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Levassor Type X14 20CV Torpedo by Vanvooren
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 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.
After Emile Levassor's death in 1897, René Panhard re-organised his company as a joint stock corporation to attract wealthy investors, while Commandant Arthur Constantin Krebs succeeded Levassor as technical and production manager. Krebs began work by designing a series of four-cylinder engines with nominal power outputs ranging from 8CV to 20CV. His Paris-Amsterdam racer of 1898 featured a tilted (as opposed to vertical) steering column and this innovation was soon carried over to the production cars. Racing developments continued to influence the production Panhards, which soon featured front-mounted radiators, first seen on the Paris-Bordeaux racer of 1899. Battery/coil ignition and Krebs' own diaphragm carburettor were features of Panhard et Levassor engines by the end of 1901, and during that year he introduced the first power units, known as the Centaure family, to depart from the original Daimler design.
Krebs pressed ahead with developing his new Centaure engines, and in 1902 adopted individual cylinders instead of the previous cast-in-pairs arrangement. A five-bearing crankshaft and three valves per cylinder were advanced features of the Centaure Leger (Lightweight) unit. The Centaure range soon expanded to incorporate three-cylinder engines alongside the existing parallel twins and fours, an early example of modular construction. For 1903 Krebs introduced the Centaure S family of T-head fours with magneto ignition, which ranged in size from a 2.4-litre 10CV up to a 5.3-litre 23CV.
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.
Panhard held a special place amongst the earliest makes of cars. It was at the forefront of designing a " modern " car, with a layout of mechanical components that went on to become the norm. The marque was always on the look out for the latest innovations, and in 1909 Panhard became interested in Charles Knight's development of an engine where the conventional valves had been replaced with sleeve valves. Impressed by the silent and smooth running of this system, Panhard bought the licence and started to develop its own " valveless " engines. The first chassis to benefit was the Type X7, presented at the 1910 Motor Show, and from that date on, this engine was fitted to the marque's high-end models for many years. The Type 14 was one such model, equipped in 1911 with a four-cylinder 4 398cc valveless engine that also had a better braking system than the X7.
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.
Under the presidency of Raymond Poincaré, which ran from 1913 till 1920, Panhard & Levassor's 18CV and 20CV models were the official presidential cars.
Following the outbreak of peace in 1918, Panhard resumed passenger car production in March 1919 with the 10HP Panhard Type X19 which used a 4-cylinder 2,140cc engine. This was followed three months later by three more 4-cylinder models which will have been familiar to any customers whose memories pre-dated the war, but they now incorporated ungraded electrics and a number of other modifications. For the 15th Paris Motor Show, in October 1919, Panhard were displaying four models, all with four cylinder engines, as follows:
By 1925, all Panhard's cars were powered by Knight sleeve valve engines that used steel sleeves. The steel sleeves were thinner and lighter than the cast iron ones that had been fitted in Panhard sleeve valve engines since 1910, and this already gave rise to an improved friction coefficient permitting engines to run at higher speeds. To reduce further the risk of engines jamming, the outer sleeves, which are less thermally stressed than the inner sleeves, were coated on their inner sides with an anti-friction material, employing a patented technique with which Panhard engineers had been working since 1923. This was one of several improvements applied by Panhard engineers to the basic Knight sleeve-valve engine concept.
In 1925 a 4.8 litre (292ci) model set the world record for the fastest hour run, an average of 185.51 km/h (115.26 mph).
A surprise appeared on the Panhard stand at the 20th Paris Motor Show in October 1926, in the shape of the manufacturer's first six-cylinder model since before the war. The new Panhard 16CV "Six" came with a 3445cc engine and sat on a 3540 mm wheelbase. At the show it was priced, in bare chassis form, at 58,000 francs. Of the nine models displayed for the 1927 model year, seven featured four cylinder engines, ranging in capacity from 1480cc (10CV) to 4845cc (20CV), and in price from 31,000 francs to 75,000 francs (all in bare chassis form). Also on show was an example of the 8-cylinder 6350cc (35CV) "Huit" model which Panhard had offered since 1921 and which at the 1926 show was priced by the manufacturer in bare chassis form at 99,000 francs.
When Panhard presented their 1931 line-up at the Paris Motor Show in October 1930, their last two four cylinder models had been withdrawn, along with the 10CV 6-cylider Type X59. Instead they concentrated on their "S-series" cars, designated "Panhard CS" and "Panhard DS" according to engine size, and introduced a year earlier. Publicity of the time indicated the "S" stood for "Voitures surbaissées" (cars having an "underslung" chassis,) but, clearly captivated by the power of alliteration, added that "S" also indicated cars that were "...souples, supérieures, stables, spacieuses, silencieuses, sans soupapes (ie using valveless cylinders)...". Four of the five Panhards exhibited featured increasingly lavish and pricey 6-cylinder engined cars, their engine sizes ranging from 2.35-litres to 3.5-litres. There was also an 8-cylinder 5.1-litre Panhard Type X67 on display, with a generous 3,590 mm (141.3 in) wheelbase and listed, even in bare chassis form, at 85,000 francs.
Panhard et Levassor's last pre-war car was the unusually styled monocoque Dynamic series, first introduced in 1936.
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