1903 PANHARD-LEVASSOR MODEL A 7HP TONNEAU
Registration No. A 6639
Car No. 5815
Engine No. 5815
Pale blue with black upholstery
Engine: two-cylinder monobloc, 90mm bore, 130mm stroke, 1654cc. Automatic inlet, side exhaust valves, trembler coil ignition, Krebs automatic carburettor. Transmission: cone clutch, 3-speed and reverse gearbox with right-hand quadrant change, side-chain final drive. Chassis: wood and flitch plate, 1.8m wheelbase, 1.22m track, semi-elliptic springs front and rear, right-hand drive. Brakes: contracting bands on back wheels from side lever and on transmission from foot pedal. Wooden wheels, tyre size: 870 x 90 beaded-edge. Right hand drive.
The Panhard-Levassor Works records held at the Musee National de l'Automobile in Mulhouse, France, show that this particular car left the factory in the avenue d'Ivry, Paris, on 30 October 1903, as one of two chassis consigned on that day to their English agent: Harvey Du Cros, of 14 Regent Street, London SW. In detail the record reads: 'Chassis de voiture automobile type lger action par un moteur essence de ptrole de 7 chevaux No 5815, Mouvement KA a 3 vitesses (gearbox), Roues egales furneur de 870 x 90 (tyres)', the price being 6,000 French francs. Precisely when Du Cros sold the car to Viscount Enfield is not known, and nor has it been possible to establish which English coachbuilder constructed the tonneau body on the chassis, but the outcome was one of the best cars of the day fitted with bodywork that so enhances its appearance, and the car has survived in its original form.
Detailed inspection shows that this Panhard-Levassor is exactly as described in the works records. There is a manufacturer's plate on the engine, another on the front of the dashboard detailing the model type and car number, the correct Krebs carburettor carries its patent plate (Major Krebs was Panhard-Levassor's inventive works manager) and the drip-feed oiler set on the dashboard for the driver's consideration is similarly endowed.
Sadly, less than perfect storage conditions since the car was taken off the road, probably before the Great War, means that all the iron-based components are rusted, and there is verdigris present on all the non-ferrous items such as the carburettor and lubrication pipework. However, the lower part of the engine is oil covered, as is the gearbox, exactly as one would expect for an incontinent motor car of the period, thus meaning that these components are well preserved. Unfortunately, the sparking plugs were at some stage removed from the cylinder head and so the engine is seized, but there is little doubt that the original long-skirt cast iron pistons are present. Items such as the water pump, the centrifugal governor (part dismantled), the drip-feed oiler plus a plunger-pump lubricator and the trembler coils for the ignition system are on the dashboard, and the Krebs twist-grip engine controls on the steering wheel are in place. Furthermore, the wooden bodywork does not seem to have passed beyond resurrection and the black buttoned leather upholstery provides a perfect pattern for renewal. The mudguards are probably only suitable to copy but the bonnet could well be restorable.
Owing to the car's condition, it is considered that it could not be conserved as an example of a usable but unrestored car. However, as already indicated, all the detail is apparent, including evidence of the body colour (perhaps pale blue) and the pattern of the painting on the mouldings, and the style of the delicate lining on the coachwork and wheels is there to be reproduced.
The 7 hp Panhard-Levassor was one of the best light cars of its day. Quite a number exist in running order and those of us who have had the privilege to drive such examples can only comment favourably on the sprightliness, ease of control and refinement of the model.
Although in Christie's opinion the car is in such condition that it needs full restoration, the originality of this Panhard-Levassor, owned by one family for 96 years, places it in an exclusive category that is most unlikely to re-occur. It is therefore highly commended to the discerning enthusiast.
The Panhard is sold with copies of the original Panhard ledger and a new V5 registration document.