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Rare Aluminum Body: 1954 Panhard Dyna Z1

The Panhard Dyna Z is not a car that we see that often here at Barn Finds, so to have two examples appear on our desks in quick succession is a rare treat. I have to say a huge thank you to Barn Finder Jim C for spotting it for us. I had the privilege of writing about another Dyna Z in this article only a few days ago. This one is an earlier model, and it has a feature that makes it that bit more desirable than the previous car. It is located in Akron, Ohio, and has been listed for sale here on Facebook. The sale price has been set at $6,900.

The Dyna Z was in production between 1954 and 1959, and with a total of 140,000 cars rolling off the production line, it was a sales success. This car has spent most of its life in Arizona, which is good news for potential buyers. The owner claims that it is completely rust-free and that the panels have been stripped in preparation for a refinish. That brings us to a possible decision that the next owner might wish to make. The Dyna featured in the previous article was from the final year of production, while this one was from the first. For the most part, any changes across the life-span of the Dyna Z were quite evolutionary. There was one significant exception to this rule. While the cars built after September of 1955 were fitted with steel body panels, these earlier cars were clad in aluminum. This car originally wore a pale turquoise color, but it has now been stripped back to the bare aluminum. The panels appear to be extremely straight and clean. If there is no Bondo or other filler, the buyer could choose to polish the bare panels to create a striking custom look. It is certainly an option worth considering. However, it would still look pretty good with a fresh coat of paint if a custom look is not their cup of tea. It appears that several trim items are missing, and it isn’t clear whether these have been removed and stored or whether they are gone completely. That is a question worth asking because their relative rarity in the US might make it hard to locate replacement parts. The hubcaps look like they would benefit from a trip to the platers, but the glass appears to be in good condition.

It seems that this Dyna Z1 is a restoration project that has stalled, but the interior has been completed. The seats wear new covers, and the dash and wheel appear to be perfect. There is plenty of dust and leaf litter inside the Panhard, but I suspect that a few days of cleaning will have the interior presenting perfectly once again. There is plenty of evidence of the original color on this interior’s painted surfaces, so if the buyer does choose to polish the exterior, this will provide a striking contrast.

The owner supplies no engine photos, but he does provide what sounds like some pretty good news. He doesn’t say whether it runs, but the engine has been treated to a rebuild. The only mechanical malady that he mentions is the fact that the brakes will need some attention. This car’s drivetrain is identical to the previous Panhard, which means that it features a horizontally-opposed, twin-cylinder, air-cooled 851cc engine that pumps out 42hp. This power finds its way to the front wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. The later cars’ performance was acceptable, but these earlier cars could offer a bit more to the driver. Whereas the steel-bodied examples tipped the scales at 1,797lbs, the aluminum panels on this car mean that it would weigh a featherweight 1,565lbs. This didn’t have any real impact on top speed, which remained at 80mph. It was when you planted the right foot that you felt the difference. The later cars would take 24.3 seconds to cover the ¼ mile. The lower weight brought about by all of that aluminum means that this car should cover the same journey in 23.3 seconds. Okay, that still is nowhere near fast, but you have to admit that it is an improvement.

There is little to separate this 1954 Panhard Dyna Z1 from the car that we featured previously from a project perspective. Both are unfinished projects that will require attention before they could be considered to be roadworthy. However, this one probably is a better proposition for several reasons. We know that it is rust-free, and we are told that the engine has been rebuilt. The owner only mentions braking issues, so it looks like a car that could be returned to active duty fairly easily. The exterior of this car needs refinishing. Still, it is a rarer car due to that aluminum skin. So, if you bought this one, would you treat it to a repaint, or would you polish it as the seller suggests?


  1. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    What IS the French fascination with fish?

    Like 1
  2. Avatar photo alphasud Member

    I had to rub my eyes this morning when I saw this. How in the heck are there 2 of these in a current BarnFinds feed! It’s a no brainer take the aluminum one since it’s more rare and with it stripped back their are no surprises. I want to be seen as the next oddball to be driving this to a cars and coffee. I need more $ and room!

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  3. Avatar photo Elanguy

    More of Myron Vernis’s collection. All great stuff and a fascinating guy to boot. I would love to spend an afternoon with him and his collection.

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    • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

      If this is part of the Vernis collection, I believe the red NSU Spyder Wankel roadster next to the Panhard came thru me, many years ago.

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      • Avatar photo Elanguy

        How cool. At first I thought it might be an Alfa Spider, but when I realized the sale was Myron Veris’s I figured that it would have to be something much more rare. So I was pretty sure it was an NSU.

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      • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member


        About 25 years ago I sent Mr Vernis 3 cars; The first NSU Wankel roadster imported to the USA[red with black hardtop] and the last NSU Wankel roadster imported to the USA. The 3rd vehicle was a 1958 DKW Munga. A civilian version, it was sold new in America to a hunter who wanted it for hunting deep into Pennsylvania forests. [I’ve always thought it was the first ATV.]

