Fiat Panda

FIAT Panda: 40 years


Appearances can be deceiving and in the automotive world, much more. There are cars that at first glance seem sporty, powerful and fast, but then it turns out to be all façade, as is the case with many current models with huge tires and suggestive design. But there is also the car with a simple design, practical solutions and basic engines, which is surprising for all the engineering applied in its creation. 

One of those cars may be the MINI, which became famous among the people because of its small size and not because of the ingenious Issigonis design. Another example of a simple but interesting car on other levels is the FIAT Panda, our beloved and friendly SEAT Panda, which is turning 40 years old and which is a revolutionary car in many respects, although in the end it is known for its simplicity in design. There is the phrase in relation to your dashboard, which by the way, it must be said that said dashboard does not exist. 

It is one of the characteristics of the FIAT Panda, it does not have a dashboard as such, although the designers knew how to take advantage of that fact. Designers, by the way, who were headed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Italdesign was the design studio responsible for the creation of the FIAT Panda, with the premise of being an economical vehicle, both when it comes to manufacturing it and maintaining it and using it on a daily basis. Function took precedence over form and cost savings over everything else

40 years of the FIAT Panda

Fiat Panda: Holiday Design

But Giugiaro was a true artist, a guy with remarkable ingenuity, even though he has always lived in the shadow of designers like Pininfarina. We owe Giugiaro cars like the BMW M1 (e26), the Alfa Romeo Alfasud, the Maserati 3200 GT, the De Lorean, the Renault 21, the first and second generation SEAT Ibiza and Toledo, the spectacular Volkswagen W12 ... and of course , one of the cars with the most followers today, the Volkswagen Golf “MK1”. Italdesign has created great cars for countless brands

It was 1976 when Carlo de Benedetti, CEO of FIAT at that time, contacted Giugiaro to commission him a job. He had to design a simple, cheap and versatile car, specifically, de Benedetti said that it should not be more expensive to produce than a FIAT 126 and it should be as rational and usable as a Citroën 2CV or a Renault 4. In addition, they gave him as a margin to present the work just a few months. Giugiaro received the order in early summer and should be finished by the end of August

Right at that moment, Giugiaro was on vacation in Sardinia, so he asked to have his design table brought to his vacation spot and began working on the project with his partner, Aldo Mantovani. It took very few weeks to finish the project, which stood out for the ingenuity used in its creation. 

You have to save, but with ingenuity

For example, the shapes of its bodywork, with smooth panels and marked by straight lines responded to cost savings. It is much cheaper to manufacture panels with simple and straight shapes than with complicated shapes and they are also easier to assemble and therefore cheaper to manufacture. In addition, at the same time it makes the most of the space and offers a relatively spacious cabin for its exterior size. The manufacture also presents curious ideas for saving costs, such as the two rubbers on the sides of the roof, which are there simply to cover the welds. 

The cabin is another waste of ingenuity and cost savings. Uncoated doors and pillars, extremely simple and highly functional seats (they could be folded both forwards and backwards, removed from the car…), as well as a nonexistent dashboard. What can be seen with the naked eye as soon as you enter is the firewall that separates the engine compartment from the passenger compartment, which has the openings for heating and acts as a support for the instrumentation module. At mid-height a bar is installed that, thanks to the incorporated upholstery, serves as a tray to leave whatever you want. 

Details that go unnoticed by a design of square shapes and, apparently, unimaginative, but that actually hide a very interesting engineering work and good ideas. The FIAT Panda is a car that revolutionized the Italian company, setting the course that FIAT would follow from that moment on, opening the door to the modern era and definitely turning their backs, after decades betting on it, to the “all behind”

From the Panda, both FIAT and SEAT, more than 4,5 million units were manufactured in 23 years of commercial life. The last unit of the Panda rolled off the assembly line on September 5, 2003, a pink Panda Young 1100 ie.

Written by Javi Martin

If you ask me where my love for motoring comes from, I wouldn't know how to answer. It has always been there, although I am the only one in the family who likes this world. My father worked as a draftsman in a metallurgical company with a lot of auto parts production, but there was never a passion like I can have.

I really like automobile history and I am currently creating a personal library dedicated exclusively to motor history in Spain. I also have a huge collection of scanned material and have written the book "The 600, a dream on wheels" (Larousse publishing house).

One Comment

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  1. It has always been a little car that I really liked when it was nano... curiously it seems that the Seat Panda fared better than the later Marbella, in which they "exceeded" with the cost savings and were more problematic and fragile (especially the latest electronic carburettor…). On the other hand, the Italians from Fiat were somewhat better thanks above all to their Omega rear suspension that they incorporated into a restyling and, above all, the most modern Fire engines... here the 4×4 Trekking version was sold a lot, for example.

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