Deco Frenchman: 1939 Panhard Et Levassor X81

Before the rise of the Italian Coach builders, the French had interesting style where everything in the French culture was art. Even the French automobiles came to be rolling art including this Panhard Dynamic X81. Production began in 1936 running to 1940 where even a few 6 window variants were built for the WWII efforts. Through the 4 years of production, it is thought that only 2,742 cars were built. With many unique style features, and a rather solid start to a restoration, the seller of this Panhard has described this car as an “easy restoration” although as we all know, there is no such thing. Currently this Parisian Deco delight is offered for 22,750.00 British Pounds Sterling, or the seller would consider trade for luxury watches. Take a look at this rare and unique machine here on ebay out of Brentwood, United Kingdom. Thanks to Dik S for the interesting and stylish submission!

Considering this car is 79 years old, the interior isn’t too shabby. Appearing mostly complete minus the passenger side window crank, this interior can certainly be worked with. The steering wheels looks to have some damage on the horn button area, but the rim and spokes are quite nice. Long and curvy, the shift lever almost looks like something you would see the “Cat in the Hat” using to shift gears. One very interesting aspect of the interior is part of the body design. This car does not have a typical “A” pillar, but instead has an incredibly unique “A” pillar window on either side of the windscreen really offering a panoramic view.

Those additional windows are subtle but are a fascinating view once you notice that they are nestled in on both sides of the windscreen. Also the triple grill treatment is a neat and satisfying feature of this car. The radiator grill has style and an obvious functionality, but so do the grills over the headlights. Not only do the headlight grills offer a pleasant and unique style, but they also protect the glass headlights from debris. There are no photos of the engine, but it is described as complete and that it can be turned over.

The side profile of this unique Frenchman is interesting to say the least. The fender skirts are generous, but still reveal much of the wheels. The extra “A” pillar window is equally as fascinating from the side profile as it is from the head on perspective. The suicide doors are appropriate, and welcomed on such a stylish ride. Focusing more on the body work, it would seem that this is a very straight machine. Some body work has been performed at some point in time, and it would appear that this Panhard has been shot with primer. Looking through the few colors of primer and high build primer, it would seem that this car was originally black in color. Most certainly not a basket case, this Panhard is a grand chance to restore an unusual and very stylish French made automobile. Would you take that chance?


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  1. Madmatt

    This is sooo cool.I never have liked many
    vehicles from the French,but this is so different than
    anything I’ve ever seen! Its also left hand drive,which seems strange?
    What a beauty this will be when done.Really cool,
    thanks for sharing this with us Barn Finds…,you guys are the best!

    • Whippeteer

      Although it is in England, French cars are left hand drive unless altered.

      • Ian

        …also…..pre war…many more expemsive cars were RHD ie Hotchkiss as seemed a bit upmarket. This is an amzing car though-hope it gets a good resto

      • Brakeservo

        All the classic prewar French cars such as Bugatti, Delahaye, Talbot-Lago were RHD exclusively.

      • Beatnik Bedouin

        Ian’s right about pre-war upmarket European cars being RHD. That was to allow the chauffeur to get out of the vehicle on the same side as the passenger door.

    • steve

      Yeah, it is cool but I still can’t get over the prices some of these people ask for these vehicles. You would have to have every part for this car fabricated by someone……

      • Doc

        It’s an incredibly rare, art deco coachbuilt car. I don’t particularly care of the looks of it, but the asking price is quite reasonable for a car that is likely to undergo a high grade restoration and end up at a concours d’elegance.

  2. Chuck Cobb

    5.7 Hemi, champagne paint, black ultra leather interior. Ugly as all get out, but really cool too. Currency converter says price comes to $30,006.07.

    • A.J.

      I assume you are joking?

    • Pa Tina

      Magic Eight Ball says “Mon deiu”!!!!!

  3. RoKo

    What a beauty! I hope it gets the restoration it deserves.
    Not some restomod or rat rod outcome please, this is too good a car for that type of treatment.

  4. Whippeteer

    Although it is in England, French cars are left hand drive unless altered. In 1937 they had a center driver’s position.

    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      I’m guessing that center driver position didn’t last too long, this one doesn’t have it.

