By on March 25, 2010

There’s not much doubt that this is the rarest find Curbside Classics, at least so far. And there it was, right under my nose, on Main Street. In fact, it’s so rare that I didn’t really recognize it at first. I’d caught a glimpse of it once before, in the back of a typical used car lot in Springfield, Eugene’s blue-collar neighbor. Given its location, size, shape, and paint job, I initially thought it was some kind of amusement park ride car, or a former Shriner-mobile. Or at best, some kind of garage-built sports car special from the fifties. I drove on, but made a mental note, and on my next sojourn to the inspiration for Homer Simpson’s hometown, I decided it was worth a quick stop and closer look. What I found totally blew me away: a Panhard Dyna Junior Roadster.

Probably the first thing we need to do to put this pathetically mutilated cutie in perspective is to take a look at it in its proper glory:

Not exactly a Porsche 356, and that smiley face only goes so far in lightening a rather blunt front end. It’s rather curious, given how different it looks from the rest of the Panhard Dyna sedans of its time.

A companion piece “An Illustrated History Of Panhard” follows this Curbside Classic, which will help put this Dyna Junior into proper historical perspective. The Dyna series was a brilliant and advanced line of ultra-lightweight cars with air-cooled two-cylinder boxer engines driving the front wheels. It first appeared in 1946, and even major parts of the body were built out of aluminum. They quickly established a reputation for surprising performance given its tiny engine and yet roomy bodies.

The Junior Roadster, also called X87 in some references, first appeared in 1952, with a 750 cc twin and 38 hp. Later version were increased to 850 cc and 42 hp. And there are references to a supercharged version with 62 hp. Given its weight of barely 1400 lbs, this resulted in a remarkably sprightly car for the times, with a top speed of seventy five and yielding some 45 mpg. Variations on the Junior with coupe and more aerodynamic bodies were regular fixtures for years at Le Mans.

Beginning with the 1953 race, where a Panhard won the Index of Performance award, DB Panhard coupes went on to a long string of victories and high placed finishes in that category where engine size is factored into the outcome. And the little Roadsters like this one were popular on the sports car circuit where the aerodynamic benefits of the special DB coupe bodies were not as critical.

What’s curious from this one picture of a Junior’s engine compartment that I found is that the little twin has no fan or cooling shroud. Every Dyna engine I’ve ever seen pictures of has a distinctive blower in an aluminum housing at the front, and ducting to carry the air effectively over the cylinder fins. It may be that this particular Junior was modified, possible for racing, where the fan would rob it of power, and there might be enough airflow from the steady higher speed to keep it cool like a motorcycle engine.

The total production of Juniors is placed by one source at 3,937 units. How many came to the US is a good question; it wasn’t likely more than a handful. Panhards were probably imported on a very small scale to the US in the fifties, probably at Citroen dealers. Citroen eventually took over Panhard, and they shared a similar love of air-cooled boxer twins, but in its latter years the Panhard became more upscale than the Citroen twins, and its final model, the 24 from 1963, was a remarkable little coupe with strong Corvair styling influence but still powered by the boxer twin. Despite its handsome body and lively performance, it just became too much of a stretch for the substantial money Panhard was asking, and Panhard was shuttered in 1967.

This Junior has obviously been heavily gutted and turned into a pathetic little billboard. I talked to the owner who said it came with a whole barn full of cars he bought cheap some years ago. And I wasn’t the first to recognize it for what it was: someone actually paid him $700 a few years back, on behalf of a friend in the Midwest. But perhaps the current condition was unknown to the final buyer, or who knows why, but they never came back to pick it up. So this Panhard is a good little earner so far, and I’m sure the $700 richer owner would be more than happy to sell it again. And again.

Restoring this car would be quite the challenge, given that its whole front suspension and running gear is gone. A crude solid axle was welded in place, and a Jeep steering wheel sprouts uselessly out of the speedometer’s former home. The wheel is normally way to the left, allowing cozy three-across seating on a bench. It’s a wreck, no doubt about it. And its ended up in an odd circumstance. But here it is, living out its days, after a fashion. Anyone out there need a project?

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17 Comments on “Curbside Classic: Ultra Rare Panhard Dyna Junior X87 Roadster Found Abused In Used Car Lot...”


