Today, we meet with John who is at the head of the Panhard Club USA called : Les Amis de Panhard & Deutsch-Bonnet USA or Friends of Panhard & Deutsch-Bonnet USA.
To celebrate the meeting between French Cars In America and Les Amis de Panhard & Deutsch-Bonnet USA, we created a specific section in the forum. Feel free to visit Panhard and Deutsch-Bonnet enthusiasts !
How did you hear about the club ? A couple of years ago, André Garnier, the president of the "Friends of Panhard and Deutsch-Bonnet USA – Les Amis de Panhard et DB USA", told me he started the club in the early 1950s with a couple of other guys in upstate New York. He was able to contact owners and lovers of the uniquely French marque, Panhard & Levassor, who either brought cars in from overseas or from the various Panhard and DB concessionaires all over the USA. André handed me one of his 1950s club rosters printed on mimeograph paper and I counted about 80 members.
Panhard ? Levassor ? Panhard-Levassor started making cars in 1892. Right up to the beginning of WWII, they made big fancy cars in limited numbers. After the war when all raw materials were rationed in Europe with the Pons Plan, P&L was late coming to the party and was almost not allowed to build cars. But through some clever negotiations they were allowed only if they made small cars, which was nothing like they had ever done before.
They made these post-war cars with two cylinder engines and put them in aluminum bodies. Things started to look good for Panhard but in 1957 they miscalculated the true cost of using aluminum over steel in their cars and they came close to going bankrupt. Citroën came in and saved the financially broken Panhard & Levassor Company. After 10 years, the production stopped due to internal problems.
About DB ? The DB stands for two Frenchmen, Charles Deutsch for the D and René Bonnet for the B. They raced Traction Avant Citroëns in the 1930s that they modified to their own specifications. After the war they started using the Panhard engine, transmission and suspension in their own fiberglass bodies. And they did extremely well. These cars, even today, are very well respected in vintage car races in the US.
There are a few car enthusiasts in the US who have not forgotten the marque either by keeping their father’s car alive or finding one through eBay and restoring it. Whether the car remains in good condition or needs restoration, parts are available in France from a few sources or through French eBay. One source in France provides a ten page parts list, accepts payment thru Paypal and then ships from France to your doorstep. So having one of these highly unique cars is not as bad as it could be.
How big is the club ? We have about fifty members in our club with models from the early 50s right up the end of production. We have a few guys with the DB model, the aluminum bodied Dyna Z, the more modern, if you can use that word, PL17 and even the sporty model 24.
They are fun to show off at car shows. There are some folks who insist they are baby Packards. Maybe someday they might know the real story of these rare little cars.