28 November 2011

Citroën VTS-powered Panhard PL17 - PanHARD

Panhard et Levassor (or Société des Anciens Etablissements Panhard et Levassor, to give them their full title);  one of the oldest names in the car industry, having been formed in 1891 (6 years after Benz & Cie and a year after Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft was formed), they were one of the largest and most profitable manufacturer of automobiles before World War I. They were also one of the early pioneers in motorsport, having won numerous races from 1895 to 1903. They also developed the Panhard rod, a type of bar that provides lateral location of a solid rear axle which became used in many other types of automobiles and is still known by that name to this day. They produced some fantastic luxury cars in the inter-war period, such as the 6CS and the Dynamic. Post-war (as plain old Panhard), they decided to build smaller cars, such as the Dyna X, the Dyna Z - and the PL17, below.

Unfortunately, the last Panhard passenger car was built in 1967 (the last models being the beautiful 24 BT & CT); the road car arm being absorbed by Citroën in 1965, with them retiring the marque completely in 1968. Panhard still exists as a company however (much like the original Bugatti still does, but that's another story); as from '68 on, they continued to make armoured vehicles, a field in which they are quite successful.

Going back to the PL17, a long-time favourite of ours; it may have a face only mama Panhard truly loves, but it's ugly duckling charm soon grows on you. Based on the preceding alloy-bodied Dyna 54, the PL17 debuted in 1959 and was powered by an 845cc air-cooled, flat-twin engine. It featured front-wheel drive, independent front suspension, torsion bar springing, aluminium bodywork (and a typically Gallic dashboard-mounted gearchange) at a time when Ford for example had just introduced the Popular 100E. The cars were fast for their size, economical and handled well; the now steel-paneled PL17 featured aerodynamic low-drag bodywork and, despite its small capacity engine, proved capable of conveying six passengers at 70mph while returning 40 mpg. The car's controversial looks ensured that it made little impact on the UK market; nevertheless a total of around 130,000 were sold - mainly in Europe - before production ceased in 1964.

Panhard affamé ! nom de nom !

A lovely old classic car, one that will definitely charm the socks off you, if not blow them off. You wouldn't buy a PL17 for say, hooning around on a track day, would you? Before you answer that unlikely question, read on, the example below takes that thought and leaves it in a cloud of it's own burnt rubber.

Est-ce que c'est tout que vous avez ? Je vous laisserai dans une traînée de mes propres vapeurs d'échappement. Hah !

This rare 1963 RHD example has been modified to serve as just that. The original engine has been kicked out, in its place a powerplant from it's Citroën extended family; a 16 valve, 1600cc from a '98 Saxo VTS. To up the ante even further, theres Newman phase 3 cams, a chipped ECU, ported and polished throttle body; and Raceland induction kit. The exhaust system incorporates more Raceland goodies; no doubt this Panhard has a bark (backed by a 160bhp bite) that demands you take it's bug-eyed geekiness seriously in your rear-view mirror.

Est ce ce que le you'l verra qu'une fois j'ai exécuté l'acte de souffler vos portes outre de. Au revoir maintenant !

Other noteworthy features include a Group 'A' solid crossmember - watch those fillings -  a 106 XSi gearbox (closer ratios than the standard VTS 'box), 306 GTi-6 front brake calipers gripping Brembo discs and OMP pads. Theres also Spax PSX adjustable dampers with matching 40mm springs on the front with a 40mm drop on the matching Saxo torsion bar; so to all intents and purposes this Gallic honey is singing from the PSA hymnsheet underneath, and while that may seem a tragic waste of a PL17 to some, you gotta admit the shock factor when this grand dame hitches up her petticoat and gives more modern machinery a run for their Francs would be worth the purchase price alone.
Its currently up for grabs at Bonhams December sale, on the 1st.

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