        The NSU cars came out of a place called Allied Light Cars, in Washington DC [near Union Station]. A couple of friends and I bought the remaining stock of cars & spare parts from Allied Light Cars after they closed due to NSU no longer providing cars to North America.

        We were told at the time that Allied was the importer for NSU cars. The 2 roadsters had never been sold, so there were no titles to be had. The former owner of Allied said the one with the hardtop was featured in a well known car magazine in 1964.

        That Munga was a real oddball [and it take a lot for me to call a vehicle “oddball”]. The easiest way to get it to start from cold, was to tow it behind another vehicle until the 3-cylinder 2-stroke motor would stay running. I’m told this was quite common, and for the German Army this was the preferred way to start them from cold. At 40mph it was screaming down the road, and making the slightest steering change at high speed made the car want to tip over. However at very low speed, with it’s constant 4 wheel drive, in the worst possible swamp conditions here in Maryland, no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get it stuck.

        Like 3
  4. Avatar photo Dual Jetfire

    Yeah, you’ll rule the car show in your polished Panhard.

    Like 1
  5. Avatar photo Christopher A. Junker

    The engine may prove to be a real challenge if my memory is correct. It may have a pressed together crankshaft with roller bearings in some versions. However 42 HP is just a start as these twin cylinder engines could and were successfully modified to put out over 80 HP in the Deutche-Bonnet HBR-5 fast back two seater. Even hopped up they were durable engines that powered Le Mans class winners back in the 50’s and early 60’s. The most extreme version was from out on the West Coast where a sports racer was built with the Panhard engine with Norton OHC heads driven by one of the first Gilmer belt installations. Power probably approached 100HP at 8K.

    In the late 60’s I had a chance to buy a non-running HBR-5 for $750 with the manual. I chickened out as the repair manual was in french. The shift pattern was a 4 speed laid on its side with first up and to the right. The started was something called a Dynamotor which served as both a starter and with reversed polarity, a generator. A really neat car but you’d better be fluent in french, I wasn’t. GLWTA

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

      Christopher A. Junker,

      Do you remember what color the Deutche-Bonnet HBR fiberglass body was? A collector here in the mid-Atlantic area had a maroon one, he had it consigned to a local old car dealer in Virginia, where I worked until it closed about1978.

      Like 0
    • Avatar photo Roger Buck

      The Panhard had a normal starter and generator. My Berkely had a Ciba Dynastart on the crankshaft, so no gearing. The engine was a 3 cylinder 2-stroke. You pushed the button on the dash and the engine was running. If it was cold, you might hear a little snuffling for a couple of revs before it was running.

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      • Avatar photo Al Grayson

        All of my Panhard engines had conventional electric starters. The ’57 taxi model had no solenoid. it had a pull-knob on the dashboard that engaged the starter gear and closed the switch. The ’58 Grand Standing and ’60 PL17s had ordinary turn-the-key to start starter motors.
        Some cars had a magnetic clutch in addition to the conventional mechanical clutch. For these the generator had an extra section that powered the stationary ring magnet that, when the engine accelerated above idle, the iron “filings” inside a torque converter-looking case stiffened, transmitting drive torque from the case to the disc that turned the gearbox input shaft.
        none of my cars had this feature. My repair and parts manuals showed the details of the magnetic clutch.

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    • Avatar photo Al Grayson

      ALL Panhard H2 engines had roller bearing crankshaft bearings and roller camshafts. The timing gears used a steel pinion on the crankshaft and a Celcon laminated cloth-phenolic gear on the camshaft. The slight springiness of the Celcon allowed a slight interference fit, providing zero backlash. The Celcon was picky about motor oil.

      Like 0
  6. Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

    No longer available on Farcebook.

    Like 1
  7. Avatar photo Mitchell Ross Member

    NSU RO80 in the backround as well

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  8. Avatar photo Christopher A. Junker

    Bill, The DBR-5’s original color was french blue. I have a photo of it racing at Watkins Glen in 1960.

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    • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

      Then it’s not the same car!

      Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Ken Nelson Member

    Myron certainly gets around – I still can’t figure out why he imported so many Porsche tractors! Didn’t know he had this all alloy Dyna – must’ve acquired it some yrs after I bought his DB Lemans roadster with removable hardtop, which I still have. Stronger fiberglass body than the HBR5s -its material seems about twice the thickness of the coupes. Also has perimeter chassis vs the backbone of the HB cars. Funny thing – almost 30 yrs ago I put money down on a Dyna sedan in Detroit, but then the city told me I couldn’t put it on my property. So I passed on the car and let the seller keep my $100 down toward a price of $300 then. Turns out Myron heard of the car, bought it, then 25 yrs later gave the car back to me gratis when I visited him about one car or another. Still have that Dyna – probably a Z16.
    Best car Myron ever snagged has to be the Hoffman X8 prototype – one of a kind, and a very interesting car. The X8 engine couldn’t be made to work by Henry when he tried one, but somehow Hoffman made it run successfully – look that one up! A cross between a Tatra and a Scarab. Seems Myron waited about 20 yrs to score that one, and for a good bundle. Interesting guy!

