The Panhard PLI7 Saloon
A Car That is Different !
A Roomy, Economical 80 m.p.h. fivesix-seater Saloon with Front-Wheel Drive, Unusual Detail Layout, and Air-Cooled 851 c.c. flat-twin Engine. rrPanhard 111,17 is like the idea of keeping a python as a pet, her you like it or you loathe it. Those who want a car that idifferent, and at the same time outstanding under such head ing,a, 1.c-oniony of fuel, durability, generous passenger and luggage space, me., should certainly take a trial run in this unusual air-voided, front-drive 851 c.c. flat-twin made by the oltlest motorc.ir manufacturer in the World. and now handled by the great Citroen organisation—that is to say, from Slough in this country. This PLI7, developed in easy stages from those tiny DB Panhards which used to dominate the Index Performance section of the La Mans 24-hour race, is the sort of car which even an expert likes to be ” shown the way round.” The controls. are. essentially practical, but unusual. Let its master them :
Entry to the front bench seat, which adjusts extremely fluidly
by moving a convenient lever, is through wide rear-hinged doors. making for very easy access. Trailing doors are preferable, I know, and these will presumably soon be fitted by Panhard. As it is, they are good doors, shutting tinnily lint opening really wide and staying in various positions on effective ” keeps.” Press-buttons-cum-grip handles are used internally as well as
externally, which should prevent aecidental opening, especially as these buttons are placed at the door’s leading edge. Both front doors possess elastic-topped pockets and there are two more such pockets set rather oddly on what would normally be the facia—the contents get warm if the heater is Oil—which is generous stowage indeed, although as there is no conventional facia panel the Panhard lacks shelf or cubby-hole for heavy or bulky objects. Returning to the doors, all window handles have proper rotating finger-grips; the front handles call for 22-turns to fully drop the glasses. The back windows only go just OVer halt’ way down. their handles needing 11, turns. There are quarter-windows at the front, the catches of which work sir:middy but lack thief-resisting locks, while as no gutters are used rain comes in, to fall on the door handle. While we are climbing about thecar, the dimensions of which completely mask the fact that it is cif a mere 851 c.c., let me remark that if the seats are not outstanding they are comfortable enough. They lack central arm-rests but the Panhard does seat three on both seats if oceasion demands. There previous little knee-room in the back and the dropped roof of the aerodynanikally-elean body might trouble those who are abOVe average height or is Ito illSiSt On wearing hats while motoring. bat vertainly this i, a remarkably roomy car
liar its engine size, It the merit, not alv.ays 100011 even in frontdrive %Thiele-_ of a eontpletely flat Hour. Incidentally. the French seem to have a happy knack of making roomy small ears look at the (73troen 2 e.’. In England only Jowett seem to have had such ideas after the war they intended to continue the good work with a rubber-suspended i.o.e. flat-twin but thinever got beyond the prototype stage. In this Panhard P1.17 the generous interior aceommodat ion is matched by an enormous luggage boot; and Ibis spare can he extended by dropping the s limb of the back,eat_ although this is normally locked up (by key), to render the contents of the boot thief-proof even when the car doors remain unloeked. The hoot lid loeks antomatically and is se:fspropping after the key has been used to release it. Tice floor of the boot is not fiat. as it rise: op to cover the scare wheel. which is in its separate eompartment by bungee rubber. The finish of the shelf beaching, etc., hardl% encourages the stowage of expensive suitcases. But to return to those VOntrol, The large two-spoke steering is ‘Wel. set rather too high, rises from a plastic nacelle on which all instruments and controls are accommodated. This makes a rather startling interior hut one soon gets itecustmitell it. and to the reflection or this cluster in the wind
? .’reell. It bringS the Wheel #’10,C ?0 the drker hut renders the screen remote: both frout wings are visible to a driver sitting dose to the wheel but those who prefer the ” long-arm ” stance complain of poor visibility. From the nacelle the slender gear lever extends on I lie left, a short combined_ lamps_ direction-flashers and horn-control stalk on the ri!,ht. The gear lever works better than many of its kind; it is sprint!’ loaded to the higher gear !mai INItidt are helow first and
