Panhard Levassor 4hp motor car, France, 1894-5.
Panhard & Levassor were pre-eminent among early French car makers and boosted their reputation through a number of successes in long-distance road races on the Continent in the 1890s. In the early years a variety of positions were tried for the engine and drive-train but, in 1891, Panhard & Levassor adopted a front-mounted engine followed by a clutch, a centrally mounted gearbox and final drive to the rear axle. This ‘système Panhard’ became standard until the widespread adoption of front-wheel drive cars in the 1960s and is still common on larger cars.
This was the first car imported into England and played an important role in the introduction of motoring. It was made for the Hon. Evelyn Ellis and followed the design with which Emile Levassor won the world’s first motor race – the 732 mile Paris-Bordeaux-Paris event – in June 1895.
Ellis was one of a small group of motoring visionaries who campaigned for the repeal of the restrictive legislation which was hampering the development of motor car use and manufacture in Britain. In November 1896 their success was celebrated by the Emancipation Run from London to Brighton (the so-called ‘Red Flag Run’), and Ellis took part driving this car.