  • avatar

    My Sports Car Market Pocket Price Guide goes straight from Osca to Pegaso, with nary a mention of Panhard, so I have no idea what a market-correct price for one of these might be.

    What an odd find. Thanks for sharing.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    It makes me think of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. Just waiting for some crackpot to resurrect it.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Squint hard and you can see the beautiful progenitor of today’s Audi TT….

  • avatar
    ott

    You know, the sixth pic in this story where the car is riding on two wheels around a corner, that car doesn’t seem to be smiling. Not at all. It seems to be saying “Oh Crap!”

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    It looks like a fairly simple car to restore from a mechanical standpoint. But finding parts for a car like this, that could take a long time. Hope someone rescues this little guy none the less.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      Maybe Jay Leno would be interested, that is if he doesn’t already have one. He’s got his own CNC machine due to the number of unusual cars in his “garage”.

  • avatar
    eastcoastcar

    I’d contact the guys at the TV show “Overhaulin” about redoing this car to stock status. An incredible find—thanks for the great photos and commentary.

  • avatar

    Fantastic find! Would make a nice little project – likely too far gone to restore to stock unless you just happened to have a complete one that had suffered extensive body damage. But would be a neat one to toss a scratch built space frame (along the same ideas of a Locost) under and a put in a little Metro three cylinder motor or bike engine in. Probably some of the Metro suspension bits could be adapted too. Still a lot of work of course.

    Oh there is a nice one in Lane Motor Museum (Nashville)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveseven/3444125330/

  • avatar
    georgie

    Paul,
    You really have a sharp eye for the rare and unusual
    I probably wouldn’t have given this car(?) a second glance
    BRAVO!!!

  • avatar

    What a delight of a little car. Looks like something that was ahead of its time.

  • avatar
    James2

    I know now where Chevron got the inspiration for their cartoon cars.

  • avatar
    wmba

    I’ve always been fascinated by post-war Panhards. Despite aberrations like DKW in Germany, the French were always far ahead in the front-wheel drive game until the Mini popularized it for the masses.

    Gregoire comes to mind as the man who really looked at decent articulation for the driveshafts, and the end result of the effort in France was the Citroen 15.

    After the war, all French car companies had to make cheap cars for the market, so Panhard dropped their huge car lines and developed a two-cylinder FWD chassis. The difference between Panhard and Citroen was that Panhard wanted a bit of performance as well.

    Anyway, the Panhard engine was an all-roller bearing unit for the conrod big ends and cranshaft bearings. The pistons had five, yes that’s 5, piston rings, and a hemi head, with very high volumetric efficiency for the time, and 38 horsepower or so from 850 cc.

    I got so interested in Panhard since the TTAC article last week that I started trolling French car sites and found some interesting stuff. (Why oh why is Google Translate so awful? Surely French to English should be easy by now?)

    Here’s a link to a restoration of a X87 Panhard Scarlette. The man went all the way, and it;s just a wonderful read.

    Restoration of Panhard Scarlette

    This is the last page of 22 on the forum. You can easily access earlier pages from there and put them through Google translate.

    Oh, and Paul, no shroud on this air cooled engine.

  • avatar
    raphael

    You’re right, wmba, the Panhard cars got that special cooling system since 1957 only. It’s sad to see that this example has been turned into some sort of advertisement sign and lost many parts.
    Actually, finding a gearbox and engine wouldn’t be too much of a problem. finding the rest would be a longer, tougher process. A number of these cars have been raced in California in the 50′s , I have seen a photo of a red Dyna Junior in action in Santa Barbara. Good luck to the one who will try to save that car, he can count on the help (partly at least) and support of a few enthusiasts in France.

  • avatar
    raphael

    And for those who seek more informations on Panhard, I recommend a website that’s dedicated to them. Of course it’s in french but we will be more than happy to give you any information on our cherrished make in english and to help American owners in their restauration or maintenance task :
    http://forumpanhard.free.fr/forum/

  • avatar
    Helmut Herbst

    The Panhard people did´nt like to change mechanical solutions over the years, so the missing front end parts from later models would easily fit into the Dyna Junior. We have a Junior from 1954 and a 24ct from 1964- they share a lot of parts.
    A Dyna Z up to May 1955 would be an ideal donor, because the engine suspension is the same as in the Junior.
    By the way, Ott, is is an old tradtion of Panhard drivers to lift a rear wheel just for fun- you really can trust these cars!
     


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