To a lot of people today, the French automaker Panhard may be unknown or rapidly slipping into obscurity. But the story of this once renowned firm, one of the very earliest pioneers of the automobile, is remarkable and more relevant than ever.
Originally called ‘Panhard et Levassor’, it was established as an automobile manufacturing concern by René Panhard and Émile Levassor in 1887. Most of its cars were out of the mainstream and costly to produce, but Panhard’s efforts would eventually be highly memorable, advanced, and would anticipate the cars of today and the future. Anyone heard of a rear-axle stabilizer called a ‘Panhard Rod’ ? Or take the ‘Systeme Panhard’ for example: the front engine – rear wheel drive configuration which is still going strong nowadays !
Even Louis Delagarde, the designer of Panhard’s flat-twin engine, could not have foreseen the scale of competition successes his diminutive power-unit would achieve when he began work at his drawing-board. During the dark days of World War II, he had come up with a small 610cc economy-car engine, possessing all the attributes of a competition-pedigree power-unit. It was not long before race-car engineers noticed and rally drivers were soon winning 750cc classes in their tiny, aluminum-bodied Panhard’s.
It was clear that Panhard’s boxer-type engine and transmission ‘package’ suited numerous small-scale sports-racing car builders in France. It was light, compact, powerful for its size and above all reliable and strong. The 610cc Panhard-engined cars were literally driven flat out for 24 hours at Le Mans.
Thanks to compactness & lightness they achieved some great results in the greatest races in history: Tour de France Auto 1953 (14'e & 21'e), 1000km de Nurburgring 1953 (22s te), Liege-Rome-Liege 1953 (10th), Mille Miglia 1953 (84'' overall, 1'e in the 750cc class with the Panhard DB Frua).
Now, Marreyt Classic Cars proudly presents to you this special 1952 Panhard Dyna X87 or ‘Junior’ as the car is often called. It was originally developed for the American market to take advantage of the large demand for compact European sports cars. The Panhard X87 made its debut at the Paris Motor Show in 1951 and turned out to be an unexpected success as no fewer than 4707 were eventually sold between 1951 & 1956.
The racing career of this particular ‘Dyna X87 130s’ however did not began in the 1950s, but in the 1980s. Frenchman ‘Jean Krenzer’ bought the car and entered it to compete in the VEC Championship. This French championship for historic racing cars consisted of several classes, divided into different classes by age category and engine size. For the Panhard X87, this meant the hotly contested Class F1, for GT cars built between 1946 & 1954 with engine displacement < 2000cc. Here Krenzer and the Panhard had to compete against cars with 4 times as much power. Nevertheless, the talented Frenchman managed to win the title 3 years in a row, being 1980, 1981 and 1982, thanks to the legendary road holding of the Panhard.
Later, the car was taken care of by specialist coachbuilder Phillipe Cornubert du Salginac. To reduce drag, the windshield was removed, and a streamlined headrest was provided behind the driver. Additionally, the hood was fitted with an extra headlight. These modifications were clearly inspired by the ‘Panhard DB Frua’ that won it’s class in the 1953 Mille Miglia. Cornubert was no stranger to the Panhard bodywork as he had provided 6 Panhards with aerodynamic bodywork to compete in Le Mans years before.
Until 2017, Krenzer kept the car maintained and in tiptop condition as a reminder of the championship years. The car then moved to Belgium via a Panhard.
The Dyna now has Belgian registration certificates and comes with loads of documentation including a press book of Jean Krenzer himself which contains photo’s and period newspaper articles of the many races it took part of.
Truly an opportunity for the enthusiasts of French racing heritage and we invite you gladly to take a look at this marvellous little piece of history in our showroom at Aalst near Brussels.
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