Panhard et Levassor 1891

     The Vehicle introduced in 1891 by P & L incorporated the now familiar ‘Panhard system’, (but why not the ‘Levassor system’, as it was he who designed it?) The vehicle, built on a wooden chassis, was powered by a vertical ‘V’ 2-cylinder Daimler design engine manufactured under licence by P & L, placed in front of a friction clutch, a sliding 3 speed gearbox and transmission (by chain) to the rear wheels, thus setting the design pattern for most motor cars until recent times. The gearbox can be seen beneath the vehicle and is unenclosed allowing easy access for maintenance and lubrication (and for road dirt & dust too!). Ignition was by two (platinum) hot tubes heated by petrol fed ‘Bunsen’ type burners housed in a brass cabinet accessed (and seen) through doors in the front of the engine compartment; these were lit before starting the engine.

     The model may appear to be larger than 1/24 scale, due to our being accustomed to modern compact car dimensions, but the top of the seat backrest was some six feet (nearly 2 metres) above ground level. To realise it’s true size visualise the vehicle as a horse drawn carriage; ignoring the engine compartment at the front, you have a complete carriage with dashboard, originally intended to protect the occupants from dirt thrown up from the hooves of the ‘dashing’ horses, unequal size front and rear wheels and simple hand lever operated leather faced wood block brakes operating on the rims of the rear wheels only. The inefficiency of these was obviously of concern as this vehicle is equipped with another ‘carriage’ device known as a ‘sprag’ hung underneath at the rear and operated by a chain. In theory, if the vehicle ran away backwards down hill the chain was released and the ‘sprag would drop and dig into the roadway surface and stop the vehicle…. in practice, however most vehicles ‘pole vaulted’ over the ‘sprag’ and continued down hill with increasing speed.

      In 1895 Emille Levassor drove a similar car single-handed for 48¾ hours to win the 732 mile Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race at an average speed of 15 m.p.h. His co-driver for the return leg overslept, so Levassor opted to drive both legs to save time!

Scratchbuilt                                            1/24th scale model.

model                                                               Built by Rod. 

       The Model is of a Panhard et Levassor rolling chassis from published drawings. The body is from the same drawing plus photo reference of typical styles as produced by coach builders of the time. Beneath the vehicle can be seen the transmission with from front to rear, clutch, gear selector,  speed sliding gears and bevel gears to the chain drive. The model is totally scratchbuilt to a scale of 1/24, and no kit parts or parts moulded from a kit have been used in the construction.