This purist Panhard tackled the Tour de France. Now it’s back.

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Next week, the magnificent Grand Palais in Paris will resonate with the sound of power once again as the four-wheeled stars of this year’s Tour Auto take to the streets of the French capital and begin their 2,140 km journey to the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet via Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges, Toulouse and Pont du Gard.

While your social media feeds are undoubtedly filled with photos and videos of thunderous Ford GT40s and screaming BMW M1 Procars gliding through the countryside, there are countless quirky, chic and ingeniously designed small capacity cars beyond. in the entry list. which are also noteworthy.

This is why we felt compelled to draw your attention to this fabulous 1955 Panhard Dyna X Dolomites from Pichon & Parat, which will compete in the Tour Auto next week at the hands of its owner Hugo Baldy and Romain Grabowski (we recently presented the rally raid Lada de Grabowski Niva here on Classic Driver).

By comparison, the utilitarian and somewhat frumpy body of Panhard’s Dyna X, bodybuilders Bernard Pichon and André Parat’s Dolomites body was sleek, slippery, and sexy, although a bit proportionately offbeat. The foundations of the Dyna X were ripe for a racing transformation. The chassis was light, and Panhard’s engines were renowned for being small but remarkably efficient – “engineered engines” as Baldy describes them. Only between 10 and 15 Dolomites were produced by Pichon & Parat and it is believed that only seven or eight are known today.

Proud veteran of the original Tour de France Automobile punishment in addition to several other top-level races including Rallye Monte Carlo and Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières, this French blue coupe was unexpectedly discovered in dilapidated condition by Baldy near de Paris in 2018 After a long negotiation with its owner, Baldy agreed to buy the Panhard and began to research its complex history with a view to a sympathetic restoration.

“I’m really passionate about racing cars, especially those with a rich history and many accolades, and I love the research,” says Baldy. “I bought this Panhard without knowing who it belonged to, where it had run and how it behaved. It’s so exciting to search through archives, vintage newspaper clippings and racing entries in order to unravel the history of a car.

Once the Panhard debut was established, Baldy set out to restore the car to its original specifications with the help of his father Dominique (who was kind enough to drive during our visit) and his best friend Romain Grabowski. .

“When I found out that the car had competed in the Tour de France Automobile at the time, I knew I wanted to participate in the Tour Auto,” recalls Baldy. “We started the restoration in September of last year and since we had so little time before the original departure date in April, my dad worked like crazy to help finish the car. He took everything apart, worked with the bodybuilder to make sure the precious patina was preserved, and spent 10 days with me and Romain reassembling the car in his workshop.

The work to return the car to its former glory was extensive and included replacing the bad dashboard with an original and rebuilding all mechanical components, from the engine and gearbox to the brakes and suspension. Although the original owner of the car ran with 750cc and 851cc engines, Baldy opted for an 850cc unit which is subtly different from the original as it uses parts from newer Panhard engines. “I am still running in the engine and I can easily go 140-150 km / h!”

The master mechanic who rebuilt the engine with his bare hands, a man named Christian de Toulouse, also installed new shocks for “Pullman comfort levels”. “He was an extraordinary man,” exclaims Baldy. “My Panhard rolls thanks to him.” The finished car is indeed a masterpiece, possessing so much Gallic character and an alluring patina. We particularly like the discreet rear fins, which remind us of several specially built Ferraris of the time.

With a tiny 850cc air-cooled two-cylinder boxer engine at the rear, Baldy’s Panhard has the smallest engine on the Tour Auto entry list. But with a dry weight of just 480kg and a punchy 60hp, Baldy is optimistic to perform well in the competition grid. “We want to do the Tour Auto as they used to do,” he explains. “Regularity testing isn’t for us, so we’re going to do it unassisted and our luggage in the car with a toolbox, clutch cable and roll of duct tape!” As a precaution, Baldy’s father, Dominique, will follow the rally with a spare engine and a gearbox just in case.

Frustratingly, Baldy and Grabowski’s Dolomites received the same performance rating as the Porsche 356 Pre-As, which has much larger 1,500cc engines. But that won’t stop them from giving their all. Regardless of where they stand, we can be sure of one thing: the characterful little Panhard will proudly fly the flag of France and hold its own in wars of presence against high-capacity and high-capacity sports cars. large event capacity. Do we need to repeat ourselves? Size isn’t really everything. Good luck Hugo and Romain – we wish you the best of luck for the week ahead.

Photos by Mathieu Bonnevie for Classic Driver © 2020

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