Team Panhard : January 2019
After a break of two years the end of 2018 saw the one hundred and nineteen years old Panhard et Levassor once again delivering Father Christmas (in his original Victorian green) to the Gressenhall Children's Christmas Party.
Sadly the second Father Christmas day run was cancelled because of heavy rain but at least the day before had seen the little Charles Rolls car back in service for the museum home it belongs to.
The Panhard in the Motor House
This was a good finale to the completion of the engine overhaul where we had fitted new connecting rods and big end bearings. Most surprisingly the removal and refitting of the pistons with the previous rings has restored compression and given the Panhard much improved power. Quite how is a mystery, but some of it may possibly be attributed to Team Panhard's chief engineer Andrew Curtis' resetting of the exhaust valve gaps. Of course we have no handbooks to give us the original tolerances and as with everything else with this intricate machine we do rely upon the combined expertise of the team engineers who devote so much time and care to the vehicle and whose work has to be mostly based on their individual experience and skills.
The increase in power is a good thing because it gives some understanding of just how this car, when owned by Colonel Mark Mayhew over one hundred years ago in 1900, completed the 1,000 mile trial around Britain. As part of that trial this Panhard achieved a speed of 29.6 mph in a one mile measured test at Welbeck Park in Nottinghamshire. The Panhard's eight horse power performance was equalled in that mile by an eight horse power Napier and both were second to Charles Rolls twelve horse power Panhard which achieved 37.6 mph so it was Panhard all the way in first and second place. Of course we have no idea of just how accurate that original rating of eight horse power is or even how it was arrived at but given the primitive method of inlet valve operation by manifold depression (engine suction) and probable hot tube ignition nearly thirty miles an hour was a very good figure.
While the renewed power output seems good we have the mystery of the very heavy fuel consumption of this Panhard. Just thirty years later by the late nineteen thirties and forties engines in cars such as the Morris Minor and overhead camshaft Singer Nine with capacities of just about 1,000cc were giving around forty five miles to the gallon but this Panhard gives a very miserable and expensive eleven miles per gallon.
The Panhard carburettor was one of the first following the demise of surface and wick vaporisers of various kinds and is very primitive when compared with later developments such as the Krebs carburettor which was designed just a short while after the Gressenhall car was built, but even so eleven miles per gallon does seem incredibly heavy, and the Team engineers will be investigating that in the coming year.
It is difficult when viewing this amazing little machine, confined to its dark and tiny Gressenhall motor house, to realise just what a historic vehicle it is. From its unknown ownership before its purchase by the right honourable Charles Rolls in 1899 and its outstanding achievement in the One Thousand Mile trial with Mark Mayhew in 1900 it had a very varied history until it was purchased by Hubert Egerton in 1921 and given by him to the Norfolk Museum Service museum in 1936. Egerton had recognised the by then worn Panhard as that owned by Charles Rolls all those years ago, which is why he took it on so even then its preservation must have been of some importance.
To be fair this very special Panhard is now recognised internationally as a unique machine of great historic significance and it is the number of enquiries received from motoring enthusiasts throughout Britain and across the world that tells the team members just how much interest there is in this famous little car. This is the sole remaining car known to have belonged to and been driven by Charles Rolls, who was partner in founding Rolls Royce, and who achieved so much in the then new world of motoring and aeronautics. It is a remarkable privilege for it to be situated and preserved here at Gressenhall and for it to be available for public viewing here in the heart of Norfolk.
The Panhard's driver's position, with gear selector and handbrake on the left
Phil Waltham, Team Panhard