French Oddball: 1959 Panhard Dyna Z12

Panhard of France was a manufacturer of automobiles and light tactical and military vehicles. It was in the car business from 1945 to 1967 and built the Dyna Z series from 1953-59. These were lightweight autos, with bodies made out of aluminum for the first few years. Citroën gained an ownership presence in the company in the mid-1950s which helped Panhard find its way to export markets like the U.S. This 1959 Dyna Z12, short for Dyna Berline Grand Luxe, was the upscale version of the car. This non-running survivor is located in Lancaster, California and available here on Facebook Marketplace for $6,500 OBO.

Panhard perceived itself as a leader, not a follower, so the Dyna Z was not a cookie-cutter car. The initial decision to go with an aluminum body was fueled by the abundance of the metal after World War II. That provided Panhard with a price advantage initially, but one that it could not sustain as supplies diminished. So, by 1958, only the bumpers, fuel tank, engine cooling shroud, and most of the engine and transaxle cases were aluminum with everything switched to steel. The car’s design afforded it a comfortable ride, lots of internal space and good performance, and fuel economy. It ran off an 851cc horizontally-opposed air-cooled twin-cylinder engine that produced 50 hp in U.S. models and used a 4-speed, column-shifted manual transmission. All of which equated to a peppy little car at just 1,797 lbs.

The seller’s Dyna Z looks to be a largely solid and mostly complete automobile, with a few trim pieces missing (like the headlight rings and air filter). There is no evidence of rust or body damage and the original paint is in fair condition, suggesting the car has been kept indoors. We’re told the Panhard has been sitting for nearly 30 years and the owner has decided to sell it because there are other cars in his possession needing his attention.

For its age, the interior looks to be in decent shape, although perhaps not as nice as the body. This looks like a car where most of the buyer’s attention would be on getting it running again. The odometer is said to read just 57,000 and we wonder how hard it would be to get parts more than 60 years after-the-fact. While Panhard built 140,000 of the Dyna Z over a five-year period, they were never plentiful in the U.S.

This car resides in California, but the seller says there is some confusion about the title that will need to be worked out. It has a Washington State title, but the same number also pops up in Florida. The online value guides don’t say much about these cars, but two others found here on Barn Finds not long ago from 1954 and 1959 were in the $6-8,000 asking range.

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Comments

  1. Steve Clinton

    Did the French have to work hard to build the ugliest cars in the world!

    Like 10
    • Al

      No, they originally crafted the wine bottle.

      Testing the wine bottle’s reliability (many, many years) led to their remarkable desire for craftsmanship.

      They forgot how to think outside the bottle.

      Like 23
      • Steve Clinton

        “Hey Mac, that is one butt-ugly car you have.”
        “It’s French. They invented the wine bottle you know.”
        “Oh, well that explains everything…nevermind.”

        Like 4
  2. David Camp

    Looks like a clown shoe.

    Like 13
    • Steve Clinton

      I Laughed Out Loud!

      Like 9
  3. Landerso

    Actually Panhard was one the first automakers in 6th world, so seeing themselves as a leader comes naturally. Here’s a very ihelpful article: https://www.core77.com/posts/53167/A-Brief-History-of-Panhard-the-Weird-and-Wildly-Popular-French-Automaker

    Like 6
  4. Geoff

    Well actually, Panhard started building cars in 1890!! True pioneers

    Like 7
  5. Jerry

    Just a ‘speck’ of trouble with the title. Caveat Emptor!

    Like 6
  6. Christopher A. Junker

    A modified version of the engine found its way into the Deutche-Bonnet DB5, a lightweight fiberglass racer that was very successful in the late ’50s. By switching polarity, the generator became the starter. The DB5 had a 4speed tranny with the shift pattern an “H” laid on its side. Some versions of the ohv engine didn’t have valve springs, but torsion rods. There was a racer on the west coast that fitted overhead cam Norton heads driven by toothed belts that made a very fast and successful FWD car. I found one a DB5 for sale with the shop manual but passed as the french language and engineering were far beyond me.

    Like 6
  7. Rodney - GSM

    The only car I know that it’s front grill design sticks it’s automotive tongue out as it drives down the road. How French!

    Like 1
    • Al

      You have forgotten the Citroen, the steering wheel attachment looks a lot like a tongue hanging out.

      Actually I think it wanted to puke in your lap.

      Only drivers of Citroen’s never got a DUI’s.

      Like 11
    • Beyfon

      According to my father in law who had a couple of Panhard back in the 1960’s these were great cars but their gearboxes were tiny and overstressed. For longer trips he’d wrap the gearbox in wet cloth and then rigged the windshield washer to instead spray water to keep that cloth wet. Otherwise the gearbox would overheat and seize if the car was too heavily loaded.
      I still have an aluminum Panhard script badge from one of those cars that I saved when we cleared out a bunch of parts that were found in the garage attic.

      Like 5
    • MoMini

      Years ago a Panhard roadster used to race at Lime Rock Park. The owner did make a tongue that stuck out of the grill. I never remember him leading any race. I did get to talk with him and he was having a blast racing. I never saw another Panhard rCe

      Like 2
      • Ike Onick

        “I never remember him leading any race”

        Hence the tongue. Everyone ahead of him could enjoy the view.

        Like 2
  8. Spud

    Well, of course they were the inventor of the Panhard Bar…something that many of us have – whether we think of – on our daily drivers. So, respect.

    Like 4
  9. Spud

    Well, of course they were the inventors of the Panhard bar. Something that many of us utilize daily on our daily drivers. So, respect.

