The engine is a sophisticated little jewel. The all-alloy unit is a horizontally opposed, four stroke twin, The crankshaft and connecting rods run in ‘everlasting’ roller bearings (originally invented by Albert Einstein), minimizing friction. The cylinder and head are cast in one piece and the cylinders are lined with cast iron whilst the crankcase is a single casting. In standard form the engine produces a total output of 42 horsepower, the Tigre version making 50 horsepower at 5,300 rpm. Tuned for competition the engine can produce 70 bhp and consequently was able to sustain its performance for 24 hours at Le Mans
Panhard was an early pioneer of the science of aerodynamics and the rounded body, styled by Louis Bionier, owes its shape to wind tunnel testing, producing a coefficient of drag of just 0.26 (compared at the time with 0.51 for a Citroen 2CV).
The model’s name was derived from ‘PL’ for ‘Panhard et Levassor’, with the ‘17’ coming from the sum of 5+6+6, being 5CV (fiscal horses, in the French power rating system) plus 6 for the car’s seats, plus 6 for the car’s economy of 6L/100km. Typically French!!
Advertisements at the time claimed that the car delivered 40 miles per gallon at a cruising speed of 60 miles per hour, and was capable of 80 miles per hour with 6 adults and luggage on board. The front wheels are driven through a four speed gearbox with column shift with syncromesh on the upper three gears. Although the engine seems busy at low speeds in traffic, whilst cruising at over 70 mph it is silent and effortless
In his 1961 Autosport article the erstwhile road tester, John Bolster, claimed ‘The Panhard is a car of arresting appearance which has personality, character, and a splendid competition background. If it is not particularly refined at low speeds, it makes up for that by its effortless cruising on faster roads and its comfortable ride over indifferent surface……..it will appeal to some people who want a car that is really different’.
However it was not a car that appealed to the British public and the level of import tax did not make the price attractive in comparison to British cars. Right hand drive standard versions were imported by Citroen Cars from 1962 following their take over of Panhard but it is thought only one right hand drive Tigre made it to these shores.
Hence the reason for this article. I now own that single right hand drive Tigre, sourced in Suffolk from an elderly watch maker who was unable to keep the car in roadworthy condition but sold to me on the premise that it is returned to working order and used as it should be. Supplied with a spare engine and many other useful spares it is now under the watchful care of our senior mechanic, John-Herbert, with the view that I take it (or the semi lightweight E Type) to the Goodwood Revival meeting in 2019.
And now I have two!! This second car is left hand drive and is a sister car to the 1961 Monte Carlo rally winning cars and matches in terms of specification, colour and original tiger upholstery (as shown in the sales brochure). Sourced recently in Lincolnshire as a non runner, we have been working on the engine and have brought it back to life.
My intention with the car is to lightly restore it to show at motoring events such as Goodwood, the Silverstone Classic and locally at Helmingham Hall classic car day.
Some would say that I am becoming a fanatic but in reality I am an enthusiast for these fine French engineering masterpieces. They are fascinating in regard to their mechanical design and their heritage.