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The Ex-Bill Turnbull
1913 Panhard et Levassor 2.2-Litre 12hp X19
Registration no. SV 6925
Chassis no. 35738
Engine no. 35738

The 12hp Panhard et Levassor X19, UK registration 'SV 6925', is from the same stable as the 1937 Bugatti 57S also offered here. Together they comprise 'The Bill Turnbull Collection', and both reflect the outstanding qualities of their highly enthusiastic, immensely experienced and competent engineer owner in very similar ways.

Twin brothers Bob and Bill Stuart Turnbull were born and lived on a fruit and dairy farm in the rural community of Galloway, Alexandra, South Island New Zealand. Their father Alistair Stuart Turnbull, who had served in the First War, was a very practical man and a skilled cabinet maker; sadly, their mother Mary died suddenly when the boys were only seven. From this background emerged two intelligent, self-reliant, capable and industrious boys, and both went on to have successful engineering careers.

Before and after WW2 New Zealand was a happy hunting ground for veteran cars and community of enthusiasts which flourishes to this day was already emerging. Recognising their interests, at the age of 16 the two boys were given a 1904 Humberette, on which that they practised their skills and to which the origins of their lifelong passion can be traced. Later, during the 1950s, Bob bought the remains of a 1907 Sizaire et Naudin which he restored, kept, together with the Humberette, and used almost daily up to his death in 2012. Meanwhile Bill in 1954 bought the 1913 Panhard now offered here, which he also kept for the rest of his life The twin brothers also both bought and restored Bugattis; Bob from 1958 an open Gangloff-bodied Type 57 and Bill from 1969 his 1937 Corsica-bodied Bugatti Type 57S. In addition Bill bought and worked upon a Type 23 Brescia Bugatti which he kept from 1961 to 1992. They were indeed identical twins...

Against this background one might expect the Panhard to be something special, and it most certainly is. Bill Turnbull bought the car in 1954. Research within his personal archive related to this Panhard reveals two original receipts, recording that he first paid Mr Roger Barratt a deposit of £2 and on May 30, 1954 he followed up with the agreed balance of £13. He immediately set to work tackling jobs from which the average owner would recoil. There is a striking £1 2s 0d invoice "To balance Panhard crankshaft" from Canterbury University College, where Bill and Bob had studied engineering, dated April 30, 1956. Mr Turnbull used his reliable Panhard quite intensively up to 1960 and there are many fine photographs showing him and the car covering that period. With the Panhard had come rare and interesting provenance documentation which Bill Turnbull later supplemented with his own research. The history file also incudes copies of published accounts of Bill and Bob's adventurous veteran car journeys, a published article by Bill himself and rare original Panhard driver's hand books in both English and French.

The surviving original private-car registration document was issued to Miss E.G. Gardner by Christchurch City Council on May 15, 1914. No engine or chassis numbers were required to be entered but plate number '6987' was assigned, and regulations relating to letter size and spacing were printed on the reverse. A new Vehicle Registration Act came into force in 1924 and a replacement certificate was issued to Mrs E.G. Williams (née Gardner) in Christchurch on January 23, 1924. This certificate has also been carefully preserved.

It is a wonderful document. In addition to recording engine, chassis and plate numbers it bears on the reverse the names and addresses of all subsequent owners up to and including Roger Barratt and William Stuart Turnbull. Mrs Williams appears to have kept the Panhard from 1914 until 1933 when it passed to Ford Motors of Christchurch, New Zealand.
Amazingly, but typically, Bill Turnbull sought out Mrs Williams and drove to meet her in the Panhard. She recognised her old car and sent confirmation by post, enclosing a 'snap' of the car taken during her ownership. Mr Turnbull preserved her note, a small photograph of a boy straining with the starting handle and original envelope is post-marked August 15, 1957.

But what of the car? What is its specification? What is a 12hp Panhard like to drive? The high reputation and commanding stature enjoyed by the company during the pioneering years of motoring is well known but the above questions can be answered very fully and specifically in relation to Bill Turnbull's car.

The 1924 Registration Document confirms that 'SV 6925' was owned by Andrew Affleck Anderson from June 16, 1947 to December 18, 1951. Andrew Affleck's article 'The Edwardians' appeared in the December 1949 edition of the New Zealand magazine 'Sports Car' accompanied by a photograph of himself in the car. In that article he described his experience of what became Bill Turnbull's car. A verbatim extract from his article follows:

It is obviously impossible to begin a series on Edwardians without describing a Panhard first of all. This makes things easier for me since I am the proud owner of one of these cars, but since it is a characteristic example of the medium-priced continental Edwardian I hope I may be excused for starting with my own machine.

