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All-Aluminum Body: 1954 Panhard Dyna Z

Founded in 1887, Panhard was one of the earliest automobile manufacturers. Though not as well-known as other contemporary French car companies, they produced a variety of advanced passenger cars before being purchased, and then absorbed, by Citroen in 1967. Available here on Craigslist in Corvallis, Oregon, this 1954 Panhard Dyna Z is the final Panhard model to be constructed mostly of aluminum, a move that was prompted by post-WWII steel shortages.

The owner of this Dyna Z says they have owned it for more than ten years and acquired it after it had been sitting for decades. Being a 1954, this example is a first-year model with an all-aluminum body supported by a steel tube frame and sill supports. Beginning in late 1955, the main body section was pressed in steel and by 1958, the only body parts still made of aluminum were the engine cooling shroud and bumpers. Based on the photos, the body of this one appears to be in good condition without any big flaws, with only some dings and corrosion on the front bumper. The hood and front fenders are integrated into one giant panel that opens for engine access, and the front doors are of the suicide-type. It wears a quintessentially French shade of blue which appears to be a repaint, based on some overspray. With its smooth, rounded body, the Dyna Z was also perhaps the most advanced-looking French car of 1954, as during this time contemporary offerings from Peugeot, Renault, and Citroen were either still based on pre-war designs, or had separate fenders. Photos of both the undercarriage and trunk show solid surfaces.

The interior appears complete but in need of a thorough cleaning. The upholstery on the front bench seat is badly torn and the rear has at least one hole in it. A pair of bench seat covers would be sufficient for the time being. The dashboard is a neat 1950s design with all the instrumentation and switchgear arranged in a pod containing a half circle speedometer. Seat belts were also added at some point for at least a little safety for the passengers.

Up front, ahead of the front axle line, sits an air-cooled 851 cc flat twin that makes about 42 horsepower in stock form. The seller mentions that they got it running after its long slumber and even had it up to nearly 70 miles per hour on the highway at one point. Power is delivered to the front wheels through a 4-speed column shifted transmission. Front suspension is by transverse leaf springs and the rear uses torsion bars. The wheel rims bolt directly to the outer edges of the brake drums.

The seller is asking $3500 which also includes a parts car and some spare parts, and this seems like a solid deal for a running example of an unusual old French car. The ad states that quite a few people have expressed interest via email so if this looks like the car for you, be prepared to get in line. What would you do with this old French lightweight?


  1. Avatar photo MattR

    I think you would be hard-pressed to find another running example for this price. That body is in remarkable shape, I wouldn’t do more than replace the restore the upholstery and do whatever it needed mechanically to be safe on the road. You’d be the only one at shows with this I bet.

    Nice write-up Jonathan, how did you find this? ;)

    Like 15
  2. Avatar photo leiniedude Member

    Nice old rig. If it was mine I would find a large inflatable cigar to stick in the grill at car shows.

    Like 12
    • Avatar photo Bluetec320 Member

      Lol, or a fish hook.

      Like 8
  3. Avatar photo Raymond

    Looks like a catfish…

    Like 2
  4. Avatar photo Ken Nelson Member

    The front motor mounts are not correct, and they don’t appear to be rubber, which the real ones are made of. The front mounts are very weird, but they work, and I have found a way to restore them when they delaminate from their steel plates that attach them to the exhaust header and chassis. Real mounts can be had out of France thru various suppliers.

    Another item the new owner should add is – FUSES. These cars never had fuses in the electrics, and a short can burn up the whole wirin_ harness and possibly the car. Put at least two fuses in the system – one between the batt and harness, and another between the jenerator and the voltaje re_uilator. Fuseless electrics can destroy a car.

    If whoever buys this needs the aluminum part that fits in front of the motor fan, I have spares. These early cars used 145 – 400 mm tires, which are only available from classis tire stores, and aren’t cheap. 400 mm is just under 16 inches, so 15s won’t fit, and 16s are too loose. Buy tires from Lon_stone tires in the UK – they’re reasonable and ship to the US in 1 week or less.

    The brakes on these early cars had all steel/iron drums – steel rim, cast iron inner rin_. (my “Jee” key failed on my HP laptop). And an important question is – how are the brakes? This car also probably has lever shocks, which often need to be rebuilt. I don’t know who does that. The new owner should join the US Panhard club, & our Pres resides in Reno. We have quite a few owners across the US. Also, be extremely careful with those front suicide doors. I lost one on my convertible when drivin_ up Hwy 1 from Carmel a couple yrs back, when the safety latch didn’t hold and the door flipped open – a very expensive repair.

    Like 11
    • Avatar photo Derek

      The late-model 2CV fusebox takes 4 fuses, so that’ll give you extras if you want. Easy to get hold of, too.

      Like 3
  5. Avatar photo Beyfon

    My father in law and his dad had a couple of these – I donated some left over spares to a Panhard owner in Sweden but should still have that front badge somewhere.
    I’m told that they drove great, but that the ultra-tiny gearbox was prone to overheating. My father in law came up with a solution where he’d wrap the gearbox in heavy towels and then arranged for the windshield washer to rather spray those towels with water to help with the cooling.

