Automotive

Pioneering prototype of the modern motor car heads to auction

Pioneering prototype of the mo...
The Panhard 1901 7hp is one of the world' first modern motor cars
The Panhard 1901 7hp is one of the world' first modern motor cars
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The Panhard 1901 7hp registration plate
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The Panhard 1901 7hp registration plate
The Panhard 1901 7hp was a bespoke vehicle
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The Panhard 1901 7hp is one of the world' first modern motor cars
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The Panhard 1901 7hp is one of the world' first modern motor cars
The Panhard 1901 7hp side view
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The Panhard 1901 7hp side view
The Panhard 1901 7hp frame detail
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The Panhard 1901 7hp frame detail
The Panhard 1901 7hp speedometer and odometer
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The Panhard 1901 7hp speedometer and odometer
The Panhard 1901 7hp dashboard, driver's side
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The Panhard 1901 7hp dashboard, driver's side
The Panhard 1901 7hp rear view
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The Panhard 1901 7hp rear view
The Panhard 1901 7hp is still in running order
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The Panhard 1901 7hp is still in running order
The Panhard 1901 7hp rear door open
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The Panhard 1901 7hp rear door open
The Panhard 1901 7hp showing door and rear step
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The Panhard 1901 7hp showing door and rear step
The Panhard 1901 7hp motor plate
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The Panhard 1901 7hp motor plate
The Panhard 1901 7hp rear light
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The Panhard 1901 7hp rear light
The Panhard 1901 7hp rear door closed
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The Panhard 1901 7hp rear door closed
The Panhard 1901 7hp dashboard passenger side
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The Panhard 1901 7hp dashboard passenger side
The Panhard 1901 7hp underside
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The Panhard 1901 7hp underside
The Panhard 1901 7hp is a veteran of the Brighton car rally
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The Panhard 1901 7hp is a veteran of the Brighton car rally
The Panhard 1901 7hp steering wheel
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The Panhard 1901 7hp steering wheel
The Panhard 1901 7hp rear seats
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The Panhard 1901 7hp rear seats
The Panhard 1901 7hp dashboard detail
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The Panhard 1901 7hp dashboard detail
The Panhard 1901 7hp sidelight, right
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The Panhard 1901 7hp sidelight, right
The Panhard 1901 7hp front seat
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The Panhard 1901 7hp front seat
The Panhard 1901 7hp engine
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The Panhard 1901 7hp engine
The Panhard 1901 7hp sidelight, left
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The Panhard 1901 7hp sidelight, left
The Panhard 1901 7hp name
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The Panhard 1901 7hp name
The Panhard 1901 7hp was built in Paris
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The Panhard 1901 7hp was built in Paris
The Panhard 1901 7hp headlamp plate
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The Panhard 1901 7hp headlamp plate
The Panhard 1901 7hp name oblique
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The Panhard 1901 7hp name oblique
The Panhard 1901 7hp dashboard
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The Panhard 1901 7hp dashboard
The Panhard 1901 7hp seats in red
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The Panhard 1901 7hp seats in red
The Panhard 1901 7hp rear seat with door closed
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The Panhard 1901 7hp rear seat with door closed
The Panhard 1901 7hp wheel
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The Panhard 1901 7hp wheel
The Panhard 1901 7hp serpentine radiator
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The Panhard 1901 7hp serpentine radiator
The Panhard 1901 7hp right headlamp
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The Panhard 1901 7hp right headlamp
The Panhard 1901 7hp wheel hub
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The Panhard 1901 7hp wheel hub
The Panhard 1901 7hp flywheel
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The Panhard 1901 7hp flywheel
The Panhard 1901 7hp engine detail
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The Panhard 1901 7hp engine detail
The Panhard 1901 7hp piano pedals
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The Panhard 1901 7hp piano pedals
The Panhard 1901 7hp had modern clutch and brake pedals
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The Panhard 1901 7hp had modern clutch and brake pedals
The Panhard 1901 7hp chain transmission
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The Panhard 1901 7hp chain transmission
The Panhard 1901 7hp wheel spanner
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The Panhard 1901 7hp wheel spanner
The Panhard 1901 7hp wheel spanner in action
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The Panhard 1901 7hp wheel spanner in action
The Panhard 1901 7hp gearbox
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The Panhard 1901 7hp gearbox
The Panhard 1901 7hp steering wheel showing throttle
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The Panhard 1901 7hp steering wheel showing throttle
The Panhard 1901 7hp left headlamp
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The Panhard 1901 7hp left headlamp
The Panhard 1901 7hp petrol tank
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The Panhard 1901 7hp petrol tank
The Panhard 1901 7hp with floorboards up
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The Panhard 1901 7hp with floorboards up
The Panhard 1901 7hp starting handle
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The Panhard 1901 7hp starting handle
The Panhard 1901 7hp has a front-mounted engine
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The Panhard 1901 7hp has a front-mounted engine
The Panhard 1901 7hp front view
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The Panhard 1901 7hp front view
The Panhard 1901 7hp has polished brasswork
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The Panhard 1901 7hp has polished brasswork
The Panhard 1901 7hp engine cape
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The Panhard 1901 7hp engine cape

