Panhard Dyna Z/Panhard PL 17 – 1953

Halfway through its development of the Dyna Z sedan, the Panhard Car Company was partially integrated with Citroen. By the time the car had evolved into the Panhard PL17, that merger was evident in the modified styling, and you can see the future of Citroen’s most famous profiles emerging.

Stylistically, the Panhard Dyna Z tells the story of French car design in the 1950s. When it was launched in 1953, it was a comfortable but economic six-seater mid-range saloon, still made of aluminum (which evaded the postwar proscription on steel for cars) on a front and rear steel tube sub frame. With characteristic Elan, Panhard created a smooth, rounded (even slightly bulbous), futuristically sleek profile. The Dyna Z looked good, and novel. By 1956, the bodies were made of steel, and the suspension improved to take the weight — but the car remained light enough to lift a back wheel on tight corners, or slide the passengers across the bench seats if it didn’t.

Reliability was dealt with while Citroen used their influence on the design for the Dyna Z’s successor. The Panhard PL17 of 1959 (the ‘L’ referred to Levassor, Panhard’s original partner) looked like a new model, but was the Dyna Z in all important technical senses. The PL17 flattened the Dyna Z’s curves into streamlined simplicity, but left the fairly extreme curvature of the front of the hood in what we now recognize as a prototype of later Citroens.

Even at the time, it was a radical aesthetic, but over half a century later, the Panhard PL17 still holds its own as a progressive profile. In the light of the revolutionary engineering being developed by Citroen, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the Dyna Z engine was never developed to match, and this was almost Panhard’s last car.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

France

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1953 (until 1959 Dyna Z; 1965 PL17)

ENGINE:

848 cc-851 cc Flat-twin

PERFORMANCE:

Dyna Z – top speed of 81 mph (130 km/h) Dyna Z ‘Tigre’/PL17 – top speed of 90 mph (145 km/h)

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

While the column shift made the Panhard Dyna Z more spacious, other controls were less obvious. Since the brake lights had a dual function as reversing lights, you could start the car without a key – in reverse with the brake on.

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