French Automotive Technology—From Back in the Day

Despite Jeb Bush’s slight of the French during the CNBC Republican debate, even the most strident Francophiles might be surprised to learn that in the early days of the auto industry, Paris was arguably the City of Headlights.

Despite Jeb Bush’s slight of the French during the CNBC Republican debate, even the most strident Francophiles might be surprised to learn that in the early days of the auto industry, Paris was arguably the City of Headlights. There were a multitude of vehicle manufacturers hard at it, even before the start of the 20th century.

An important one was Panhard et Levassor, which was established in 1887, and which sold its first car in 1890.

P

Not Nelson’s car, but a 1964 Panhard 24CT at AutoRai, Amsterdam (Manarif)

One interesting aspect of that first vehicle is that it was built under license from Daimler. Gottlieb Daimler had worked at a company that was the predecessor of Panhard et Levassor, Perin, Panhard & Cie. The point being that there was a very early connection between one of the automotive legends that’s still recognized today while Panhard, which built its last passenger car in 1967.

The company has a history of innovations, including the fact that it was the first auto manufacturer that placed the engine in the front, not under the driver’s seat, so arguably that 1891 Panhard gave rise to an architecture that is still predominant today.

It used innovative powertrain technology, such as sleeve valves. After World War II, Parhard Dyna models had aluminum bodies.

Ken Nelson, an auto industry veteran, is a collector of various cars, including Panhards. And on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Nelson brings his Panhard 24 BT to the studio.

John McElroy and I talk with Nelson about not only the Panhard technology, but other things that Nelson was involved with during his career, including Chrysler CCV of 1997, a car designed by Bryan Nesbitt that was inspired by the Citroën 2CV, a car that was concepted for what were then developing markets (so that “CCV” was sometimes said to stand for “China Concept Vehicle,” while at others “Composite Concept Vehicle,” as it primarily consisted of large molded panels bolted to a frame—and Nelson points out that Panhard built vehicles with metal bolted onto a frame).

Who knew the French automakers were so innovative?

In addition to which John and I discuss a variety of subjects, ranging from VW’s gift card program for aggrieved diesel owners to Toyota’s $1-billion investment in a new company, Toyota Research Institute, which is dedicated to R&D in artificial intelligence and robotics.

And you can see it all here: