Panhard PL 17

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Panther Westwinds

Panhard PL 17

1959 - 1965
851 cc
41 bhp @ 5000 rpm
4 spd. MT
Top Speed:
90 mph
Number Built:
4 star
Panhard PL 17
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4


Victory by Panhard in the Performance Index and in the Fuel Economy classification at the 1959 Le Mans could not have been better timed for Panhard, who introduced a successor to the Dyna sedan a few days later. The PL 17 was a replacement for the Dyna, which was introduced in 1954. Advanced for the time, the Dyna had initially featured aluminium panels but later switched to steel - and unfortunately the PL 17 stuck to the steel formula.

This body of the PL 17 featured a rounded front and rear, Pahnard claiming the design afforded better aerodynamics, with low wind resistance, but the pull of fashion had been too strong and it was obvious to all that the Panhard stylists had cleverly given the car prominent corners at both front and rear. A new bonnet panel incorporated cowls over the headlamps and a new lid enclosed a larger boot, which in turn incorporated visors over triple groupings of stop and tail lamps and red reflectors. The PL 17 bumpers were also new.

PL 17 Mechanical Specification

The over-square flat-twin engine was cooled by a ducted fan, a design basically unchanged from that of the Dyna. Unusual features of the PL 17 included a roller bearing crankshaft and torsion bar valve springs. Detail improvements to the hydraulic valve lifters and a new silencer mounted transversely at the rear contributed to quieter running. With bore and stroke of 85 x 75 mm. (851 c.c.), standard output on a 7.2 to 1 compression ratio was 41 bhp at 5000 rpm.

Initially, the car continued to use the engines of the Dyna Z, both of 851 cc. The standard one gave 42 hp (DIN), the "Tigre" gave 50 hp (DIN), and we will discuss this engine in more detail below. Both engines were twin-cylinder air-cooled "boxer" types, mounted with the gearbox at the rear with the two exhausts at the front. Beginning July 1963, the engines decreased in size to 848 cc, but performance went up to 50 hp (37 kW), and 60 hp (45 kW), respectively.

The front wheels were driven through a four-speed gearbox with column shift, and synchromesh on the upper three gears. Suspension at the front is provided by two transverse leaf springs, and at the back by three torsion bars each side. The standard PL 17 weighed approximately 805 kg (1,775 lb), and the Tiger/Tigre 830 kg (1,830 lb). This light weight combined with the car's streamlining (with a coefficient of drag said to be Cd 0.26) allowed for top speeds of 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph) for standard sedans and 145 kilometres per hour (90 mph) for the Tigre.

The Tiger Sports Engine

At extra cost a Tigre/Tiger sports engine was available with lighter rotating parts, different camshaft, bigger inlet manifold and twin-choke Zenith carburettor. This gave 49 bhp at about 6000 rpm. It took the maximum speed up to around 90 mph, but to achieve that required the driver to live on the edge, concentrating on extracting every ounce of performance, maintaining a sporting style of driving. The reality was 80 miles per hour for most drivers, and even then they needed to be in the zone.

The transmission, which was both complicated and fragile on the Dyna, was redesigned for the PL 17. The clutch had new linings and all gears and bearings were stronger. Previously only second and third speeds were synchronised, top being geared up, giving overdrive effect. But on the PL 17 the upper three ratios all had synchromesh. The final drive was also strengthened. More powerful brakes were fitted, these featuring aluminium drums, the same version as found on the Panhard light truck range.

The brakes were certainly better, but given a car is only as good as its weakest point, the front suspension let the PL 17 down, it retaining the over simplistic Dyna version in which the wheels were located simply by two transverse leaf springs without wishbones or radius arms. As the Panhard PL 17 had front wheel drive the floor was flat throughout, and when compared to the Dyna, the PL 17 also offered increased leg and head room for rear passengers. The interior finish was improved too - including a larger glovebox and more upmarket ashtrays, at a time when the ashtray was arguably more important than today's cup holder.

Switching Aluminum for Steel

But the best news for Panhard devotees was that the PL 17 came with a significant price decrease over the Dyna. The de luxe model cost 769,000 francs, a cut of 29,000 francs - and with the Tiger engine, the price was 798,000 francs There was also a new basic model with simplified trim at 729,000 francs. The PL.17 was sold with total guarantee parts and labour for six months. For the PL.17 Panhard continued their same design philosophy - that of the original Dyna - but to make the car more economical to produce, and bring about the price reductions, switched from the use of an aluminium body with 07 steel.

This cut manufacturing costs but entailed a considerable increase in weight. That in turn was compensated for by developing the engine to give more power. And this in turn led to a whole series of modifications intended to reduce noise and vibration. Introduction of a stronger transmission and more powerful brakes were the consequences of the weight increase. For pracitalities sake, it was possible to remove the back bench seat to enlarge the already considerable luggage space to 527 litres (18.6 cu ft). This space was available from the 1964 model year, when the spare wheel was moved from beneath the luggage space to under the bonnet, where it fitted around the air filter. This was possible because the wheels had no centre - that is formed by the finned aluminum brake drums.
Panther PL 17
Panther PL 17
Panther PL 17

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