Among all French car manufacturers, Panhard is the eldest. This company’s quest for technologie and boldness made it an original, sought after by faithful but almost marginal customers. Little by little bought by Citroën, the company ends up dissolving in 1967.
How did the brand single itself out ?
In 1891, René Panhard and Emile Levassor launch the first French combustion engine automobile and, in 1895, the company wins the world’s first car race. Soon after, more high end vehicles are launched and Panhard becomes France’s first manufacturer. In the interwar period, the company stays creative with valveless engines. At this time, the company offers a variety of sporty looking luxury cars ; the bodies evolve with additional front windows on the “Panoramique” (1934) and “Dynamic” ( 1936) models ; the latter being a stepping stone on the aerodynamic path that became a game changer for the company. From the after war, aluminum project, led along with engineer Jean Albert Grégoire, comes to the creation of the Dyna X. This traction, economic yet light and powerful thanks to the first aluminum body on a mass produced vehicle and a small high efficiency engine. This engine gives the company many victories like the 24 Heures du Mans from 1950 to 1962.
Why did Panhard disapear ?
1954’s Dyna Z keeps the aluminium body and the small powerful engine, and adds a full new set of qualities : roominess, performance and sobriety. Nevertheless, the car’s costs and average reliability hamperes the profitability. A temporary redemption comes in 1955 with Citroën who needs an additional factory, the one of Panhard being under-exploited . But in 1958, Citroën begins hampering Panhard production by forbidding any project which could compete with their own : because they had no equivalent, only the coupé and coach 24 received approval. This popular model, still with the same small and powerful engine and named after the 24 Heures du Mans, will be the company’s last hurray : in 1967, Citroën simply eliminates Panhard in 1967.