second, and the knob has to be pulled out to get reverse, beyond the second gear position. The stalk sounds a soft or a louder horn note depending on how hard its knob is depressed. controlnon-self-eancelling indicators and, by a combination of turning the knob and pushing the stalk back and fore, selectors side and headlamps. A simple movement flashes dipped headlamps from the side-lamps only position but a more complex action is needed to get high beam iii, in side-lamps only. There is also the short coming that it is all too easy to inadvertently set the flashers working when sounding the horn. A pleasing item, characteristic
of the 111.17’s individuality, is aural instead of visual warning that the flashers are functioning—loud dicks, audible even at full speed. give this warning and thus there is no winking light to dazzle the driver. The main band of the nacelle is occupied by a 100 m.p.h. speedometer, calibrated every 10 m.p.h. and—another small touch of individuality—having a ” gun-sight ” on the needle which encircles a spot below each figure calibration. The needle is extremely steady. Small horizontal windows contain ammeter and fuel gauge
(merely calibrated as 0, I, 2, 3, 4) and there are a trip sans decimal al111 total mileage recorders. As some compensation for the lack of tenths-readings, each trip figure comes cup slowly instead of jerking up, so that half and quarter miles can be roughly calculated. From various parts of the navelle extend the various minor eontrols–two pull-out knobs (marked CII, GI)) on the left for heater and screen dc-moister, a button on the same side for the screen washers, a pull-cord on the right side which -zeros the trip reading, an instrument-lighting reheostat, and, before the driver. two knobs, that on the right marked ” S ” and operating the dock,. another on the left, marked ” B.actuating a ent-out switch whielt renders all electrical t:irellits inoperative and %chief, ean Ice loeked ill with the
ignition-key. Pulling it out a second time re-vonneets the serv ices. On the nacelle’s top face are thumb-switelies that eontrol 1uarkin:4 lights (that. for the near-side lamp inaperative on rim!. ears). fog
lamp (not fitted on the test car), and the self-parking screen iiipers. ‘these last-named work in opposition, like spiders, lint this serves to clear a big area of glass and these are extremely eflieielit isipers,
which work with a low hunt. The ignition key actuate, I starter.
‘there is only one is:it-Mug light.-that for oil presstire, incorporated in the speedometer.
The band brake nestles elose to the right underside of the controlscluster, and couldn’t Ice more conveniently plaeetl. Turning it to the left locks it on. ‘the pedals are large and not offset:, there is a big treadle accelerator. To complete this survey of the Panhard’s interior details, there are twin vizors like very thin pancakes. unlikely to Millet injury in a crash, told padding under the screen sill. ‘there L., a bright ‘interimIn?hp on each side_ each with its own switch. the appropriate lamp vowing on when the front door OTI the Sallie side is ”iii•ned. timidi drawer.lyr at-li-try is provided for both e011111,11-1 Went The rear doors do not have pockets but there is a shelf behind the sea:. Interior upholstery is in somewhat llantboyant plastic, with rubber lion
()El the Rtind
Hi the road this roomy l’ardiard PI.17 is rather astonishing. kt .1-21’it’011Oral hilt the 1,i,e dilllitti,11e. as sto.ed
mounts, until the car is running effortlessly at an indicated 80 m.p.h., a gait it maintains uncomplainingly for mile after mile on level roads. In the gears the indicated maxima are, respectively, 25, 50 and 75 m.p.h. The speedometer is fast, the true maximum speed being 77 m.p.h. Top is, in effect, a built-in overdrive and thus third gear will be frequently employed and second needed for accelerating. This is no great hardship, as the clutch is light and the gear lever moves smoothly and easily, even when selecting second direct from top gear. Quick changes are possible and there is now synchromesh on all ratios.
The clutch is insensitive when taking up the drive and it is unfortunate that at low speeds injudicious opening of the throttle coinciding with the engine rocking on its very flexible mountings causes the car to proceed in a series of leaps and bounds. This can only be stopped by accelerating hard or, if this is impossible, by putting out the clutch.
The steering is high-geared, just over two turns being required from lock-to-lock and scarcely more than wrist movement takes the Panhard round normal corners. The action is a trifle spongy, reasonably light except when parking and the rack-and-pinion gear is devoid of noticeable kick-back, nor is snatch from the constantvelocity front-wheel-drive universals pronounced. The 1’1..17 isn’t a car you fling into corners but it goes round well without too much roll. The tendency is to understeer, which backing-off on the throttle changes to oversteer, which is also promoted on wet roads as the back wheels lose adhesion.
