An evergreen 40 years old
Happy birthday Fiat Panda
The best selling car in Italy since the 80’s.
Born as request from FIAT boss Carlo de Benedetti, realised from Giorgetto Giugiaro’s pencil.
Was the 1976, the first project’s name was “Rustica” in Italian: rustic, rough and despite de Benedetti’s departure in 1977 the project carried on with new president Nicola Tuffarelli to see, finally, the light in 1980 when the first Fiat Panda was released with 2 engine types:
The 2 cylinders 652cc with 30 bhp called Panda 30 and the 4 cylinders 903cc with 45bhp called Panda 45.
A basic design, essential, big bumpers and large windscreen to keep the cockpit bright;
Inside: tough materials all completely washable, simple dashboard with just few buttons and levers, not trace of a stereo and speakers, in fact if you wanted one you had to buy and mount it yourself, a slender gear stick, not so resistant seats but whit a formidable and still known to this days heater.
Not much space inside for the announced 5 seats, not much leg room for those in the back either, even had a small boot too… but who cared? Or at least, i didn’t.
The Panda has been the car for the first six years of my driving life, was actually the last model of the first series, the 2003 young petrol engine 1108cc, 54 bhp, 0-100km/h 19,5 seconds (NINETEEN POINT FIVE!), maximum speed 150km/h, and i couldn’t ask for a better machine.
Because in fact that’s what it is, a machine, rough, tough, simple; The sort of machine that teaches you how to drive, but also approaches with you a variety of first times that somehow will form you as driver and as basic mechanic too like: the first crashes and first self repairs, the first fault, even the first handbrakes and brave driving experiences.
Who had a panda as first car now can probably drive every other car, easily, perhaps tractors.
This year, for his 40st birthday an hybrid version has been launched, the 1 lt, 3 cylnders, 70 bhp that comes with a 12 volt electric motor BSG (Belt integrated starter generator) and lithium battery.
Giugiaro designs and some Austrian company called Steir Puch decides to join forces and from his pencil and their knowledge in off roading, in the summer of 1983, Italy welcomed the Fiat Panda 4x4.
A not particularly sophisticated system, but efficient, practical whit a rear wheel drive that can be fitted thanks to a lever in the transmission tunnel, a 5 speed gear box with a super short first gear to use as crawler gear when needed.
Light, 700 kg, 965cc, 48 bhp; High with strong suspensions and winter tyres reveals his own “jeep” attitude.
Uncomfortable and slow on tarmac it changes personality off road where, despite his small size, faces and beats hard challenges so as to become an essential tool for fire men brigades and forests guards; But more importantly for every farmer, shepherd and men who works and lives in the country side that needs a reasonable priced, loyal, strong companion for his everyday life.
Happy birthday Fiat Panda.