By on November 18, 2019

Rare Rides introduced the Panhard brand to the series a while back, showcasing the little 24. The miniature coupe would end up as the last passenger car offering from the brand before it was stomped out by its parent, Citroën.

Today we’ll take a look at an even smaller Panhard from 1963. It’s a rare PL 17 convertible, in even rarer Tigre guise.

The PL 17 was the first Panhard model developed with guidance from Citroën. After the French giant got involved with the smaller manufacturer in 1955, all its models continued unchanged until the PL was introduced in 1959. PL was an all-new line for Panhard, and the direct successor to its Dyna Z model. Panhard started its Dyna line of cars with the Dyna X in 1945, and continued it through the Dyna Junior in 1951, and finally the Dyna Z that went on offer in 1953.

The new PL 17 was in fact a rework of the Dyna Z. While the PL was much more streamlined for a proper early Sixties look, it maintained the same 101.2-inch wheelbase. Modernization carried extra weight with it, and all versions of the PL weighed at least 200 pounds more than the equivalent Dyna Z. The extra heft was down to cheaper steel panels that replaced the aluminum ones of prior Panhards.

Initially offered only as a sedan in 1959, a convertible version joined the ranks in 1961, followed up by a five-door wagon in 1963.  In the earlier days of production, the PL sourced power from a carryover Dyna Z engine: an air-cooled 848-cc boxer two-cylinder offering 42 horsepower. The transmission sat at the rear; exhaust was at the front. 1960 saw the arrival of more power via an 851-cc version of the same engine. That meant a jump to 50 horsepower, or 60 for more powerful “Tigre” sports versions. A single transmission was available — a four-speed on the tree. Lightweight 180-inch cars could reach 81 miles per hour in standard guise, or 90 as Tigres.

All the while, Citroën had its hand on Panhard’s pricing and model offerings. The company ensured that pricing was not competitive with Citroën cars, and thus Panhard was not a threat to other French marques, either. Though more refined due to its engineering, Panhards were less powerful and more expensive than other offerings. It wasn’t all bad news though, as Panhard took the PL 17 out to do some rallying. With the PL, the marque placed first, second, and third in the 1961 Monte Carlo Rally.

The 17 continued with its small sales figures through 1965. At that point, it was replaced by the 24 as Panhard suffocated under the wet blanket of Citroën ownership. Today’s restored Rare Ride went to auction recently in Lyon, France, and was expected to bid between $65,000 and $88,000.

[Images: seller]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

10 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Panhard PL 17 Tigre Cabriolet From 1963...”

  • avatar

    A beauty. Sad to read about Citroen’s stifling of the company. They also limited the engines they could use so they wouldn’t have the power(?) of the DS models.

  • avatar

    I’d say this article got “Mach-E’d”.

  • avatar

    Steel was rationed in France after WW2, and the government allocated its use by rationing it out to carmakers to force them to build certain size cars. Trying to minimize duplication was supposedly the rationale. The steel industry had to be built back up as a national priority.

    Yup, recovering from having the north half of the country occupied by Germany for five years was a bitch! Then there was the bombing of Renault and Citroen factories for making stuff for Germany by the Brits that had all to be rebuilt, especially Renault because they made trucks, which were the top priority for redeveloping the economy.

    Post war, Renault was designated to build mostly small cars, the 4CV that became the Dauphine was prominent; Citroen did medium-size along with dispensation for the 2CV; Peugeot did real medium-sized cars only. All the prewar marques making huge cars like Delahaye etc. had to scramble for a roll of sheet tin. And those companies tended to fade away, like Talbot. Ford France/Simca somehow flew under the radar of shortages. Let’s face it, the country was ruined and some hard decisions had to be made to get it back on track industrially. I grew up in England before my family emigrated to Canada in 1959, and life was no bowl of cherries in the UK either, which is why we left when my father as a doctor made less than a Morris assembly line worker, with even conservative governments active in making companies locate where they wanted them to bolster local social conditions well into the 1960s. We sit around in North America tut-tutting “socialism” blah de blah, but we haven’t had modern war destruction on our cities, so know damn all about the imperatives countries faced following WW2. Doesn’t stop uninformed opinionation of course. I well remember bomb sites all over Portsmouth where I grew up as a kid. We played in them. Trashed shells of buildings just standing there 10 years after war’s end. People over here haven’t got the faintest idea of what it was like. I had a ration book for food until 1954, by which time I was seven. Yup, you couldn’t just buy any kind or amount of food you wanted till then – it was rationed. The country was bust. Australia unloaded ancient frozen mutton on the UK for years on the cheap, which is why the taste of a lamb chop puts me off to this day.

    In France Panhard did not take kindly to being left short of being adequately supplied with sheet steel when Simca seemed to get a pass and bigger companies got favored. Panhard seemed to sort of fall through the cracks being a smaller outfit. They wanted to build a nominal six-seater car, medium-sized and to heck with dictates. That’s why the original Dyna Z was built with aluminum panels; the material was available but expensive.