The suspension—transverse leaf i.f.s. and semi-independent springing of a dead divided rear axle beam by torsion bars—is supple, the car riding bad roads well with a floating action rather than up-and-down movement. The brakes give very strong retardation for a light pedal pressure at normal speeds but are not quite so convincing from higher speed, when a hard application sends tremors through the steering wheel, and on wet roads heavy applications can cause the car to slide in a straight line on locked wheels.
Perhaps the outstanding aspect of the roail performance of this unusual small-engined car—you cannot otherwise call the Panhard small : is the effortless manner in which the flat-twin engine propels it at up to 80 m.p.h. and its economy when so doing. Lillislog towards Salisbury with the speedometer needle frequently between 70 and 80 m.p.h. the most pronounced noise was a faint whistle of air past the screen pillars and with this sort of motoring petrol consumption came out at 391 m.p.g. With traffic work this increased to 384 m.p.g., an average of 39 m.p.g. As the tank, which is filled through a locked lisp on the near-side, holds 9i gallons, the normal range is 370 miles. A fast driver sees the PLI7 as follows : Apart from the interior decor. perhaps the least attractive feature of this car is the driving position. The screen is so far forward of the steering wheel that one hesitates to adjust the seat for the long arm driving position that is possible. The wheel itself is high enough for a person of average height to look through the top of the rim, the screen pillars are rather thiek and considerable curvature of the screen leads to troublesome reflections. The bonnet and wings are not visible, and the rather springy back of the straight bench seat provides no lateral support. All these factors combine to prevent the driver feeling much immediate confidence particularly
at night or in poor visibility. Soule interaction between the flexible engine mounting and the clutch and throttle linkages makes the clutch a little fierce over the last part of its travel, and leads to the Onset of distressing snatch at low throttle openings in bottom anti
mesh. second. The gearbox has well-chosen ratios and effective synehro
The steering is high geared and very positive, but for a comparatively light car it is surprisingly heavy. In ordinary motoring this is perhaps the only sign that the car has front drive apart from a trace of reaction during acceleration in the lower gears. Corners can be taken quite fast without much change, in handling eharacteristic whether the throttle is open or shut. For really fast drk Mg. however, it is essential to adopt the usual f.w.d. technique of accelerating the car round a corner, when quite impressive cornering speeds can be attained oven on slippery roads. In this condition there is very slight 1111(1cl:steer. but the car is so nearly balanced about the neutral steer state that there is.4t change to slight oversteer when the throttle is released. This tends to over,emphasise what is really a very slight change in handling characteristic, although the necessity to lift off in the middle d a earner for an unexpected hazard can lead to a diffieult moment on a slippery road.
The suspension is fairly firm and roll is very moderate. The ride is reasonable at high speeds but at lower speeds there’ is a certain.’ amount of pitching.
Acceleration go.iel. which sometimes astonishes drivers of ears with bigger engines. The 0-60 m.p.h. time is spoilt by the nerd to change from serond to third gear (26.4 see.), but the 0-50 m.p.h. figure of 17.5 sec. is evidence of how well this 851 e.e. car “steps off.” The body -is free frotti rattles, but there was an irritating squeak on the test car. The big all-enveloping bonnet is released fr ttttt in front of Ilte car and is self-propping. Raised. the ducted cooling of the two o.ylinders is revealed-. as are the 51,5,5H51e wire dip-stiek, Zenith carburetter with its Teealemit air 5-155.pier. the s1.15′,.V. wipers motor. I/prettier 21561; distributor. big I SI. battery and the Paris7-11horie electries. Brake fluid is contained in a glass reservoir. The headlamps are WC. F.2 with lift-op rims le enahle the beam to be easily adjusted. l’he side lamps and triple set 111 rear tattles are I .1lea, 1111..1 thus brighter than these luntint on most French **ill’, The 4%1, -011.111
IliSe Stlit t Ile car and the wrap-round bumpers sill he leo Med. In sum up. this h. im micon%ent tonal eor. It kan
garoo antics are al time, einliarril.-ing and not e5 S, ill ii p 1,1,V 1. of its interior layout and th,ror. hot its spacious interior and effortless running do much to off-set this distressing habit awl in a \ orid ot increasing 4undartlisitt ion there i-.. -iirely room Mr it eird:, tinder (1.000 .ifter 5151t y P1.17 In this country and purchase-tax ha., I•eco paid. There is II” 5511555r meter car. quit • like this Punlvard. 1 ulm‘.e all a car that idiffercto 1 W. It