Automotive Pioneer ‘Le Papillon Bleu’ Offered At London to Brighton Sale

Le Papillon Blue
Le Papillon Blue

The highly significant automotive pioneering motor car, a 1901 Panhard-Levassor Type A2 7hp Rear Entrance Tonneau known as ‘Le Papillon Bleu’ will be offered at Bonhams London to Brighton Sale on 1 November and comes with a guaranteed entry to this year’s Veteran Car Run two days later.

Built by one of the earliest motor manufacturers, the French Panhard is considered as having introduced the concept of the ‘modern motor car’, with such features as engine to the front, a ‘gearbox’ transmission, ‘piano-style’ pedals for the clutch and brake and a steering wheel rather than tiller system employed.

Le Papillon Bleu History

As a competitor in the first commemorative run, then known as the ‘Old Crocks Race‘ in 1927, the iconic Panhard is continuing the historic road-map of being passed down through generations, continuing long-running family traditions.

One of only 5 surviving 1901 7hp examples, the Panhard was first commissioned by Belgian Chevalier, René de Knyff, pioneer racing driver and Panhard director who was also the President of the Commission Sportive International, now known as the FIA.

Le Papillon Blue
‘Le Papillon Blue’ goes under the Bonhams hammer

Made to the Chevalier’s exacting specification, the light tourer featured coachwork by Rothschild et Fils, one of Paris’ finest coachbuilders, with an enamelled tonneau body, finished in a striking Cambridge Blue with contrasting scarlet wheels and scarlet (hunting coat) cloth upholstery and highly polished brass fittings.

Although Bucknall is believed to have sold the Panhard after a short time, it has remained in the UK ever since, with subsequent owners, including the former Veteran Car Club President Tom Lightfoot, piloting ‘Le Papillon Bleu’ over the 60-mile route from London to Brighton.

Le Papillon Blue
Le Papillon Blue

Owned for the last 27 years by the current vendor, who has completed 25 runs, ‘Le Papillon Bleu’ won the event’s Concours d’Elegance award in 2016 as ‘the car which most embodies the spirit of the veteran era’ when it was displayed in that year’s Regent Street Motor Show.

‘Le Papillon Blue’, estimate £200,000 – 250,000, will be one of the first lots to go under the hammer when the Bonhams Motor Car Sale starts at 6 pm on Friday 1 November. Freshly serviced by specialist NP Veteran Engineering, this motor car is ready to tackle this year’s run with its new owner and can be seen via this link on Bonhams auction listing.

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