    Like 4
    • Al

      Panhard bar?

      The only Panhard bar I have ever been too also served pizza.

      Like 15
  10. jokacz

    I thought it was called a Panhard rod. Useful if you happen to be enamored with live axle vehicles. Like putting lipstick on a pig.

    Like 4
    • Geoff

      Yes, It was super “state of the art” in 1903 when they invented it. Also pretty “state of the art” today on car such as land Rover and Mercedes, not to mention a valuable addition to race cars. If you are driving any full sized truck or SUV, pretty sure your familiar with the modern comfort and control it provides at minimal cost.

      Like 4
    • JMB#7

      There are plenty of road racers that have been very successful with live axle arrangements. Although it has its attributes, IRS is not the answer to everything. Panhard bar, Watts link, and all forms of trailing arms have their place today, and throughout automotive history. Clearly not “lipstick on a pig”.

      Like 3
      • jokacz

        Let me know when Formula 1 goes back to live axles. NASCAR may be the last bastion of the Panhard rod; Conestoga wagon technology. Cheap and dirty, like pushrod engines.

      • JMB#7

        F1 discussed bringing back computer controlled active suspension. It is a shame that this $6k car from the 1950s does not include that. Makes you wonder what they were thinking when they designed it. A Citroën with oléopneumatique suspension would be a better choice.

        Like 2
  11. Blackcat

    Had to laugh that Mr. Junker passed on buying a Panhar-engined DB HBR5 because the shop manual was in French. I passed on buying an HBR5 because he seller would not sell the shop manual with the car! I still wish that I’d just bought the bloody car and had faith that I could figure out the rest!

    Like 1
    • Gerard

      Hey, I can help you guys with French language!

      Like 2
      • Al

        Pardonnez-moi, je ne sais tout simplement pas ce que vous demandez. Pourquoi ai-je besoin d’aide avec le français.

        Like 2
      • JMB#7

        Si je tape un manuel d’entretien Chevy dans Google Tranlate, cela m’apprendra-t-il comment réparer un Panhard? C’est toute l’aide dont j’ai besoin. Sincères amitiés.

        Like 1
  12. Blackcat

    Had to laugh that Mr. Junker passed on buying a Panhard-engined DB HBR5 because the shop manual was in French. I passed on buying an HBR5 because he seller would not sell the shop manual with the car! I still wish that I’d just bought the bloody car and had faith that I could figure out the rest!

    Like 1
    • chrsful

      unfortunate, those R sweet lill cars, albeit no 2 alike~

      Like 1
  13. Howard A Member

    What was the French infatuation with fish? I think it would be fun if it was “Americanized”, parts for 60 year old Panhard got to be scarce. Despite their seemingly odd looks, I think the French built the best cars, we just never saw them. Cool find

    Like 5
  14. Keith Johnson

    Panhard also came up with the “Systeme Panhard” with put the engine in front and rear wheel drive in 1891. Other manufacturers were still putting the engine over the rear wheels.

    Like 2
  15. Ten50boy

    voiture moche bout à bout! REALLY. Plus it’s French……. they never run well…… their cars are probably protesting because they hate the crude American roadways……,

    Like 3
    • JMB#7

      c’est ton opinion, pas un fait

      Like 3
      • Ten50boy

        c’est une évaluation juste, mais néanmoins … une voiture laide…..lol. Guess that beauty is in the eye of the beholder! I just can’t see it….. and I like some odd cars!!!!

        Like 2
      • JMB#7

        tu me fais rire mon ami

        Like 1
      • Ten50boy

        😁

        Like 2
  16. Derek

    Dae it!

    As ever, a good excuse to go to Retromobile and look for bits…

    Like 2
  17. John Walsh

    F1 discussed bringing back computer controlled active suspension. It is a shame that this $6k car from the 1950s does not include that. Makes you wonder what they were thinking when they designed it. A Citroën with oléopneumatique suspension would be a better choice.

    First true active suspension car was the Lotus esprit nd it was computer controlled during development. This was then copied by just abut every car manufacturer in the world. How do I know this. A good friend of mines own’s the prototype and is currently trying to have the original computer rebuilt.

    Like 2
  18. Jwaltb

    Wow, so many flights of fancy. I kinda like it, but not enough to take it on.

    Like 2
  19. Gerard

    AI, JMB#7, Christopher Junker:
    I’m always amazed at you guys’ vast automotive knowledge in those BF posts.
    Appears that my little note has perhaps puzzled some: I just meant to say that my mother tongue is french, I live in Switzerland and France and can help with french -or german- language (if Google Translate gets stuck), and also try and locate info/documents over here if needed.
    Best, keep up the BF!

    Like 2
    • JMB#7

      Gerard, that is a most kind offer. Barn Finds is a great way to bring together a much larger automotive community. I really enjoy seeing the “unusual finds” like this one. People have a lot of fun with their comments, and most are on a positive note and hopefully educational. Currently my cars are Japanese and American. I have owned British, and worked as a dyno tuner / performance technician on BMW.

      Like 1
      • Gerard

        Thanks for the note, JMB#7: yes, great community! I’m retired, 27 years at GM (mostly Opel) in various very exciting jobs, last one being responsible for our fleet of Fuel Cell vehicles in Berlin. Had 3 Vettes (’63 SW, 90 ZR1 and ’57) and am looking for a ’55 right now! Currently driving a great Opel Ampera (Chevy Volt) …and an Opel van (5 kids, 6 grandkids: lots of moving and hauling around!).

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