Panhard revised lubrication circuits

I have updated the content to reflect my latest work, and put all the oil circuit mods in one place.

A quick history lesson on Panhard engine failures. The front main bearing and front cylinder crankshaft big end started to develop failures, as they increased the horsepower. It was attributed to insufficient oil supply, and so the front end lubrication was revised, and the camshaft timing gears were used as a splash lubrication system and the oil drilling that provided that role under the front main bearing was removed. This modification was introduced from around the early 1960’s, and ran to the end of production in 1967.

Unfortunately for Panhard they were barking up the wrong tree, despite the engine coming from a well thought out design originally, other people tinkered with the design knee jerk fashion as the problems developed, and nobody took an overview and look at the root causes. The financial woes and Citröen management probably didn’t help, but as Panhard died in 1967, we will never really know.

Flash forward to the next century, and if you are running one of these engines, it will almost be suffering from the result of this modification. As the engine ages the oil pump becomes more marginal, the priority oil fed valve gear bushes in the head wear, and the oil into the camshaft gallery reduces. Now the front bearings don’t really fatigue like they used to, but the rears suffer because they are pump related. So the problem has transferred itself, and the question that should be asked is why?

Of course if you look at the development of these engines you will read about the engines modified for endurance racing, which had higher capacity pumps, and an increased oil capacity with the fitment of an additional sump, that also acted as a baffled cavity for the oil pick up pipe. This subset of development has been an evolutionary branch of Panhard engine that needs revising, because if you really look at the problem, these solutions are papering over the cracks of a design fault. If you go back in time, and look at the engine design of the Panhard flat twin compared to others, there are numerous good points taken from lots of influences. The crankshaft oil supply is reminiscent of Bugatti & the early BMW motorcycle engines, but it is essentially a low pressure system, and even the design of the original plain bearing surfaces reflect this, so why fit a higher pressure set up, but that’s another story.


For example in the front bearing of the camshaft, which has a very large diameter at the front where the timing gear is driven by the crankshaft, and a more normal sized bearing diameter at the rear. Also, if you look at the oil drillings that feed these plain bearings, they are proportionately scaled to suit. The camshaft is the common denominator in all of this because it is one of three main oil feeds from the oil pump, and the supply conduit for the front and rear main bearings and the crankshaft lubrication, but wasn’t there a problem here?

So how can a central oil gallery that feeds both the front and rear crankshafts be at fault? Actually, the central gallery is not the problem, because the flow into this is separate from the outputs, and if you look at these, the problem is almost explained. The original designer knew he needed to equalise the distribution of the oil, so the oil outputs for the front and rear crankshaft feeds are phased to do just this, and as the cross drillings are on a rotating surface the timing window on the camshafts are scaled accordingly. However, although the rear crankshaft oil drilling is sized to match the rear camshaft drilling, the front is mismatched, because the oil drilling in the crankcase is too small.

On examination the oil drilling needs to be around 6mm diameter, when it is only 4mm, which is a 50% reduction in oil supply compared to the rear, and this alone would explain the front end failure susceptibility, but it doesn’t end there. The original designer tried to phase the oil supply to the front and rear ends equally, but somebody else decided the camshaft timing gear at the front should have some more lubrication, and put in an additional drilling. The reality was that the original plain bearing would have leaked into this cavity, and as there were no low level drainage holes, the oil wouldn’t go away, so it really didn’t need the additional drilling, but the biggest problem was where it was positioned. The oil pump doesn’t need to be big, as the engine only needed low flow rates and low pressure to work within it original design specifications, however any pressure drop say after a drilling would take a little time to recover, and this was accepted in the design layout, but as soon as the oil drilling to the front timing gear was placed ahead of the front end oil supply, the 50% reduction in flow rate all things being equal just got worse, as this drilling lost pressure after 60 degrees of a 90 degree recovery window, and only gave the camshaft 30 degrees to recover the oil pressure in the gallery. This means the front crankshaft oil feeds are compromised further, whereas the rears are unaffected, and it was all down to a simple production oversight.

What is the solution? Again, a quick history lesson will tell you all you need to know, and it is the route of many flat twin Panhard devotees, but don’t bother looking at the history books, what you have to do is engine specific, but that’ll be for another day. Suffice to say, I spotted this many years ago, and have been making parts and modding a few engines to overcome these oil related faults every time I get hold of one.

This is the cleaned crankcase marked up and ready for the knife or Foredom.


I have to modify the later style crankcase to adjust the oil circulation. This will mean creating a new big end feed under the front main bearing, plugging some of the existing galleries, and making new drain holes for the front timing gear. This will reduce pumping losses, lower oil temperatures and improve oil quality. After this I will be refining the existing oil galleries to reduce back pressure and cavitation, so increasing the nett flow rate of the existing oil pump.

Contrary to what others are saying or you might have heard elsewhere, this oil pump is more than capable of feeding the demands of the standard Panhard engine, and these mods to the front end boost pressure to the plain bearing surfaces, especially when combined with my camshaft oil light piston, so it’s a win win situation, but if I was going to spend money on something extra to improve things further, I would boost the oil capacity by increasing the sump volume.