Driving a 1988 Fiat Panda to the top of Mount Etna
These things are awesome
I hadn’t driven an old Panda in ages. Classic Fiat Pandas are, at least in Italy, ubiquitous. If you grew up here in the 80s or 90s, your nonna had one at some point. It is a statistical certainty.
The Panda you see here is a 1988 4X4 Sisley model, powered by a 1.1-litre 4-cylinder engine, sending 50 PS (49 hp) to all four wheels, courtesy of an old school 5-speed manual. It is rugged and robust, and it is also light (860 kg), which makes it a lot more effective that several other off-roaders that are technically more advanced but heavy and cumbersome.
I’m in Sicily for an unrelated project and the owner of my airbnb owns a bunch of cars, including an Alfa 166, a classic Fiat 500 F (more on that later on DT), a 2002 Boxster and this Panda. “Would you like to take it for a ride? You should drive it to Mount Etna,” he said. So I did.
Mount Etna is an active volcano in Sicily. Wikipedia calls it a ‘stratovolcano’. The road to the top is littered with lava debris and volcanic sand. It’s quite the sight. Since the year 2000, Etna has had four flank eruptions - flank eruptions occur when the lava slides down the slopes - including a major one in 2002 that flooded an entire valley around Etna.
”See that building over there?” My guide points the finger at what looks like an abandoned house made of stones in the distance. “That is the third floor of a restaurant that’s buried underneath the lava. These black rocks you see here? That’s dried lava.” That’s impressive. And petrifying.
Mount Etna in the backdrop. P.S., I’ve also driven this 500 F today, more on that later on DT
You don’t really know unless you know. We were driving to the top and it looked like a normal road and then at some point my guide said: “turn left here, through the trees. Keep driving.” I kept on driving and found another road. “See that? This used to be the old road, but as you can see it’s now blocked”. I can see that, because in front me I can see a wall made of lava rocks that’s taller than a 2-story building.
The Panda is the ultimate go-anywhere vehicle on a budget. It can do anything, anywhere, and it’ll keep on going, leaving much heavier and much more expensive off-roaders gasping for air and struggling for traction in its wake. I like it. It’s like owning a puppy.
Have you ever owned / do you own a Fiat Panda?