    Like 6
  6. Avatar photo Jcs

    And she’s gone, not surprisingly.

    What an interesting little treasure. Most certainly has the most “cartoonish” face that I haver ever seen on a real car.

    Like 9
  7. Avatar photo Chris Webster

    Styling is a personal choice, but France has built some ugly cars.

    Like 3
  8. Avatar photo Dave

    And people made fun of the grille on the Edsel!
    Ok, gearheads! Quiz time.
    What is a Panhard rod?
    What is Hotchkiss suspension?
    What is Ackermann steering?

    Oh, the things we take for granted…

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo alphasud Member

      All the car companies that gave us the innovations we see today. Citroen, Renault, Panhard, Lancia. The cars we sneered at back in the day. I love me an oddball!

      Like 5
  9. Avatar photo luke arnott

    In the 30’s Panhard made a coupe with the steering wheel in the middle of the dash.

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo Steve Clinton

    It looks like something out of Pixar’s ‘Cars’.

    Like 1
  11. Avatar photo Urquiola

    GR8 Car, good price!, if I were not located in Spain, shipment costs around same as car lot. The issue with an steel chasis and an aluminum body is ‘galvanic corrosion’. What about this unit? Blessings +

    Like 2
  12. Avatar photo chrlsful

    i’m w/al. Orphans included in that group.
    History trails into the present, of interest to me too (tatra’s bodies of da 30s on early vedub, porche and SAAB).
    Lots of play beyond wrenchin (I like the research on models I’ve not restored or modded yet even for the wrenchin).
    Only part of it all I ‘disdain’ is provenance. “It won @ xxx in 19xx !”; “But, but – Joe Blow owned it!” U pay more for it, I’ll skip, thnx~

    Like 1
  13. Avatar photo chrlsful

    show this one nxt to the Studi bullet nose?

    Like 1
  14. Avatar photo Fahrvergnugen Member

    70 miles per hour on the highway? At what grade; 88%?

    Like 1
  15. Avatar photo Gerard Frederick

    Mr. Panhard was a giant among the engineers of his time. His philosophy was built light weight cars powered by small air cooled twins and don´t give a damn about convention. He was an individualist in more ways than one, for example — he NEVER signed a contract in his life. He said if my handshake isn´t sufficient, I don.t want to deal with that person since any contract is only as good as the person´s morals who is agreeing to it. An army buddy of mine while I was stationed in Würzburg Germany with the 3rd. Infantry had a two seater version which was a blast to drive.

    Like 5
  16. Avatar photo Frenchlick Member

    70 mph is nothin for these cars. my 1961 Panhard PL17 cabrio routinely cruises at 80 on 101 and 880 around the SF bay, and I was clocked at 85 and not flat out in my ’58 Dyna Z16 sedan leavin the Ypsilanti Orphan Car show around 18 yrs back, by a Chrysler employee friend up Rte 23 toward Flint. Plus my ’66 Panhard 24BT coupe with its 60 HP version of these 850 cc flat twins is ok at 100. These cars all have rollerbearin cranks – mains & rods, and were desi_ned in ’47 to do 7000 rpm. They revved so fast that the desi_ners had to switch the valvesprin_s to torsionbars to elimnate fati_ue failures of the coil sprin_s, and torsionbars reduced the reciprocatin_ mass a fair bit. In ’54 they added roller lifters, and hydraulically adjusted valves, but NOT in the lifters as that would have added wei_ht. So – they float the rocker arm on a hydraulically pressurized hemispherical stud – how’s that for brilliant thinkin_?

    And as I think someone mentioned – every shotrod with a Panhard rod controllin_ its rear axle owes homa_e to Panhard. But do they know? Probably not!

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo Jcs

      Great accent!

      Like 1
  17. Avatar photo Bakyrdhero Member

    Interesting little car. It looks like the design inspiration for carnival bumper cars.

    Like 0
  18. Avatar photo Tim Williams

    My great aunt living in NY city bought a new green one there in ’54; we live in Anderson, SC; my dad went up there to drive her down here to teach her to drive it. She also had a house down here with a large private garage in a large split up rental home for others and herself when she came down to visit; Later, she got a Caddy and left the ’54 Panard here in that garage for about 12 years; dad got it and it ran fine just needed oil change and a wash job and new battery; still smelled good due to the leather upholstery. It had that 2 cylinder air cooled airplane engine as well. Dad threw a rod it it trying to make it up a steep hill in snow; I nearly lost a finger doing an engine repair job forgetting the crank method was with a pull cable with the knob on the dash. The battery was still connected and upon lowering the engine a bit which was on a hydraulic jack this called the engine to turn over with my finger between the piston and the engine wall as we had a head off. We later fixed it and sold it; the new owner, a cousin in law painted it jet black. He never kept up with it; I miss it cause it was different.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Ken Nelson Member

      Anyone need a Panhard? I’ve got around 16 of them – send me a note if you’re interested!

      Ken Nelson

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Jesse Mortensen Staff

        @Ken – Why don’t you send them in so we can feature them?

        Like 0

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