It is remarkable that around 1919 the respective merits of air and water-cooling were a subject for vigorous debate, due to the introduction of the air-cooled flat-twin Rover and A.B.C. cars, and that this form of power unit is still in use today, 43 years later, by several leading manufacturer’s.
The Panhard PL17 has such an engine, a lusty horizontallyopposed twin developing 60 (gross) b.h.p. at 5,800 r.p.m. in Tigre form. Coupled with front-wheel-drive, unusual detail arrangements, and one of the roomiest saloon bodies to be found in the 848-c.c. class, this adds up to considerable character and renders the 1961 Monte Carlo Rally Winner a car for individualists.
I dealt with the normal PL17 in April 1960 and do not propose to repeat myself here, for this full test report can be obtained from the back-numbers or photostat-copy department (for the same reason other old articles are never reprinted). The Tigre differs mainly in having a less startling finish to the plastic “binnacle” surrounding the steering column, all its doors trailing, and a tiny Jaeger tachometer on the facia under a soft plastic hood; plus, of course, much more power.
Otherwise it is the same spacious 6-seater 4-door saloon, with controls that call for acclimatisation and such unusual sounds 4nd Shudders from its machinery that on first acquaintance it is apt to be linked with the hippopotamus, which the old lady, confronted with it for the first time, refused to believe….
The Trojan-noises when accelerating, the “gobble-gobble” of the twin cylinders when idling, and the lurching get-away eventually became acceptable and the excellent acceleration of the Tigre (that leaves a standard Mini standing) and its easy cruising gait of 80 m.p.h. at 5,000 r.p.m. soon endeared me to this refreshingly “different” car.
Like a 2-Stroke, the engine scarcely picks up at all below 3,000 r.p.m., but keep it, as the makers recommend, between 4,000 and 6,000 r.p.m. and things happen very satisfactorily indeed. The noise level is fairly high but in this age of smoothness and softness it is nice to find a true sports saloon that asks to be revved and isn’t finnicky about quietness or refinement. Taken on those terms, the Panhard Tigre is great fun. And how it revs!
The engine goes on and on, to 6,500 r.p.m. and beyond, without distress. The Panhard has a top speed of 86 m.p.h., goes to 75 in third gear and yet, on a fast run involving 80-mph. cruising, it returned exactly 32 m.p.g. of super, but not 100-octane, fuel.
The interior is well upholstered even if the colours clash horribly (start to feel sick and nothing would save you!), and the seats are comfortable, apart from too steeply angled cushions. Four pockets about the front compartment provide useful stowage, the boot is big and the back scat can be removed if more room is required.
The steering is heavy and not exactly precise but the Tigre’s acceleration, narrow width, and very powerful 9-in. brakes—the best Bendix I have encountered—give a high degree of confidence in tricky traffic and few, if any, cars of similar size and comfort are faster in such conditions. This really is the car in which to grapple safely with accelerative Zephyrs and troublesome Minis. . . .
The f.w.d. has no vices apart from judder under violent take off and on fast corners the PL17 understeers less than a Mini but rolls somewhat whereas a Mini doesn’t. It copes, even if, like a “Chain Gang” Frazer Nash, it makes the driver work and doesn’t exactly corner on a chosen line. Michelin “X” tyres are standard.
The suspension is on the hard side and the Panhard rides rather like a small boat on a choppy sea, the heater eventually warms the interior but takes its time, the rear-door interior handles can be reached from the front seat for locking the doors, the ignition key locks the front doors easily and is needed to open the boot, and additional thief-frustration is provided by a simple master-switch. Once the alligator (or hippo’s-mouth) bonnet is up, accessibility is 100%.
The engine has excellent air-ducting round the cylinders, starts promptly, and used no oil in 650 miles. The l.h. steering-column gear-lever has big movements and is slightly sticky, but does not spoil the pleasure of taming the Tigre, and the clutch, harsh rather than fierce, feels sturdy. High arm-rests on the doors, a convenient umbrella-handle parking brake, and a 2-tone horn, operated by depressing a rather confusing flashers-cum-lamps-switch r.h. atalk, are other PL17 features. I liked the “gun-sight” on the needle of the big 100-m.p.h. speedometer. The 2-spoke steering wheel (2 turns, lock-to-lock) is a bit high set for the average driver and the brake pedal plate at a shade too steep an angle. Massive alloy bumpers protect the steel body, the lines of which arc also an acquired taste. Such items as torsion-bar valve springs, transverse front leaf springs for the i.f.s., beam rear axle on triple torsion-bars, De Carbon shockabsorbers and rack-and-pinion steering fit well into the repertoire of discerning motorists.
The Panhard PL17 Tigre costs £1,127 1s. 5d. in England (£772 basic) but some readers buy in more favourable markets. It is a car that should interest many of them; Citroen at Slough will be glad to demonstrate the peculiar but loveable (and practical) aspects of this fast 848-c.c. flat-twin.