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. For those of you requiring more information about the history of the car, or other technical data, there is a booklet available entitled “The Story of C.S. Rolls’ 8h.p. 1899 Panhard et Levassor” by Barré Funnell, available by post from Mr. B. Funnell at "Miradouro", Bungay Road, Poringland, Norfolk, NR14 7NB (cost £5.45 incl. p&p) or visitors to the 'Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse'. 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
Current Situation (as at March 2022)
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)