There's a couple of guys who collect golf clubs who attend the auction I go to, and they are always tipping me off about bikes at various thrifts (they have convinced me to never, ever make fun of golf again just by their general niceness. This is a huge concession on my part). One of them told me there was a Panasonic at one of the Southside thrifts, and I went and found this bike. It's a Panasonic Touring Deluxe, a nicely set up touring bike. It followed me home.
Frame is tange 1000 Cro-moly, double butted. Shimano drivetrain, except for the cranks (takagi ar:t). Shimano cantilever brakes. Marked as "handmade", I'm pretty sure it's an Osaka bike-- the serial number is on the headtube, but it does not follow the pattern I've seen on previous Panasonics. The serial number starts "6E2"; my understanding is that the second digit was the year; other serial numbers I've seen follow a letter-number-letter-number pattern (eg M5e6, which would be an 85). Tenatively, since the bike is non indexed, I'm guessing it's an 82, but that seems early.
Unfortunately, the darn thing is my size, so I may wind up keeping it. I had a beatiful Panasonic pass thru my hands about two years ago, a DX5000 built for a much smaller person than I (nothing irritates me more than finding a primo bike that is not the requisite 62cm). I've wanted a good Japanese bike for awhile. This one's not as nice as the DX (I don't think) but is still a very nicely built lugged steel bike and a true tourer (I think, I've never owned one.). Probably a great hauler.
Any info or corrections to my wild assumptions are of course greatly appreciated.