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Panhard is a French motor vehicle manufacturer, who now specializes in light tactical and military vehicles. It was formed by the acquisition of Panhard by Auverland in 2005. Panhard had been under PSA ownership for 40 years. The combined company now uses the Panhard name.
Panhard was originally Panhard et Levassor and was established as a car manufacturing concern in about 1890 by René Panhard and Emile Levassor. Benz and Daimler, both of Germany, produced pilot models before this time, and Benz was in production by about 1888 with his three-wheeler. Emile Roger of Paris obtained a license to produce this car, and ended up producing more than Benz, due to the ready acceptance of automobiles by the French. Daimler began producing cars in small series circa 1890/91.
Daimler's Stahlradwagen prototypes of 1889 inspired Levassor to manufacture cars. He obtained a licence to produce Daimler's engine from a friend who already had this licence: a Belgain called Sarazin. Upon Sarazin's death in 1887, Sarazin's widow married Levassor, and the deal was cemented. Daimler and Levassor became fast friends, and shared improvements with one another.
These first vehicles set many modern standards, but each was a one-off design. They used a clutch pedal to operate a chain-driven gearbox. The vehicle also featured a front-mounted radiator. A 1895 Panhard is credited with the first modern transmission.
The company's Systeme Panhard consisted of four wheels, a front-mounted engine with rear wheel drive, and a sliding-gear transmission. This was to become the standard layout for automobiles for most of the next century.
Panhard shared their Daimler engine license with Armand Peugeot, who formed his own company, Peugeot, in 1891. It would not be incorrect to say that Benz, Daimler, Panhard et Levassor, and Peugeot were the four concerns responsible for initiating series production of cars. It was a wonderful example of Franco-German cooperation.
Arthur Krebs succeeded to Levassor as Panhard-Levassor's General Manager from 1897 to 1916. He turned the Panhard-Levassor Company into one of the largest and profitable manufacturer of automobiles before WWI.
Panhards won numerous races from 1895 to 1903. Panhard developed the Panhard rod, which became used in many other types of automobiles as well.
After World War II the company produced light cars such as the Dyna X, Dyna Z, PL 17, 24 CT and 24 BT. The company managed to get around a steel-saving government regulation forbidding new car models by making the bodies and several other components out of aluminum, which of course helped the performance. The Dyna X and the Dyna Z 1 had an aluminum body. The later Dyna Z and the PL 17 bodies were made in steel. The bodies had smooth rounded forms which made the cars stand out in any post-war parking lot. The 24 CT was a beautiful 2+2 seater; the 24 BT with a longer wheelbase had enough space for four persons. The Panhard based Deutsch Bonnets dominated the "Index of Performance" class at Le Mans and other small-engine racing classes.
In 2004, Panhard lost a competition to another manufacturer of military vehicles, Auverland, for the choice of the future PVP of the French Army. This allowed Auverland to purchase Panhard in 2005, which was at that time a subsidiary of PSA Peugeot Citroën. However, the fame of the Panhard being greater, it was decided that the company would take the name Panhard and that the PVP designed by Auverland would bear a Panhard badge.