyff, Maurice Farman, Léon Girardot, and Fernand Charron were associated so closely with the marque.
This early Panhard & Levassor Type A Voiturette is powered by a 1,654cc twin-cylinder engine. Rated at 7hp, this monobloc unit features automatic inlet valves, side exhaust valves, and trembler coil ignition. The transmission consists of a cone clutch; three speeds and reverse gearbox with right-hand quadrant change; and side-chain final drive. The right-hand drive chassis is of timber and steel flitch-plate construction, with a 1.8m wheelbase and 1.22m track, while suspension is by means of semi-elliptic springs all round. A side lever operates contracting-band brakes on the rear wheels and there is also a transmission brake operated by a foot pedal. Finished in French Blue with black wings, cream coachlines and black leather upholstery, the sporting body is equipped with a cape cart hood and features large, brass, dashboard-mounted sidelights.
According the Panhard ledgers, a copy of which is on file, car number ‘5139’ – a Type A with KA three-speed gearbox – was supplied new on 25th April 1902 to Christy, Médecet et Cie of 1 place d’Helvétie, Lyon, agents for Panhard & Levassor and Renault Frères. No mention is made of the coachwork fitted, but it is believed that the car would have been supplied in rolling chassis form to Clément-Rothschild, whose body (number ‘299’) it still carries today, and purchased by the first owner in this form.
One year later, the Panhard was sold to the second owner, in whose family’s possession it resided for the next 70 years. In 1972 the car was discovered, still in Lyon, by the third owner, the late Guihery Le Rolland, past President of the Teuf-Teuf Club. By now the car was in rather tired order, and Mr Le Rolland commissioned a thorough restoration. Thereafter the Panhard was continually campaigned on rallies and events until the early 21st Century.
In 2007 the car was acquired in Paris by the present owner, who brought it to the UK where a ‘body off’ restoration of all the mechanicals was carried out by Veteran car specialists Henal Engineering Ltd of Hailsham, East Sussex. On file are the bills exceeding £50,000 detailing the complete overhaul of the engine, gearbox, steering, chains and other moving parts. At this time a self-starter and period Zenith carburettor were fitted before the car completed its first London-Brighton Run that year (2007). Benefiting from an early starting time, as a 1902 car, the Panhard subsequently completed the Run a further seven times (up to 2014) – including one of the wettest on record – without a single problem.
At other times of the year, the car was used successfully in annual Creepy Crawly rallies, Ashdown Ambles, and Best of West Kent runs as well as Teuf-Teuf events back in France. It is only the vendor’s advancing years that have compelled him to offer the Panhard for sale now.
On file are documents including a UK V5C Registration Certificate (for the number ‘EA 941’); VCC Certificate of Date No.2535 showing 1902; MoT Certificate up to 2012; photographic record 1902-2007; photocopy extract 1902 Panhard ledger; 2007 restoration bills (see above); and eight London-Brighton Veteran Car Run Completion Certificates.
With its fully documented ownership, this exceptional Panhard & Levassor would make an excellent addition to any collection of important motor cars.
Les Grandes Marques du Monde au Grand Palais
Sold for € 253.000
Estimated : € 210.000 – 250.000
Parijs – Paris
Frankrijk – France
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