1901 Panhard et Levassor Type A2

Summary

  • Year of manufacture 
    1901
  • Chassis number 
    3114
  • Lot number 
    211
  • Condition 
    Used
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
    Other

Description

Ex-Schlumpf and Mercedes-Benz Museum Collections
1901 Panhard et Levassor Type A2 7hp Twin-Cylinder Rear-Entrance Tonneau
Registration no. BS 8623
Chassis no. 3114

"...the two-cylinder car must be regarded as one of the most reliable and best-made machines of the Veteran era" – John Bolster, of the Panhard-Levassor.

The dawn of the automobile may be in the Benz camp, but in many ways the Système Panhard, pioneered much of the concept of how a car was operated and continues to be today. The engine was moved to the front, beneath a 'bonnet', the transfer of speed was mechanical, cog on cog, rather than by belt, and Panhards were the first to encase their geared transmission in a 'box'. Piano style pedals were used for operating clutch and transmission brakes. First a tiller was used to operate the directional control of the car, but within a few years this was replaced with a 'steering' wheel. It all sounds obvious today, but the Panhard was the first car on which these concepts were seen. Only one main aspect shows its age, that of the transfer of power to the road by chains from the transfer 'box', this part of the mechanism would remain fashionable through the introduction of the Daimler 'Mercedes' product for at least a decade, but still to many the idea of a chain drive car remains very appealing!

Type A2 Panhard-Levassors such as this magnificent example may be considered as a transitional model as they retain the Daimler-Phénix powerplant which the brand, and arguably the industry, had been built upon, but it was now mounted in a car with a lower frame and of proportions that were more user friendly. In addition to their importance and stature in the history of the automobile, in today's age of vociferous documentation and proof of history, Panhard-Levassor cars are head and shoulders above most in that the original ledgers recording their order and supply survive, definitively proving their age, which can be a challenge for some cars.

This example has been extensively researched by its owner, enabling much of its fascinating history to be charted. To begin with, copies of the Panhard-Levassor ledger records describe this motor car as being built with 7hp engine number 3114 on 25 October 1901, with 'caisse carrosserie ordinaire' bodywork, being their reference to a standard rear-entrance tonneau, 'garniture en cuir noir tendue, porte arriere montante jusqu'en haut' - tight black leather trim, rear door rising to the top (confirming tonneau), and electric ignition. Today, the car sports a coachbuilder plaque for La Carrosserie Industrielle, which it has worn since at least the 1960s, who were Paris based and were more than likely the builder of its body for Panhard. The car was sold to Palais de l'Automobile – a dealing agency for a number of automobile manufacturers, situated at 219 Boulevard Peraire in Paris.

Precisely who the Palais delivered 3114 to is not known, but documented through the French vehicle registration system its ensuing history starts as early as 1909, when the car was registered with the licence number '415 BB', a Bordeaux plate. Its owner at this point was one A. Kossotty a 'Constructeur & Mecanicien' of Avenue Gambetta in the town of Saintes. Beneath the annotation on the hand-written records, its next owner is Paul Cureau. As it turns out, these two gentlemen were father and son-in-law, Paul Cureau marrying Marguerite Kossotty in 1902 in Paris and later taking over Mr. Kossotty's business. It is conceivable that Cureau had bought the Panhard in Paris, and brought it with him to the Bordeaux region later, or else more likely that either had bought the car as an intriguing piece of engineering history a few years after it would have been current. It is also possible that they were responsible for the light revisions to its guise in which the car was presented to the Association des Proprietaries de Vielles Voitures Automobiles 'Les Teuf-Teuf' on 30th July 1937, by which time it can be seen to have had its rear seats removed, and its standard bonnet replaced with a more angular affair which it retains to this day. The seller surmises that perhaps Kossotty or Cureau had customised it to participate in sporting events held in that region by Le Petite Gironde.

