Ken Nelson on Panhards, Citroëns and the Chrysler CCV

Ken Nelson is a Citroënvie member who owns many Citroëns, including a 1963 DS 19 Cabriolet that he has put many miles on and modified structurally to minimize body flex.  His career has been to come up with ideas for Detroit automotive companies and his interest stems from his father buying a Citroën DS in 1962.

  Ken Nelson

Ken is wealth of information on Citroëns and obscure orphaned French cars.  He brought his 1966 Panhard 24 BT to the studio for John McElroy’s Autoline After Hours program that originates from Detroit.  On the show (episode #310 – November 13, 2015) Ken talks about automotive innovations from Panhard that have been lost to history.

In fact, Panhard was first to do an up front engine inline layout that became the standard of automobile engineering.  (In pioneering days, engines were located under the seats).  Ken goes on to talk about the roller bearings used for the crankshaft in the flat-twin air-cooled 850 cc engine Panhard developed in 1946 and is used in the 24 BT.  Not only does it put out 60 hp (considerable for its size) but the engineering design of the roller bearings is based on drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci.

This is a fascinating show for Citroën enthusiasts as Panhard was acquired by Citroën in 1964 and there many similarities to Citroën in both engineering and aerodynamics.

Ken touches upon the Chrysler China Car Program.  Also called the CCV (that we featured in an articles in Citroënvie back in the Spring 2008 and Summer 2008 issues).

  Chrysler CCV

The CCV was the brainchild of Francois Castaing who came to Chrysler as Vice President for Vehicle Engineering from American Motors Corporation (AMC) where he was Vice President for Product Engineering and Development.  Castaing owned a 2CV when he lived in France and is an engineering graduate from École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers in Paris, having worked in Europe for Gordini and and Renault before joining AMC.

  Francois Castaing

Ken’s insight is astounding as you can see watching the episode here:


  1. did you just find out that he is a store house of knowledge…

    He is simply awesome, knows exactly what he is doing.

    Is a straight shooter and is a pleasure to communicate with.

    He had done a similar chassis strengthening of his DS Decapotable as the late Phil Devingt had done on his ’66 BVH Decapotable -better than factory or Chaperone.

    I read and re read my writing, looks good to hit ‘Send’

  2. What is left out of this story is the most creative engineer I have seen in 37 years in the Detroit auto industry. Del Derees who was the a head of Advanced Vehicle Design at AMC came alone long before Gastaing doing innovative things with vehicle packaging and design. Along with Dick Teague, Dave Holls, Otto Rosenbush, and Don Sommers, they started the Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance which was the largest and 2nd best such event in the US. Del Also had much to do with the JJ project an idea to bring Jeep CJs back to the post WWII roots in size and cost. He was the main packaging engineer in the 1983 Jeep Cherokee, that went for 20+ years and is still popular. The final championing and decisions were made by higher up guys, but they seldom were the creative forces in the design.

    1. OldCarMan, I was on a couple projects with Del DeRees, but did you know of Del Schroeder? As I recall, he was a GM guy who initiated the Urethane front end on the Pontiac GTO back in the ’70s.
      This was before anyone in the auto biz was looking at flexible plastics for bodyparts.
      Del told me that to get upper mgmnt to understand how well the stuff could wotk and what could be done with it, he took a Corvette, made all the bodypanels for this mule of what was probably a castable urethane, then set up a demonstration. He placed the Vette broadside, and ran another vehicle into the side of the Vette! The car bounced, and the panels popped back to shape, and mgmnt bought the idea – for the rubbernose GTO.
      So there’s another “Del” innovator in the industry –

  3. Ken, saw your name in Barnfinds comments. I have a collection of 6 panhards rusting away, no engines, just frames, hate to melt them down. How can I get a message out? Thanks, Nathan

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