Timewarp example, in long term family ownership
1918 Panhard-Levassor Limousine
Coachwork by Belvalette
René Panhard was an engineer whose business, based in Paris, made woodworking tools and built engines under license. With his partner, Emile Levassor, he experimented with horseless carriages using engines licensed from Daimler. In 1891, Panhard et 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 with Systeme Panhard, which embodied the now familiar layout of a front mounted engine driving a rear axle via a clutch, gearbox and differential. The modern motor car had been born. Panhard et Levassor quickly established a reputation for fine engineering, excellent craftsmanship, superior reliability and outstanding performance. A Panhard travelled from Paris to Versailles and then on to Etretat in 1892 with no serious mechanical difficulties, while another won the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race in 1895, further cementing the marque's reputation for excellence.
The first decade of the 20th Century saw Panhard et Levassor forge ahead in automobile design with mechanical inlet valves standard by 1904 and giant multi-cylinder cars being marketed in 1905 and 1906. 1911 was a landmark year for Panhard et Levassor, seeing the introduction to their range of the Knight double sleeve-valve engine, and this type of power unit would characterise the firm's larger offerings well into the 1930s. It appeared first on the 4.4-litre 25hp model, the X14, which featured four cylinders cast separately and a most practical four-speed gearbox with a choice of chain or shaft final drive. Smooth and silent, if a little smoky, the Knight engine placed Panhard in the same league as other quality car manufacturers, although Panhard's lightweight steel sleeves gave better performance. They would later move to mono-bloc sleeve valve engines as on this car.
Of right-hand drive configuration like many pre-war French automobiles, this Panhard et Levassor is a remarkable Preservation Class automobile, which clearly has never been restored. Wearing period formal coachwork, by lesser known, but quality coachibuilder Belvalette of Paris, a coachbuilder close to the car's own origins, the design is beautifully detailed inside and out. The exterior basket-weave finish is rarely found today and is a particularly interesting feature, which is offset well by the full complement of brass accessories the car wears.
That the car has survived to this day in such good order is in part down to the fact that it has resided for the long term in the family ownership of the prominent importer of Ferraris to the U.S., the Chinetti family. It is understood to have been acquired and used in Paris in the 1960s or 1970s and later brought back to the U.S. Carefully maintained, the car has occasionally been exercised and was last publicly seen at the Meadowbrook Concours d'Elegance.
An aesthetically fascinating automobile, deserving of close inspection.
- Please note the title to this vehicle is in transit.