Fancy a French or Italian motorcycle at Osenat ?
Photos: Osenat, text: Nick Jonckheere
A trooper on its way in 1929
A Total Panhard Levassor Racer Makeover
Sometimes a photo comes by, which makes you scratch your head at first. Formidable in appearance, where both the length of the bonnet as well as the large chain wheel point at a very powerful car. Several possibilities pop up in your mind, but none lead to a solution. The six-spoke sprocket wheel is a mystery, no car ever seems to have had one. But then the fog is slowly lifting because the building looks in a way familiar. A vague reminiscence of the Panhard factory comes to mind. And yes indeed, it turns out to be the ‘Atelier de réparation’ of this famous make!
The next thought was: what if this was a former racing car? This thought led me to the Panhard racers of 1902 and 1903, which in these years were equipped with six spoke sprocket wheels, more or less similar to the one on the photo. A difference was that these cars had a transverse front spring, but it is questionable if this had lead to better road behavior. So while transforming the car for touring purposes the choice for more conventional springs may have been understandable. Other changes were the more modern flat type of radiator instead of the original tubular radiator, the slightly lengthened bonnet and of course the tonneau body, which appears to possess a rather luxurious interior, judging by the glimpses of what just can be seen.
Still, questions remain, like; which car was the basis for this makeover. Could it have been Jarrott’s car, with which he had won the Circuit des Ardennes? His car has several details which seem to be identical. And who was the coachbuilder? He must have been a renowned one like Rothschild, Kellner or Labourdette when looking at the details of the body. And finally, who had commissioned this car? All these questions are still waiting for answers, which the future hopefully will bring.
Whatever the answers, the result of the makeover is astonishing: a very powerful and luxurious ‘voiture sport de tourisme’ with an engine of at least 70 HP, for which every speed limit must have been a nuisance. Definitely a unique car, of which I’ve never seen pictures before and which must have been one of the fastest touring cars in its days!