Panhard and Emile Levassor
to "History of Assembly Line Cars"
Panhard-Levassor vehicle with front engine
Rene Panhard and Emile Levassor were
partners in a woodworking machinery business, when they decided to become
car manufacturers. They built their first car in 1890 using a Daimler engine.
The team were commissioned by Edouard Sarazin, who held the license rights
to the Daimler patent for France. (Licensing a patent means that you pay
a fee and then you have the right to build and use someone's invention
for profit - in this case Sarazin had the the right to build and sell Daimler
engines in France.) The partners not only manufactured cars, they made
improvements to the automotive body design.
Panhard-Levassor made vehicles that
had a pedal-operated clutch, a chain transmission leading to a change-speed
gear box, and a front radiator. Levassor was the first designer to move
the engine to the front of the car and use a rear-wheel drive layout. This
design was known as the Systeme Panhard and quickly became the standard
for all cars because it gave a better balance and improved steering. Panhard
and Levassor are also credited with the invention of the modern
transmission - installed in their 1895 Panhard.
Panhard and Levassor also shared
the licensing rights to Daimler motors with Armand Peugot. A Peugot car
went on to win the first car race held in France, which gained Peugot publicty
and boosted car sales. Ironically, the "Paris to Marseille" race of 1897
resulted in a fatal auto accident, killing Emile Levassor.
The History of Panhard and Levassor
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