Private Omnibus 6 hp
1898 Panhard-Levassor racing
two-seater 8 hp "Paris Amsterdam"
(first to Brighton 1996/1997/1998
and Goodwood Festival of Speed 2002)
rear-entrance tonneau 6 hp
rear-entrance tonneau 7 hp
1904 Panhard-Levassor 15 hp rear entrance tonneau
The Panhard-Levassor firm had a history going back to the 1840s.
In those days the firm of Perin et Pauwels made furniture, and
then woodworking machinery. Rene Panhard became a partner in this
enterprise in 1867, the name changing to Perin et Panhard and
the range of engineering activities expanded. Emile Levassor joined
in 1872, both he and Panhard having had technical educations.
After Perin's death in 1886 the firm was renamed Panhard et Levassor.
P&L gained engine building experience by making Deutz stationary
gas engines in the 1870's, and in 1888 the firm made a limited
number of German Daimler petrol engines (see Mercedes) under licence
to validate the French patents. To make a profit these engines
had to be sold, and Levassor found a buyer in Armand Peugeot (see
Peugeot) the first two being delivered in March 1890. At this
time P&L did not intend to make motorcars, but when the first
Peugeot arrived in the P&L workshops in August, the latter
firm had a change of mind.
In addition to being among the first motorcar manufacturers
in the world, P&L achieved a permanent place in the history
of motoring when Levassor in 1891 devised the 'systeme Panhard'.
This placed the v-twin engine at the front of the chassis, driving
through a clutch to a set of sliding gears (not yet in a box)
with final drive to the back axle by chain. The systeme was so
successful that other makers copied the layout, and apart from
the use of shaft final drive (see Renault),it formed the pattern
for motorcars for many decades ahead. The only major change came
in 1895 when Levassor developed in conjunction with Daimler the
'Phenix' engine, a vertical twin cylinder in-line engine, with
a four-cylinder version appearing in 1896.
The numerous successes of Panhard-Levassor cars in early motoring
competitions,especially that of Levassor in finishing first in
the 1895 Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race (in just over two days of continuous
driving,at an average speed of 15mph) caught the public imagination
and for those who could afford it , a Panhard-Levassor was the
car to have. Up to the early 1900s such was the demand for P&L
cars that there was a significant waiting list for new ones, and
the company was paying its shareholders a 50% dividend each year.
Therefore only gradually did it change its winning formula.
Emile Levassor died in 1897, perhaps as a result of an accident
in the 1896 Paris-Marseille-Paris race when his car overturned,
but Rene Panhard and his two sons managed the firm well and employed
good staff at all levels of the business. When the firm merged
with Citroen in 1965 there was still Panhard family members on