This Site is about the 1899 Panhard et Levassor car that is owned by the Norfolk Museums & Archaeological Service and kept at the 'Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse' Museum of Norfolk Life at Gressenhall, just north of East Dereham in Norfolk, England. This is, we believe, the oldest working car in Norfolk.
The aim of this Site is to tell you about the car and Team Panhard, give you a little background information on the vehicle, how it works, and what events we have attended and shall be attending. Also read the script of the talk given by Phil Waltham to the Norwich Engineering Society in April 2011 which provides a good background to the car, as well as Phil Waltham's description on driving the car.
Items of note
Latest Update (January 2023).
The closing of 2022 saw progress for Team Panhard when the “Friends of Gressenhall” generously contributed a donation to assist with the operation of our team website. Successfully operated by web master Kevin Saggers this is a useful public and volunteer information Site.
To bring you up to date:
After the prolonged COVID restrictions the team was once again free to become involved with the museum car.
We were finally able to push the car outside and start the engine for a run on the 18th May. After that the car was trundled around the grounds to be pushed back because of complete battery failure. All went well after Andrew had changed the battery and we took the vehicle for a fuller drive including a fuel fill at our local garage on the 16th July.
Changing gear still presented difficulties as is recorded in the early history of the Panhard when the title of "clash box" was introduced. (This became generally used as "crash box" to distinguish from the synchromesh gear change introduced to British cars, from America, in the early 1930's).
The photo on the right was taken at the Royal Norfolk Show.
The museum has arranged for the team to work on the Panhard in the conservation lab. in the early New Year when chief engineer Andrew Curtis will examine the mechanics of the gear change. Andrew is also preparing to examine the engine which has developed a slight knock which we simply cannot identify.
This year, we hope to take up more opportunities to exhibit the car and demonstrate it during museum events.
The proposed team work on the car will include a full overhaul involving checking an lubricating all parts of the vehicle including repairing the fuel supply lines from the tank and replacing the battery leads with a new circuit designed for the new battery. We do hope the Panhard will return to normal use after this work is completed.
Phil Waltham, Team Panhard.
Yesterday's run (6th July) the Panhard started well after Andrew had reaffirmed the position of the choke butterfly. After an instant cold start, Andrew was able to set the mixture and the engine ran smoothly with steady power output.
Driving on the road by Andrew, Jos and Clare was safe but all three drivers experienced gear change difficulties when going up from second when the box presented itself as a true "clash" gear change and we can only wait anxiously for the winter overhaul programme so that the box and selector mechanisms may be examined and possibly reset to assist smoother gear changing although Barre Funnell's book suggests gear changing was always a problem. Incidentally I see that the clutch stop, which the team have discussed, is illustrated in Barre Funnell's book of 2002 although there is no mention of when it may have been fitted.
So a good driving session where despite drivers struggling to overcome a vehicular resistance to gear changing all went well and they were able to demonstrate just how safe this century old car is on the road.
Phil Waltham, Team Panhard.
The museum Panhard has stood in store in its Motor House since the onset of the Covid restrictions in March 2020. This storage has gentle heat and is regularly checked by museum staff. The Panhard volunteer team have also visited the car almost monthly. This visit has been used to check and maintain the tyre pressures (60lb front and 80 lb rear) and lubricate the cylinder bores by adding oil through the sparking plug ports while turning the engine and pumping the manual auxiliary bearing pumps fitted to the vehicle. The radiator was drained as a precaution. The car was also moved by hand in the motor house, a few feet at a time to ease the pressure on the tyre walls.
Finally, with some easing of restrictions, in November 2021 members were able to roll the Panhard from the Motor House onto the grass forecourt and start the engine. It would seem a reflection of the care it had received over the two years that the engine began running at the first swing of the handle and after a gentle warm up the members of the team were able to make one or two very gentle runs around the museum. The Panhard was then returned to the motor house for checks and to drain the radiator for further storage until times eased.
The great day came on Wednesday 9th February when the Panhard was pushed to the grass for an engine run and possible road check around the museum. Once again the engine started at first swing and ran very smoothly.
During the store period Jos had taken the 6v battery home and kept it charged on his charger. The Panhard has no starter motor and no generator system so it requires a charged battery to power the trembler coil ignition. This has never let us down but on this occasion it did and the car came to a standstill during its check run and had to be pushed back to the motor house. We quickly found that the battery was exhausted and when Andrew checked it at his home garage he found a dead cell.
The car was returned to the motor house and left with the radiator drained while we looked into the provision of a replacement battery. This will be discussed at a team meeting on the 16th March where Andrew, our Chief Engineer, will give us his diagnosis of the best way forward with this problem. With any luck this will nor be a major difficulty and I shall soon be able to add another article giving our conclusions.
Phil Waltham, Team Panhard.
The little Panhard is currently laid up because of the Covid crisis. We have a concern with the tyres which we keep up to pressure with our workshop compressor.
The engine has not been run since March but Jos does prime oil into the bores and turns the crank when he checks the tyres. My own concern is with the exhaust valves and guides. Added to this those exhaust valves which are held open by the camshaft and may be admitting damp air from the motor house into the cylinder bores concerned. Jos has primed the cylinders with oil when he has visited the car as a protective for them.
The other working parts of the car such as brakes and transmission system continue to stand until we can run the car again.
The team has met twice through Zoom and discussed progress of the current web site and what our future moves may be. Kevin has agreed to keep the Web Site open for a further twelve months and changes will be considered in the coming year.
Phil Waltham, Team Leader
Please note that the full-page pictures (accessed by clicking on the small pictures when a hand appears) might take up to a minute to download if you are not on Broadband (assuming a modem speed of 56kbps)