1903 Panhard-Levassor Type A 7hp Twin-cylinder Rear-entrance Tonneau Registration no. 900 NOY Engine no. 5887
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. 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.
Car no.5887, being the Type A 7hp is of a genre described by the late John Bolster in the following terms:- Lacking the sheer drama of the big four cylinder Panhards, the two cylinder car must be regarded as one of the most reliable and best-made machines of the veteran era. Above all, it will give its ultimate performance only to the man who can feel its sensitive controls and interpret the sound of its engine. History records that his car was imported new into the UK by Panhard agent Harvey du Cros and it passed via The Imperial Motor Works at Lyndhurst to John Morant of Brockenhurst. It appears that it later reverted to general garage duties back at Lyndhurst Garage where it remained little used between 1928 and 1959, the year that it was recommissioned for participation in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Its history became still more distinguished in 1960 when it was purchased at auction by The Montagu Motor Museum at Beaulieu where it was subsequently displayed. During that ownership it became perhaps the most illustrated Panhard-Levassor ever, appearing on museum postcards, table mats and other souvenirs and being selected for illustration, with Lord Montagu at the wheel, in The Pictorial Guide to the Motor Museums at Beaulieu, Brighton and Measham. The car, in its then two-seater form and with its registration number AA 14, was to participate in many London to Brighton Runs, featuring in The Motor magazine in December 1962 and driven by Bill Boddy, Editor of Motor Sport in the 1964 event, duly recorded in the December 1964 issue of that magazine. In the 1970s the car passed into private ownership where it was the subject of further restoration, completing a few further London to Brighton Runs prior to acquisition by the current owner. During this new ownership a rear section of the body was built, carefully copying an original sister car for accuracy, and creating a rear-entrance tonneau body accommodating four passengers. The 7hp Panhards have an enviable reputation for effortlessly transporting four people to Brighton, taking all testing hills in their stride.
This car is powered by a Centaur twin-cylinder engine, fuelled by a period Krebs carburettor. Spark is provided by a chain-driven Scintillo magneto, an option available in 1903. Drive is through a three-speed and reverse gearbox with quadrant gear change and final drive by twin side chains to the rear wheels. The vendor reports that 5887 performs exceeding well on the open road with a quite outstanding turn of speed for a car of this age and horse power.
5887 is presented in green livery with black, deep-buttoned, leather upholstery. It is handsomely equipped with a centre-mounted Powell & Hanmer acetylene headlamp and oil side lamps and a Lucas oil rear lamp and sparse dashboard furnishings include oil distribution via a Graisseur Comte-Goutte no.570 Type 1902 oiling system. The steering wheel embraces Panhards own speed controller, working from a rotatable shaft in the steering wheel and regulating fuel supply and ignition timing. On this particular car we suggest this is a later but acceptable modification.
This covetable veteran motor car is handsomely presented and, although cosmetics could be refined by a future owner, it does have that patina that takes years to acquire and no time at all to destroy. It is offered with a Swansea V5 registration document, a Veteran Car Services Dating Certificate no.2524, issued in March 2007, together with a detailed report from Veteran Car Services Dating Panel provided to the current owner in October 2006 and a copy of the 1963 Pictorial Guide to the Motor Museums in which this car justifiably features on the front cover.