The car is a 1913 Model rated at 12 R.A.C horse-power and one of the last of the poppet valve Panhards. It is in original condition save for fitting of electric lights. It is, therefore, not one of the famous Panhards of earlier years but it nevertheless retains many characteristics of a race-bred car of the period. The engine is a four-cylinder (bore and stroke 70 x 140=approx..2 litres) with side valves, magneto ignition and fully automated carburettor of Panhard et Levassor patent.

Beautifully finished internally the engine peaks at 1500 r.p.m. with normal cruising speed of 1000 r.p.m.; a massive built-up crankshaft is carried on three wide bearings in the cast aluminium crankcase and is splash lubricated as are all working parts; the connecting rods and domed hour-glass pistons. Though lubrication is by splash the oil circulates through a cooler and is automatically replenished from a reservoir. Water circulation is by pump and cooling is most efficient.

Power is taken via a rather primitive plate clutch to a four-speed gearbox with right hand control and thence through a spring connection and torque tube to a 3.3:1 rear end. A very advanced feature is that the clutch is totally enclosed and is in unit with the engine and gearbox. On the road she is a delight to handle; the steering is typical of the period being very positive and high geared and the gears though tricky are soon mastered and a very close ratio thrid and top provide a lot of innocent fun in rolling country!!

Though 1000 revs is normal cruising speed and equals 30 m.p.h. between 45 and 50 m.p.h. is possible without any bother and the motor runs very smoothly right up to peak revs. Chief attraction lies in the phenomenal power at very low revs. That make it suitable for almost any trials work in spite of that 3.3:1 back axel!! Even the two-wheel metal-lined brakes give considerable stopping power and it takes some brakes to pin down all that "avoir-dupois" punctually.

Her chief features are typical of the period being effortless cruising at very low revolutions and pulling a very high gear ratio, hard positive suspension, hair-line steering, extremely roomy and comfortable coachwork, in fact a complete absence of fuss, strain or stress in any part of the car.

In 1960 Bill came to the UK, "only for two years". In fact he never lived in New Zealand again but proudly retained his citizenship, and added to it UK citizenship. However, he had left his Panhard in the care of his brother and following retirement in 1995 he went back to retrieve it two years later.

All the relevant import documentation is carefully filed, including the original form C&E 386. In applying for UK registration Bill Turnbull sent the short summary of its history which concludes the catalogue entry of this car.
After much prior communication with NZ and UK authorities Mr Turnbull and his wife flew to NZ for a month on February 2, 1997. The car did not require an export license, as had originally been feared. Bill was able to spend precious time with his brother and other members of his family and friends while finalising the export of his car, which was shipped to Britain in April 1997, cleared by Customs at Tilbury on May 15 and transported to his house in a covered trailer.

Because of its rarity HM Customs and Excise classified the Panhard X19 as a "collector's piece of historical interest" and it attracted a rate of only 2.5% on value and freight charges to Britain. Although Mr Turnbull believed some hundreds of his model had been produced they are now scarce, which he thought might be attributable to premature failure of the propeller shaft coupling. Having became an active and enthusiastic member of the Panhard and Levassor Club GB his enquiries through the club and others led him to conclude that there were only three X19s in France and two in the Uk. The most widely known X19 is that which belonged to Prince Rainier, and his son, and which was sold by auction in July 2012. The spare wheel is carried at the rear of that car but otherwise its appearance is very similar to Bill's.

He could hardly wait to get started on his much loved old car, and he had extended his garage/workshop in anticipation of its arrival. One rear wing was damaged, all tyres and tubes were perished and he had no spare wheel, side screens, hood or useable upholstery. The progress of his work can be traced by means of the invoices on file. He embarked on a comprehensive strip down recording a mass of detailed information and helpful instructions in a green backed school exercise book. As he had done with his Bugatti, Bill recorded every number and marking stamped on any part of his car's components parts to create a valuable originality archive.

Within weeks he tackled wiring, high tension cables and the magneto, by September a new windscreen frame was made and glazed, before he moved on to replace the wood on the hood sticks and timber panels between windscreen and scuttle. Nickel plating was carried out before the end of the year and by February 1998 a new rear wing had been made and blue and black Tekaloid coach paint had been ordered. Specialised Auto Services (now Turino) re-spoked a rim and hub, and in the meantime he attended to the running gear, overhauling the brakes and stripping and rebuilding the steering box. All seats and side panels were re-trimmed in Connolly leather, and a new set of side screens made, by David Berwick Coach trimming (Derby) whose invoice is dated 20/4/98. A new stainless steel exhaust system was made and fitted. Tyres and tubes were provided by Longstone Tyres and Bill had the car in good running order when he drove it to the nearby town of Cheadle for its first MOT test on 28/11/98. The DVLA subsequently issued registration number SV 6925, and the date of first UK Registration was given as 06/01/98. The 1998 V5 and the two other styles of Form v5C which have since replaced it are in the history file. Date of manufacture 1913 is acknowledged on each document. In that section of the file there are also eleven MOT test certificates and ten tax discs. The last tax disc being for 2015: coincidentally, tax discs ceased to be issued in that year and Bill ceased driving due to eyesight problems.

