Simanaitis Says

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“NEW SPORTS CAR models of all types and sizes have been introduced on the American market during the past few years. One thing they all had in common—a price higher than the ubiquitous MG.” 

RandT wrote this in February 1954. “That is,” the magazine continued (precisely one month before R&T’s “&” appeared), “until the Dyna Pahnard Junior Sports appeared on the scene with a list price of $1995.”

To put this French import in perspective, the newly introduced 1954 MG TF listed for $2260. To put both in 2021 perspective, figure these two values at around $20,150 and $22,800 today.

Junior Sports Owners’ Views. RandT reported, “We have talked to several owners. and if you think any certain ‘one-make owners’ are rabid, you should listen to these Panhard purchasers!”

Back in those days, road tests were occasionally bylined, something rarely done during my time at R&T. This particular article was written by no less than John R. Bond: “Curious as to the reasons for this owner enthusiasm, and knowing of the performance records set up by various standard and modified versions of the car, we nevertheless found the ‘Junior Sports’ a car full of surprises.”

“The ‘Junior Sports’ looks good with the top either up or down,” the magazine wrote. “Note the wind-up windows.” That is, no sports car side curtains.

Fifties Styling. Bond said, “The appearance of the car may not be particularly inspiring (see pages 18 and 19).” This other article gave details about an American-styled Dyna Panhard, the magazine’s cover car of that issue.

The car’s Los Angeles importer thought “if a light fiberglass body could be evolved with lines more to American tastes, he would have a very competitive car, both in price and performance.”

Yes, the Fifties became known for flamboyant designs.

Performance Records. From this second article: “Here is a car which, in one form or another, has set up over 200 speed and class records in three years, more than can be attributed to any other car in a like period of time.”

In particular: “Only last fall a replica of the Le Mans winner on Index of Performance set a new International record for under 750 cc cars over distances up to 200 miles. One thousand miles was completed at an average speed of 107.70 mph; 24 hours was covered at an average of 92.14 mph. Performances such as this demonstrate why the Dyna Panhard has gained a reputation for durability.”

Stock Performance. Maybe this reputation explains those rabid owners, because the road-test Junior Sports’ performance was modest indeed. Acceleration to 60 mph came in 26.2 seconds. (An MG TF tested a month later did it in 18.9.)

On the other hand, the Junior Sports’ 851-cc 40-hp opposed two-cylinder delivered an average 44.8 mpg. (The TF recorded 20/23 mpg.)

I’m reminded of the time I carped about indifferent mpgs to a British PR pal who quipped, “Do you think it’s easy cramming all that fuel through our itty-bitty engine?” 

The Dyna Panhard engine resided well ahead of its driven axle.

Dyna Panhard Oddities. Front-wheel drive was far from common back in the Fifties. “The steering qualities,” Bond reported, “are unusual in that there is no ‘feel’ of any kind. You just steer and the car follows…. As might be expected from the weight distribution [63/37, front/rear], there is definite understeer.”

On really hard cornering, Bond noted, “The inside rear wheel lifts at times (see illustration), but aside from frightening any observers, has no significance or serious effects as far as we could determine. Ascari could probably put the Panhard into a 4-wheel drift, but we couldn’t.” 

Note the inside rear wheel.

The Panhard’s Shifter. Bond wrote, “The lever hangs down from under the cowl and can be literally flipped from gear to gear by one finger.”

Class Racing. The Junior Sports, Bond concluded, “is a genuine sports car in the accepted dual purpose market. Available also with a 745 cc competition engine (40 hp), it offers its owner the ability to achieve a class win and still give reliable and economical transportation for every day driving. For those not interested in competition, it offers the lowest cost transportation, with a sporting flavor, that we know.” ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021 

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