    If you read up on the changeover to steel sheetmetal by Panhard, it appears to have all completely occurred by 1957 as supplies became much easier to obtain. I read somewhere that the CEO wanted to keep the aluminum for its light weight, but steel was so cheap by comparison by then, they simply had to change for the economics. Panhard were hardly coining it in the first place.

    The engine in these Panhards is a little gem. It even had hydraulic lifters, which the rest of Europe took a good two or three decades to discover, despite the US example. It had more power out of 850cc than all the agricultural Austin, Morris, Standard and Hillman one liter four cylinder cars of the ’50s. The Ford 105E (retroactively called the Kent engine years later) 997cc engine of 1960, a brand new design, had 39 bhp. The Panhard with 42, or 50 or 60 bhp in the more expensive variants from just 850cc, made all those mass-produced engines seem kinda cheaply designed. The lightweight but very clever body design, even after the swap-over to steel bodied-cars, was still only in the range of 1850 lbs curb weight, despite a length of 180 inches and width of 65. the engine gave it contemporary performance for a European car of the time. The 1192 cc VW engine made 36 hp on a good day, for goodness sake well into the 1960s.

    Yeah, I’ve followed these cars for decades as an example of how to use really smart design to make non-flimsy but lightweight cars. Even spent time on French forums where people rebuild ’em from carcasses to what looks like brand new. That’s where you learn about the chassis, suspension and oily bits in “real life” as it were. Following the takeover, Citroen drove Panhard to destruction because its cars competed with the Dyna Z and then PL17. And we can’t have that, now can we? Too bad.

    This example looks nice, I must say.

    Here’s a scan of a 1959 British road test of the straight Dyna, when a road test was a FULL road test, no messing around:

    Remember, there was high import duty on these cars from France to Britain, which is why the comments about value for money have to be taken in context, and also why Citroen opened a British factory in Slough.

    When the Dyna became the PL17, they rehung the front doors to normal instead of suicide-type. Here’s a road test for a 1962 PL!7 Tigre:

    The back seat could be removed and together with the huge trunk, these things could haul gear.

    Finally the 1964 Panhard 24 CTR

    These road tests are funny to read in places, because the Brits loved to taunt the French, and the styling was reckoned to be the ” ‘Bulfrog from the Pontine Marshes’, a phrase coined by Churchill to describe Mussolini “. Well the War had only been over for 17 years, like looking back at 2002 today.

    Yeah, it was a weird car, but darn it all, it’s interesting to me as an engineer! A Miata is a grossly overweight pig of a car by comparison, weighing a good 400 lbs more than these 15 foot long sedans.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the story, and the link to the review. Those older reviews were so thorough. The writers really seemed to try to experience the car and convey it to the reader, and their writing really seemed to have a voice. It’s rare to read a modern review that’s even half as good.

      That’s a very good point about the real practical differences between living in a bombed country and a non-bombed one. As an interesting tangent, I received a haircut from a British immigrant a few months back. She was probably in her early 50s and had been here a while, but she still had a notable accent. It reminded me of how rare that experience is now … we don’t seem to meet a lot of recent immigrants from the UK or Europe. A lot has changed in 65 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Modern cars have to meet modern crash test standards so they have to be built heavier. If you submit an 1950s car to a modern crash test (or a real crash) it’s a horror show.

      The 851cc two cylinder air cooled boxer would have been a great motorcycle engine but it was too small for a car. For the day, they got a lot of power out of it (if you call 50 hp a lot) but it was really inadequate for a sedan.

      Panhard used aluminum sheet after the war because there was a surplus available from the aircraft industry. They would also buy “offcuts” – basically the leftover trimmings. They could do stuff like this because they were not selling these by the millions.

    • 0 avatar

      @ conundrum

      Your post is why, despite all the changes in ownership and management, and the departure of many of my favo(u)rite authors, I still like to drop by TTAC every once in.a while.

  • avatar

    It would be interesting to know what sort tweaks they made to the 851cc motor over the 848cc because most certainly the extra 3cc could not possibly account for 8 or 18 more horsepower.

  • avatar

    A couple thoughts. That car is kinda cute. In an era of angry Pokemon, this is especially refreshing. Is 45hp good for a 2 cylinder engine of the time period? How did it compare to small 4 cylinders? Also, that front end vaguely reminds me of The Muppets Mana Mana video, the big pink puppets.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • redapple: Hey What ever happened to Jack? He vanished from R&T a while back.
  • redapple: Hey What ever happened to Jack? He vanished from R&T a while back.
  • Lou_BC: @FreedMike – my ’68 Galaxie desite tall gearing made short work of the T- top T A’s of the...
  • Arthur Dailey: Based on @Slavutas’ (using the plural on purpose) historical comments/postings his idea of...
  • Lou_BC: Escalade “V” Is that “V” like ‘v’ictor or ‘V’ as in Roman...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber