Jean Panhard, one of the last survivors of the pre-WW2 French automobile industry, has died.
Panhard joined the family firm in 1937 after graduating from the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique, at a time when the firm mainly produced lorries and buses. The Second World War and the 'Pons Plan' then relegated the company to the production of military vehicles, until a deal with Aluminium Francais opened the door for development of the Dyna X, a small lightweight car with an aluminium body. The sporty 'Junior' followed shortly thereafter and, in 1954, the Dyna 54, which was based on a sleek concept car – the Dynavia – joined the line-up.
Jean Panhard was steadfast in his support for the family firm, providing the impetus for development of road cars in the post-war years, at a time of economic hardship when other French manufacturers went under. Panhard steered the company through stormy waters, striking a deal with Citroën in 1955 that helped the manufacturer avoid insolvency.
Despite his best efforts, and the launch of the attractive 24 Coupe in 1963, Citroën absorbed the remaining 24% of Panhard shares just two years later. By 1967, the last Panhard had rolled off the production line.
Following the demise of the car business, Panhard became president and director general of the armaments division, The Société de Construction Méchaniques Panhard et Levassor, until his retirement in 1981. He didn't stray too far from his passion, though, playing an important role in saving the Schlumpf Collection, helping to found the Musée National de l'Automobile, and later becoming president of the Automobile Club de France and vice president of the Federation International de l'Automobile.
Jean Panhard celebrated his 100th birthday in his home town of Crecy-la-Chapelle in 2013, among hundreds of 'Panhardistes' from across the globe. His funeral was held in the same town on 18 July 2014.