Panhard Scarlette

Car of the Day #106: 1952 Panhard Scarlette

Panhard Scarlette
Panhard Scarlette • via stubs.centerblog.net

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

Oh, shit, I forgot…

This is a tale of three cars: the Rosengart Ariette, Panhard Dyna X, and Panhard Scarlette.

Suffice it to say, the Second World War was a huge strike against smaller French automakers, including Rosengart, who eventually found itself left out of government plans for financial help. Of course, if Rosengart had been making stunning machines and had a pre-order list as long as my arm, things may have been different.


Rosengart's last vehicle design, launched in 1951, was the Ariette: a small two-door car 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 — from a former luxury marque — in a recovering car market. 

As it happens, the engine fitted to the car ensured few would give it a second look.

With 747cc of displacement and a claimed 21 horsepower, the 4-cylinder engine fitted to the car had first been introduced in the Austin 7…in 1922…nearly 30 years earlier! Top speed was a pathetic 95 km/h.

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

Bref, l'heure est grave.


Its competitor, Panhard, had also been working on a new small car, the Dyna Z, which would be a few months away from production. 

Panhard had been selling the Dyna X, a cheery, quick, and well-engineered small car that already enjoyed sales success.

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


The fix: Rosengart would lobotomize the Ariette, in a sense, removing its entire drivetrain and replacing it with one from the Panhard Dyna X.

Frame modifications were needed, and the automaker also decided to update the car's styling to play up its Panhard connection. Panhard would sell the car as its own, with the Rosengart Ariette becoming the Panhard Scarlette.

Introduced in 1952 and mostly considered to be a 1953 model, the Panhard Scarlette could be considered Frankenstein’s…er…Rosengart’s monster: a bit of this and a bit of that. Two hundred and eight (208) were built.

Though engineering changes meant the small car's top speed was now 135 km/h, its price was still on the high side and buyers had little regret in shopping elsewhere.

Doubly so because the much more modern Panhard Z I mentioned then hit the market and vaporized any remaining interest in a Scarlette.

Remarkably, a handful of these econoboxes have survived. Cute thing, too. Would you have taken a chance on this little beastie?

Additional sources: gazoline.net, autoencyclopedie.com, Wikipedia (Rosengart, Panhard)


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