      This one is rare, stylish and unusual, but more importantly complete. Not sure where the bumpers went.

      This is different in a good way!

      Like 1
  5. e55
  6. exartist

    Wow, even the shifter is elegant…

    Like 1
  7. edh

    WOW! This is a work of art.

    Like 1
  8. Rodney

    Perfect for your next “Cars and Croissants” get together.

    • Pa Tina

      “Voitures et Cafe au lait!”

  9. Classic Steel

    Bloody hell this is neat!

    I almost choked on me biscuit and tea while seeing this smashing marvelous time relic !

  10. Rube Goldberg Member

    I’m sorry, if this doesn’t give you a chuckle 1st thing, nothing will.( except maybe a rusty hulk for $20g’s) The styling is so unconventional for most Americans taste, it’s difficult to understand how they came up with this. French make outstanding cars, and I’m sure this is a wonderful driving car, I personally just can’t get past the styling. Do the French look at a Studebaker Hawk (what I consider the most beautiful car created) and laugh at us?

    • Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

      The French laugh at everything not made in France!

    • Nathan Avots-Smith Member

      Of course you know that the Hawk was designed under the supervision of a Frenchman (Raymond Loewy)!

  11. Pete

    I know why I like this car, it is shaped like the body of a woman in most of the lines. The style is certainly unique.

  12. 86 Vette Convertible

    Now that’s something different. I’d love to see something like that fixed up and back on the roads. Has that Errol Flynn look to it, kind of Art Deco to me.

  13. Joe Haska

    Triple WOW! This car is un-believable, I would love to restore it, and appears it could be an easy restoration, even though we all know there is no such thing.
    Considering the year 1939, and world history, it seems amazing to me that this car made it this far. It can’t be me, for all the obvious reasons, but I hope someone makes the effort to restore this car, and do it justice. It is just to historical to automotive design, and world history of an era, when you wouldn’t expect something like this to exist!

  14. curt

    Please no joking about making this a rat rod someone might take you serious..this car is to beautiful to even think of ruining..quick someone call Jay Leno hes got the cash to do it up right.

    • Mike

      I think Jay already has one. You can sometimes see it in the background in his videos.

  15. Chuck

    Why would someone take the window crank ?

  16. Rube Goldberg Member

    To put things in perspective, check this out. Sure changes my opinion.

    • mikeH

      Is that not one of the most beautiful 4dr cars you have ever seen??

    • Beaver

      Rube Goldberg this is a great link, I just looked at the currency exchange and the price in USD as of today would be $30295.00 If I could get it to Utah for under $1500.00 I would think real hard But no such luck.HA! HA! After checking every place I could I come up with a #1 car being in the $250,000 class I could be wrong I have been before But me thinks this could be a real money maker for the right person. Rube Goldberg again thank you for the link!

      • A.J.

        They have very rarely ever been sold publicly so a full boat restored Pebble Beach worthy car is hard to price. But I’m confident in saying that it would not be 250k for this car (sedan). There are different engine and chassis sizes. I think the coupe with the biggest engine and LHD or Center steering might bring 250k.

  17. Joe Haska

    Rube Goldberg, thanks for the picture, now I know I love this car, I just wish I could do the restoration!

  18. Bobsmyuncle

    Funny that it has glass A pillars at a point in history that A pillars were two fingers width. We need those NOW.

    • mikeH

      Modern A pillars are ridiculous. They create a huge blind spot that can be difficult to see around. I understand this is due to federal rollover regulations. The manufacturers had to beef up all the pillars so the top won’t crush. I contend that the deaths caused by the blind spot are more than those saved by making the roof crushproof.

      Like 1
      • Bobsmyuncle

        I ABSOLUTELY agree!

  19. Andrew not amember


    • phil

      yes you are

  20. Milt

    Not swoopy enough. Pass…

  21. Maestro1 Member

    Someone with assets and patience should save this car. It’s a great part of the History of the Automobile.

  22. Bromehead

    These had a valveless engine, 6 cylinder built under the american Knight license. The piston skirts would move up and down I think.
    There was a beautiful 2 door version as well.

    • Brakeservo

      A knight engine had sleeve valves. A two stroke has ports in the cylinder walls to expose the ports. Two different animals.