    Too bad about the all alloy one on FB. There are still a few around. I got lucky and was able to obtain the Z1 Reynolds aluminum had in its collection. Seems one of the sons found it in Paris, brought it into their collection. Complete car, one large mousehole in original upholstery, engine runs. Doing a brake job on it now. The bare bodyshell of the Z1s weigh only 220 lbs according to a recent history book of the co. that is available – astonishing!

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Al Grayson

      Reynolds Aluminum brought two ’54 Dynas to the USA to show what could be done with aluminum in car bodies. I saw one of them in Richmond(?), Virginia owned by a Richard(?) Cox. He had another one in a barn outside town along with his ’28 Studebaker.
      The aluminum bodied car weighed just over 1,400 pounds. In 1956 the body was switched into steel, which gave problems as the dies were designed for soft aluminum, which had little springback compared with steel. As the aluminum hoods, doors and trunk lids were used up, by 1957 the car was entirely of steel except for the bumpers and trim. No spare aluminum body parts were ever available once the transition to steel was complete. The all-steel car was about 1,800 lbs, so that increases in the power from 42 to 50 for 1957, and the 60 hp “Tigre” engine, introduced for 1963, were welcome to compensate for the extra 400 lbs. One account has the 1967 24 available with 94 hp but my “Panhard: la doyenne d’ avant garde,” by Benoit Perot, shows only 60 hp (p. 379).
      The aluminum bodies were frightfully expensive. Supposedly the calculations for the cost missed the scrap left over after the body parts were trimmed. Scrap steel wasn’t worth much but scrap aluminum was much more valuable.Panhard Dyna X bodies were made by Facel-Metallon. Dyna 54 bodies were by Chausson.
      Of course the impression made was “Ugh! I wouldn’t want ANY aluminum car! They’re all UGLY!!” As if all aluminum cars had to look like the Panhard. A huge fake toothy grille, a garish spike hood ornament and enormous fins on the rear fenders and Americans would have bought it.

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Ken Nelson Member

        Hey Al, I think I have one of those aluminum Z1s that Cox had, as my second car came from around that area you mention. I still have it, and it even had brand new Michelin tires on it when I hauled it back to Detroit 6-7 yrs ago.

        As for any Panhard with 94 hp, the only engines boosted that high were probably built by Don Racine, of Mini Mania in Nevada City Ca, He used to race his one-off Aardvark open-wheel racer at Laguna Seca and Sears Point tracks in Ca. I met him at Sears during one classic event. He’d just DNF’d when he missed a shift, and probably grenaded the engine. He claimed to have boosted his engines to around 90 hp, which is probably why they tended to blow. The one piece crankcases couldn’t hold the power.

        Another Panhard engine that made 80 hp was built by Tony Rodriguez of Chico, Ca. He and his father used to run Devin Panhards in Ca. Shortly before he passed away at too young an age, he taught me a lot about how he rebuilt the pressed-together cranks, and showed me his tooling plus brand new rollerbearing rollers and cages. Tony said he increase the compression to about 13:1, used crank-triggered ignition with fixed advance, and got the 80 hp to work by reinforcing the front of the alum. crankcase with a welded-on 1/2 in. thick aluminum plate. In the rear, he used a cast iron rear rollerbearing plate, which someone had commercialized back then. These kept the case from exploding when these engine ran close to the 7000 rpm they were originally designed for around 1947. Of course back then they were only putting out around 30 hp.

        When Tony passed away, I bought Tony’s last racing engine along with his crank rebuilding tooling, hoping one day I could do the same, as the crank is the heart of the car.

        Very few people know that Panhard was the first real production car company in the world, starting in 1890. Two excellent books are available on the marque – the first being by David Beare of the UK, about a inch thick, size of old phonebook, and marvelous read. Worth every penny if you can find one.


        The second book is even more fascinating, in that it goes much deeper into the history of the origins of the Panhard company, including how a French lady patented the bandsaw, a major machine breakthru that greatly increased the production rare of various manufacturing processes –
        see below:

        Panhard & Lavassor – The Brass Era – by Vladimi Vershinin.

        Email is brassera2019@gmail.com. Or it has ISBN no.
        978-0-36-875565-1. It’s a marvelous book and fills a lot of gaps in the history of this historic car company that launched the world’s car industry. Unfortunately, Citroen, who owned them during the early ’60s, shut them down in ’67.

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  10. Avatar photo Ken Nelson Member

    My NSU Prinz III, a vertical twin with OHC driven by 3 eccentric conrods on the crank, instead of chain or gears, also used a Dynastart system. Same on my 1200 autostick 4 cyl with same curious OHC drive system – ingenious = no gear whine, no chain rattle, stretch, or tensioner needed.

    This Z1 has been converted to separate front seats, as all Dynas and PL17s until about ’61 had bench front seats as standard. Anyone know why Myron imported so many Porsche tractors? He had a real focus on those. He must’ve gotten this Dyna some yrs after I bought his DB Lemans roadster with removable hardtop, a different design than the HBR5 coupes. The Lemans has a perimeter chassis, rather than the tubular spine a la Lotus.

    Like 0

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