Panhard Scarlette


This is a tale of two cars: the Panhard Dyna X and Rosengart Ariette.

A while ago I wrote about the Rosengart SuperTrahuit, and gave a brief history of the French luxury marque. But suffice it to say, the Second World War was a huge strike against smaller French automakers, who eventually found themselves left out of government plans for help. Of course, if Rosengart was making stunning machines and had a pre-order list as long as my arm, things would have been different.

Rosengart's last vehicle design, launched in 1951, was the Ariette: a small two-door sedan with simple and uncluttered lines. 

Priced about 50 per cent more than its main competitor, the Renault 4CV, it was already going to be a struggle to sell the small Rosengart in a recovering car market. But the engine fitted to the car ensured nobody would buy it. At just 747cc and a claimed 21 horsepower, 4-cylinder the motor was first introduced in the Austin 7 in 1922—nearly 30 years before the Ariette!

Rosengart quickly did the math and realized they were in big trouble. Competitors were faster, less expensive, and more spacious—not to mention sold and serviced in more locations. If they were to survive, they needed a solution.

Panhard had also been working on their next small car, the Dyna Z, which would be a few years away from production. But they did have the soon-to-be-replaced Dyna X, a cheery, quick, and well-engineered small car that had its share of both competition and sales success.

Do you see where this is going? It doesn't involve badge engineering: that'd be too easy.

Rosengart lobotomized the Ariette, or whatever the medical term is for removing the entire drivetrain and replacing it with the one from the Panhard Dyna X. Frame modifications were needed, and they also decided to update the car's styling to play up its Panhard connection. 

Introduced the following year, 1952, it could be considered Frankenstein's-er-Rosengart's monster: a bit of this and a bit of that. Even though the engineering changes meant the small car's top speed was now 135 km/h (84 mph)—up from 95 km/h (60 mph)—the price was still on the high side and buyers had little regret in shopping elsewhere.

Remarkably, a handful have survived. Cute little thing, too.