That 1908 GP Panhard-Levassor
Thank you for your description of the 1908 Grand Prix Panhard et Levassor which I much enjoyed. At the same time it illustrates, once more, the difficulties which beset the motoring historian.
The Au:mar of July 1 1 th 1908 states quite categorically that the Grand Prix Panhards had four speeds with one sliding sleeve (alias “Baladeur”!) which indicates that they had a quadrant gearchange. Now that one of these cars is again in captivity, however, it is clear from your description that on the contrary it has a gate change, with these “sliding sleeves.”
The point is of more than trivial importance because, while one believed the contemporary evidence, one was forced to the conclusion that although P. & L. had adopted mechanically operated inlet valves in 1903 they continued until 1908 to deny themselves one of the great benefits of the variable speed engine made possible by this innovation, namely the ability, with a gate, change, of passing from say the fourth speed to the second without touching the third. It would be interesting now to know whether the quadrant change was abandoned at the same time as automatic inlet valves or at some later date between 1903 and 1908.
One other puzzle is why P. & L., having used chains for final drive from the earliest times, abandoned this system in favour of shaft drive for their racing cars in 1904 and then reverted to it in 1908. I have a (purely speculative) theory as to why they did so, but I should be greatly interested to know whether you or your readers can put forward a more confident explanation. S. Molton KENT KARSLAKE