When Panhard unveiled the Dyna Z in 1953, it would be fair to say it did not resemble any other vehicle. Jim Baumann often finds that his 1960 PL17 version featured here inspires awe in passers-by, from its wind tunnel-developed bodywork to its art deco instrumentation. It could almost be a byword for French automotive weirdness; the dashboard laughs in the face of ergonomics, since some controls oblige the driver to reach through the steering wheel.
Panhard et Levassor was France’s oldest car manufacturer, with its first petrol-engined vehicle dating from 1890. After the Second World War, the company’s focus changed from transport for the haute bourgeoisie to more economical saloons. The Dyna X of 1946 combined front-wheel drive with a lightweight aluminium body, and seven years later it was superseded by the remarkable Dyna Z.
The latest model from the Avenue d’Ivry factory in Paris was longer than a Ford Zephyr-Zodiac, yet the sales publicity boasted the 851cc horizontally-opposed, twin-cylinder air-cooled engine (similar to that of the Citroen 2CV) was capable of 81mph. Furthermore, the Z weighed a mere 1,560lb, while Panhard claimed the body created by Louis Bionier had a drag coefficient of only 0.28. Unfortunately, the Z’s aluminium bodywork meant it was also vastly more expensive than models from French rivals Peugeot or Simca.