1904 Panhard-Levassor 35hp 7.3 litre Chain-Driven Two Seater Coachwork by Carosserie Labourdette, 153 Rue de la Pompe, Paris
No other single manufacturer can claim to have had greater influence on motor car design and more dominance and success in the infant days of the motor industry and motor sport than Panhard-Levassor. In 1886 René Panhard and Émile Levassor bought into a French company producing band saws and other woodworking tools. In that year Levassors friend, Sarazin, acquired French rights to build German Daimler cars under licence. Sarazin died in 1887 and Levassor married his widow, leaving Panhard and Levassor to continue motor car manufacture. By 1892 they had settled on the classic Panhard design La Système Panhard which was to become the standard of the industry with a forward mounted engine, transmission amidships and driven rear wheels. The company was right at the forefront in early motor sport, notably in the great French City-to-City Races and inextricably associated with such European motoring pioneers, society notables and sportsmen as the Hon. C S Rolls, Chev. R. de Knyff, Maurice Farman, Girardot and Charron.
Notable racing victories included the first recognised major motor race, Paris-Bordeaux-Paris, in June 1895 when Émile Levassor drove his Panhard to 1st place. In the 1898 Marseilles-Nice race Panhard were 1st and 2nd and claimed victory in the Paris-Bordeaux race and Paris-Amsterdam-Paris races that year. Girardot drove a 6hp car to victory in 1899 in the Paris-Rouen-Paris race and in the very first Gordon Bennett Cup race in 1900 Charron, Girardot and Chevalier de Knyff seized a triumphant 1st, 2nd and 3rd result for Panhard. In short Panhard dominated the very first decade of motor sport in Europe. Little wonder therefore that businessman and gentleman adventurer, the Hon. C.S. Rolls should favour the Panhard-Levassor marque and indeed become the British agent prior to establishing his own motor manufacturing business. Panhards international agents were hand-picked and their customer lists at the turn of the century read like a Whos-Who in Europe.
The 35hp model Panhard was introduced in 1903, following the traditional Panhard pattern, the separately cast four-cylinder engine with brass water jackets displacing a purposeful 7.3 litres and driving through a four-speed gearbox with final drive by side chains. This car is believed to be the only surviving pre-1905 Panhard of this mighty capacity, being potentially therefore the quickest Panhard by a country mile on the Brighton road.
The car was discovered in the early 1950s, joining the distinguished collection of George H Waterman Jnr. on Rhode Island, USA, from whom the late Edward Hinman Jnr. of Connecticut acquired the car in July 1956, Hinman writing to Waterman in 1956 in the following terms:- Being presently in an unbalanced state of mind I send you my check in the amount of $560 to cover the purchase price of the 1903-4 chain-drive Panhard-Levassor chassis with remains of body. Perhaps Hinman was not in the unbalanced state of mind he thought! Following Hinmans death the car passed in 1980 to Florida veteran car aficionado Tom Lester, from whom the vendor acquired the car one year later. Early photographs on file show the car as discovered complete with the front part of its original Labourdette coachwork. Following considerable correspondence with the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain this highly important Panhard was allocated the date of 1904 and awarded Dating Certificate No.861 in 1961. The car was substantially restored in the USA at which time the present detachable rim wheels were fitted. In 1986, in the present ownership, the engine was rebuilt by Custom Engine Service Inc. in Florida and a detailed bill covering that work is available on file for inspection. The mighty Panhard came to England with its owner in 1988 and has taken part, at some speed and with much enjoyment, in the prestigious London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and other veteran car rallies in Europe.
The Panhard is attractively finished in black and red livery, and the coachwork is furnished with black leather upholstery and most practical hood and windscreen a great advantage at speed on the A23. It is equipped with brass fittings throughout including BRC acetylene headlamps, a P&N rear lamp and oil side lamps. A most practical modification is the conversion to battery ignition, however in all other major respects the car is to original Panhard specification.
This historic, unique and exceedingly powerful veteran from Frances premier motor manufacturer comes with the aforementioned Veteran Car Club Dating Certificate (copy), a Florida Certificate of Title, together with a UK Customs & Excise form no.388 confirming importation in 1988, together with a useful history file with copies of instruction book, spares list and correspondence between previous owners.