      Like 1
  23. Mark

    Looks like someone began to patch up the bullet holes. Is there a story behind this car?

  24. Wiley Robinson

    Now I know where the A pillar windows on the Fiat 500L were lifted from

  25. peter

    The windscreen itself appears to be flat. Possibly windscreens could not be made curved at the time. However, the small corner pieces could be bent in a small oven as they look to only be curved in one plane. Probably put on a curved former and heated in an oven which means it could probably be done again if you were looking for a spare.

    Remember the French were great glass makers. Possibly the curved ends were made by Lalique the greatest glass maker of the all! If they were, they could be worth more than the car!!

    Also, I find it very unusual for a car maker at the time to use X in a model designation. They must have been advanced thinkers as you would expect it only in the 90’s up to now.

    • Tony

      Those small windows on either side of the windscreen could easily be made in a slump mold. I used to make those for a company that made custom luminaires for hotels and such. They would place the glass on the mold and heat it up, the glass softens and conforms to the mold.

      Like 1
    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Peter, glass technology of the time limited the amount of curvature possible. It wasn’t until after WWII that it was possible to manufacture compound curve automotive glass.

      Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey

      Single plane curved glass has been around for many years. What had the auto manufacturers throwing fits was trying to create 3-d curved glass, and still keep the windshield laminated AS-1 safety glass. Europeans had no requirement at that time for safety glass, these corners are surely curved single layer glass.

      Years ago I had a client ask me for a replacement curved glass for above the windshield of his pre-war Horch. Knowing it was a simple curved plate glass piece, I called a glass company that specialized in various standard-radius curves for glass, and had them cut it to fit the specs we provided. Actually, I ordered 4 pieces, 2 for each side, because the cost for each additional piece was only about 25% of the cost for the first one. That way, if they had to grind/trim it to fit, they had extras to experiment with!

      Like 1
  26. Lance

    If Poirot could drive , this is what he would have. Correction… this is what Hasting would have to drive Poirot around in.

    • Bobsmyuncle

      But he is NOT French :)

  27. glen

    The way it is, it looks like a parade car, full of clowns!

  28. Steve

    I’ve always found Panhard vehicles interesting, not only for their mechanics, but style. This one would be a very rare sighting in the U.S. – don’t know about Europe. No doubt most pre-war cars were a casualty of the war. I hope this one is rescued. It would a lot of dryer sheets stuffed throughout the interior to get me inside with all that wool and cotton!

  29. stillrunners LAWRENCE Member


  30. mikeH

    These art deco French cars from the late 30s are high dollar cars. Restored, this one will be low to mid six figures. There were few made and fewer survived the war. The Houston Art Museum had an exhibit of art deco cars “Sculpted in Steel” depicting the art deco car as a form of art—which it truly is.

  31. jesus bortoni


    • phil

      vive la difference

  32. Sid Member

    Killer grille
    Spectacular headlights
    Love the A pillar windows
    Classic French body stylingd
    (Looks like A Chrysler Airflow put under a heat lamp)
    Boring interior
    Hard to look at unrestored
    One look at the photo linked by Rube Goldberg
    I never paid much attention to prewar French designs until I happened to attend the Arizona Baltimore Concours in Phoenix a few years ago.
    The featured marque was French cars.
    I have been hooked ever since.
    If you have only seen these old French cars in photos don’t miss an opportunity to see one in 3D

    Like 1
  33. Tim Deal

    SO COOL would neat to do black paint and a MOD 24,s and some rubberbanz

  34. Bill McCoskey

    Back in the late 1980s when I was vending at the Beaulieu AutoJumble in the south of England, I heard about a Panhard X-81 sedan sitting in a “Banfield Battery Garage” [a type of kit garage that was assembled in rows, typically for rentals in alleyways]. Because of the chances of there being TWO X-81 sedans in England is almost zero, I suspect it might be this car, every time I tried to find out more info, all the locals simply stopped talking.

  35. Rodney

    Now if you can just find Edith Piaf’s owners card in the “boîte a gants”….

  36. Andy

    These and Delahayes of the same period probably took the art of the automobile to its upper limit. I bet the Delahayes were faster, though.

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