The owner in July 1937 is listed to the 'Teuf-Teuf' as Albert Streit of Cachan, a Paris suburb, who cited ownership on his application of a Hurtu car also. From this point, the Panhard was used in the club's events, notably as late as 25th June 1939 on a Paris-Rouen rally, and returned to use immediately after the war. Period film footage exists of this and other 'Vieux Tacots' parading through Paris on 1st January 1947. Its use continued through this period, it being seen on other news reel footage of 1950s events in France, in Pau, and in Paris, and a magazine article of it in Clermont-Ferrand.

At some point it seems that it appeared on the radar of the Schlumpf brothers who were busy quietly amassing their huge collection on their textiles business property in Mulhouse. Although best known for more than 100 Bugattis that they accumulated, there are many veteran cars, and it is believed that the Panhard at least for a little while was one of those. A photo on file shows the car with another Schlumpf collection car in the 1960s. According to information supplied to the last but one owner when the car was purchased from the reserve collection of the Mercedes-Benz Museum via their Classic Center, it had arrived in their collection described as an 1898 (sic) Panhard, but for the reason of its Daimler engine, and had come from Schlumpf in exchange for the Silberpfeil – or Silver Arrow Grand Prix Mercedes-Benz, which remains in that collection today. Certainly, the Panhard resided with Mercedes from 1965, and emerged when included in a group deal with the Louwman Collection in 2010. It was sold as part of a separate group deal from that collection to noted Swiss Enthusiast and dealer Christoph Grohe in 2012, from whom the current owner acquired the car.

Over the course of the last 7 years, the Panhard was first researched thoroughly to ensure that a restoration would be as accurate as possible, and then entrusted to experts in their respective fields. The majority of this work was carried out by the team at Tattersalls Veteran to Classic, the mechanical aspect was refurbished where necessary, including rebuilding of the engine with new bearings, repair to one of its mountings, new drive cogs, and the fitment of a modern starter motor to assist with its use. Interestingly, during this exercise the pistons were found to have domed heads, suggesting an attempt at increasing its performance. To match its build sheet, Tattersall's woodwork expert David Thompson ensured that the rear of bodywork was rebuilt to its original rear entrance tonneau design, using comparisons with a surviving factory 1901 car. At the same time the now much bowed wood members of the frame were replaced (the original bars remain with the car), and an additional transverse leaf spring which was fitted to the rear was removed, to return it to its original format. The upholstery work was undertaken by esteemed trimmer Julian Taylor of Protectus, complete with a two-piece front/rear tonneau cover in double-duck. The whole car was brush painted in period style in Brewster Green by Daniel Garner of Garner's Wheelwrights, and at the same time the wheels were dismantled, repaired where necessary and refinished.

Ancillaries of correct period BRC Alpha self-contained generator headlamps, a close match for units visible in the 1950s, a Bleriot tail lamp and 'Le Teste' three trumpet horn were sourced and have been fitted. A period NilMelior Trembler coil was also sourced to match the ignition system present, but it currently utilises a pair of modern coils. This work, has been finalised over the course of the last 12 months, including a test run on the London to Brighton in 2019, it has recently been checked over once more by Tattersall's and while fresh, it should probably be considered as 'running in' owing to the lack of occasions to use it this year. Throughout the process, it was the intention to retain the key clue to its heritage of the modified bonnet, but along the journey a period style Panhard-Levassor bonnet was also acquired, which has been painted to match the car, though not fitted.

The Veteran Car Club has since acknowledged the date of its factory build sheet as 1901 for their dating purposes enabling it to be used on their events and also therefore the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Its report is on file, together with factory record, copies of all research material which have been assembled into a book are available for inspection.

There are a mere handful of survivors of these transitional 7hp Daimler-Phénix-engined Panhards which were delivered in 1901, the best known of which is 'Le Papillon Bleu' so notably sold by Bonhams a year ago here in these salerooms. In normal years, they provide their owners with a sub 100 entry start number ensuring a smoother exit from London, together with adequate performance and four seats, making it easy to appreciate Bolster's wise words about them. This, with a fascinating history and fresh from an extensive restoration offers perhaps one of the last foreseeable opportunities to acquire one.