Bill had another major job in mind but first he intended to use and enjoy his Panhard, as he had done in his youth. In his green book he recorded the destination and round trip mileage of some 55 forays. He quite frequently went to Ashbourne and Uttoxerete rand ranged as far as Ilam, Cromford, Mouldswoth, and Whitchurch; the latter a journey of between 70 and 80 miles. Twice, between November 5th and 8th 1999 and between 7th and 19th November 2003, he drove to and from the NEC where his car was displayed at the main classic car show. Although this is a journey of over 100 miles it is small beer compared to the 200 to 370 mile a day trips Bill had made in NZ in the 1950's. The maximum speed attained on UK journeys was 45mph (hood down), normal cruising speed 30-35 mph, and fuel consumption 25 mpg.

In October 2003, after earlier correspondence, he set down another marker in the already long history of his car. Bill travelled to Mulhouse to meet with M. Richard Keller, Curator of the Musee National De i'Automobile, where Panhard et Levassor factory records are stored. A letter from Mulhose dated 13/6/02 enclosed extracts from the factory records relating to Bill's car, identified only by Moteur no. 35738; "This information is given in this exceptional case and in private capacity." Later M.Keller responded to another request from Bill and sent extracts relating to two other cars belonging to Club members.

The letters from Mulhouse are in the file together with Bill's hand written letter of thanks. The records he was sent are quite exceptional. The first is a record of production and despatch of X19 35738 to Birch and Co. London dated 23/8/13. The second is the invoice for the same car sent to Birch and Co.2 London Wall Buidings, also dated 23/813. The base price of the car was 7500 francs plus 1000 francs for the specified additions and 10% tax. Both documents are worthy of detailed examination. Bill always spoke highly of Panhard engineering and he estimated that when new his car had cost twice the price of a Model T Ford.

The final job that Bill set out to accomplish was typically ambitious. The car had been fitted from new with five ringed cast iron pistons running in 70mm bores and had side valves with 8mm stems running in guides machined in the block. Bill considered the bores and guides to be badly worm. Being an experienced designer, drawing up a design and engineering drawing for new 71mm aluminium three ring pistons held no fears. On the recommendation of a fellow Panhard enthusiast the pistons were successfully cast and machined in Hungary and supplied with rings, circlips and gudgeon pins sized to run in the recently replaced small end bushes. Meanwhile Coventry Jig and Boring bored and honed the bores to suit, the guides were opned up, and Bill had a set of 9mm stem valves made for him by G and S valves.

The new pistons, with correctly gapped rings were successfully installed, the block sits on a new Klinger gasket and all accessories were refitted. However, Bill was not able to tackle any further work. The valve seats, which are readily accessible under the cylinder caps, have not been re-cut, the clearance of the valves in the guides must be checked, and the length of each valve must be set to give correct valve clearances. The original push rods are all present and there us a full set of new valve springs. The side cover which gives access to the push rods is secured by hand operated bayonet fittings.

Bill Turnbull's note to HM Customs:
"This car was originally owned by Mrs Ethel Gilman Williams of Sumner Christchurch N.Z.

She paid £460 for it, almost certainly from Mervyn Stephenson who was importing Panhards at that time and competing in local motoring events with them.
She used it until 1933 when she traded it in for a Model A Ford.
It then passed through a number until bought in 1947 by Andrew Anderson, then Secretary and founder member of the Vintage Car Club of N.Z. in which it was well known.

I bought it in a poor state in 1954, when a student, primarily because of the very high quality of its original manufacture - much above other cars of similar period I had worked on. After tidying up and some attention to Gear Box and Rear Axle, it was very reliable. I used it to go to work, on long distance journeys and for Vintage Car Club events, until1960 when to further my Engineering career I came to England. But with many changes of address and short holidays I left the Panhard stored in N.Z.

Having recently retire I wish to import and use this vehicle. It is definitely not for sale. It has been continuously in my ownership since 1954."

Offered here without reserve, we are delighted to offer the Car for the first time in over 65 years.

To view a video of this lot please click here

Bonhams 1793
101 New Bond Street
United Kingdom
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Bonhams Collectors’ Car department