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Levassor Type A Voiturette by Rothschild
Panhard is a French manufacturer of light tactical and military vehicles. Its current incarnation, now owned by Renault Trucks Defense, was formed by the acquisition of Panhard by Auverland in 2005. Panhard had been under Citroën ownership, then PSA (Peugeot société anonyme) after the 1974 takeover of Citroën by Peugeot, for 40 years. The combined company now uses the Panhard name; this was decided based on studies indicating that the Panhard name had better brand recognition worldwide than the Auverland name. Panhard once built innovative civilian cars but ceased production of those in 1968. Many of its military products however end up on the civilian market via third sources and as military/government surplus vehicles. Panhard also built railbuses between the wars.
Panhard was originally called Panhard et Levassor, and was established as a car manufacturing concern by René Panhard and Émile Levassor in 1887.
Panhard et Levassor sold their first automobile in 1890, based on a Daimler engine license. Levassor obtained his licence from Paris lawyer Edouard Sarazin, a friend and representative of Gottlieb Daimler's interests in France. Following Sarazin's 1887 death, Daimler commissioned Sarazin's widow Louise to carry on her late husband's agency. The Panhard et Levassor license was finalised by Louise, who married Levassor in 1890. Daimler and Levassor became fast friends, and shared improvements with one another.
These first vehicles set many modern standards, but each was a one-off design. They used a clutch pedal to operate a chain-driven gearbox. The vehicle also featured a front-mounted radiator. An 1895 Panhard et Levassor is credited with the first modern transmission. For the 1894 Paris–Rouen Rally, Alfred Vacheron equipped his 4 horsepower (3.0 kW; 4.1 PS) with a steering wheel, believed to be one of the earliest employments of the principle.
In 1891, the company built its first all-Levassor design, a "state of the art" model: the Système Panhard consisted of four wheels, a front-mounted engine with rear wheel drive, and a crude sliding-gear transmission, sold at 3500 francs. This was to become the standard layout for automobiles for most of the next century. The same year, Panhard et Levassor shared their Daimler engine license with bicycle maker Armand Peugeot, who formed his own car company.
In 1895, 1,205 cc (74 cu in) Panhard et Levassor vehicles finished first and second in the Paris–Bordeaux–Paris race, one piloted solo by Levassor, for 48¾hr. However, during the 1896 Paris–Marseille–Paris race, Levassor was fatally injured due to a crash while trying to avoid hitting a dog, and died in Paris the following year. Arthur Krebs succeeded Levassor as General Manager in 1897, and held the job until 1916. He turned the Panhard et Levassor Company into one of the largest and most profitable manufacturers of automobiles before World War I.
Panhard & Levassor Type A Voiturette is powered by a 1,654cc twin-cylinder engine. Rated at 7hp, this monobloc unit features automatic inlet valves, side exhaust valves, and trembler coil ignition. The transmission consists of a cone clutch; three speeds and reverse gearbox with right-hand quadrant change; and side-chain final drive. The right-hand drive chassis is of timber and steel flitch-plate construction, with a 1.8m wheelbase and 1.22m track, while suspension is by means of semi-elliptic springs all round. A side lever operates contracting-band brakes on the rear wheels and there is also a transmission brake operated by a foot pedal. Finished in French Blue with black wings, cream coachlines and black leather upholstery, the sporting body is equipped with a cape cart hood and features large, brass, dashboard-mounted sidelights.
Panhards won numerous races from 1895 to 1903. Panhard et Levassor developed the Panhard rod, which came to be used in many other types of automobiles as well.
From 1910 Panhard worked to develop engines without conventional valves, using under license the sleeve valve technology that had been patented by the American Charles Yale Knight. Between 1910 and 1924 the Panhard & Levassor catalogue listed plenty of models with conventional valve engines, but these were offered alongside cars powered by sleeve valve power units. Following various detailed improvements to the sleeve valve technology by Panhard's own engineering department, from 1924 till 1940 all Panhard cars used sleeve valve engines.
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