Non-Radio – It is a long story, 37 years ago… cars and first dates

Quick background is needed.  I met the XYL at the Manchester Business School (England) while we both were on graduate programs.  As I was on a British “Student” visa I wasn’t going to buy an expensive car, lest I would end up selling it for a loss at the end of my program.  So I drove a 1961 Panhard PL-17 sedan all over England.  That car is red, and eventually ended up restored to museum level residing in Australia.  

Eight years ago I learned of a very low mileage solid PL-17 in Ohio, subsequentially bought it, had mechanical work done by a specialist in Michigan, and the car’s paintwork redone locally.  More about all those step below.  Goal of the 2013 acquisition was to have the car ready for our 30th anniversary in 2016.  Missed that date and Alison finally met our nostalgic car as we started a long weekend celebrating our 35th anniversary.  

She never knew the car existed or that we owned it, the secrecy which was a challenge for eight years.  

Setup was that she had gone shopping and I texted her to come to my office so we could take a car ride before going out to dinner.  As we have some other old cars, she didn’t expect the Panhard PL-17.

Here is the car waiting for her to arrive.  

Our “new” 1961 Panhard PL-17 Sedan

I was uncertain if I would get a “meh” or enthusiasm.  We have had a lot of cars over the years, and I wasn’t very confident my first PL-17 would have made a positive impression back then.  So would this one catch her fancy decades later?

Poised Panhard-Pensively waiting for the XYL to arrive

She was thrilled.  I am thinking more about the whole thing being somewhat romantic than the actual car.  

After a “victory lap” around the town, we dined outside at a field-to-fork restaurant, “Holla,” which is one of her favorites.  As we were being seated a friend of Alison came in with her husband and we waved them over to our table.  Great time out, and the XYL started talking up “her” anniversary car.  I should have had a clip board with docent-notes, as she was eager to “show” the car.

This modest sized car has a 2-cylinder roughly 850cc engine, and it sounds like a Piper Cub when running.  The four speed is a good transmission, but the linkage to the front wheel drive setup is long and slow.

The car has history.  It started as a diplomatic delivery in 1961 to someone in the French Trade side of thing in Mexico City, came stateside in their transfer later in the 1960’s, and then ended up with at least two owners who mostly stored the car for decades (roughly 1970 to my purchase in 2013).  The previous owner had the drivetrain rebuilt despite the low circa 40k miles on the car.

Time had taken a toll with much needing to be redone.

  • Drivetrain, brakes and fuel systems were sorted out by Rallye Import Automotive Inc. in Midland Michigan
  • Paint was redone locally by a craftsman who simply goes by “Weaver.”
  • Brightwork (all aluminum) was redone by Chrome Image Detailing, a local father-son team who are outstanding.
  • The windshields (front and the rear glass) had to come out to have new seals installed, a very touchy job done by Wetenkamp Glass.
  • Much “make it work” help came from Mike Roethle, a work colleague.

Some in-progress pictures were put up a year ago

A tip of the hat to each of these fine folks, as the results are impressive!  More importantly we had fun!

Hoping to show the car at events now that it is no longer a secret project!


Steve K9ZW

(If you type Panhard in the search box I have written about these cars in other posts)

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