One of the world's first "modern" motor cars is going up for auction at Bonhams. "Le Papillon Bleu" is one of only five surviving 1901 Panhard-Levassor 7hp Twin-Cylinder Four-Seater Rear-Entrance Tonneau cars and one of the earliest examples of the motor car layout that we recognize into today's machines.

The advance of technology is pitted with insane bursts of creativity as engineers try to get a grasp on the potential of new developments and create standards. A case in point is motor cars. When the idea of mating a motor or engine to a wheeled vehicle, the result was an explosion of designs – some of which seem downright bizarre to modern eyes.

Early cars were an extraordinary collection. Some sported three wheels, some four. Some were made with elaborate coachwork while others were little more than quad bikes. And then there was a bewildering diversity of tillers, levers, pedals, throttles, pumps, and other accouterments that made these early machines virtually unstealable, because the odds were that a potential thief wouldn't have the slightest idea how to start the thing, much less put it in gear and drive away.

The Panhard 1901 7hp had modern clutch and brake pedals
The Panhard 1901 7hp had modern clutch and brake pedals

But that started to change around the turn of the 20th century. Built by France's Panhard company with coachwork by J. Rothschild et Fils, the Panhard 1901 7hp up for auction has an enameled tonneau body finished in a Cambridge Blue with contrasting scarlet wheels and polished brass fitting while the cloth upholstery is in hunting scarlet.

What really makes it special is that "Le Papillon Bleu" is one of the first cars to boasts the features of a modern motor. Based on the user-friendly "Systeme Panhard," it has rear-wheel drive, pneumatic tires, a front-mounted engine, a middle-mounted gearbox, a chain transmission that set a new standard, piano-style pedals for the clutch and brake, and a steering wheel instead of a tiller.

This Panhard 1901 7hp was commissioned by René de Knyff, a pioneer racing driver and Panhard director, who had it built to his specifications as a light tourer. It was later sold to British enthusiast, Leslie Bucknall for twice its price and taken to England where it was given the name "Le Papillon Bleu" by his daughter Vivienne.

The Panhard 1901 7hp name
The Panhard 1901 7hp name

It ended up in the hands of Veteran Car Club President Tom Lightfoot, who drove it on the 60-mile London to Brighton vintage car rally.

The Bonhams London to Brighton Run Sale, Veteran Motor Cars and Related Automobilia takes place in London on November 1, 2019. "Le Papillon Bleu" is estimated to fetch between £200,000 and £250,000 (US$258,00 to $323,000).

Click to view image gallery.

Source: Bonhams

2 comments
Username
Where is the throttle?
Thud
That is a steal at 300