Back in the nineties, a friend owned a Fiat Panda, Mark 1 or Mark 2 I can’t quite remember. It didn’t garner too much good press back then as I vaguely recall, but the Aldo Mantovani and Giorgetto Giugiaro designed all-wheel drive boxy little car had a certain appeal. I rather liked that Fiat Panda (add an ‘Em’ to the beginning and you get the inspiration behind the name; the Roman goddess of travellers) and it never let us down. In 2007 a pair of all-wheel drive Pandas were built for the Dakar Rally in the slightly more forgiving T2 class. While their collective rally performance may not be too memorable (they both retired during Stage 4) the name certainly was – Fiat had given the Dakar Panda models the genius name, PanDAKAR.

The tuning geniuses at M-Sport have now also turned their attention to the Fiat Panda, producing a 300bhp rally car from the bones of a 1990s Panda potentially for the World Rally Championship. Specifically, this was a request from a so far anonymous customer – maybe someone who believed that the concept of PanDAKAR had yet more to offer. Certainly, the fun name (whether official or not) for this Panda rally car has continued the fun aspect: meet the ‘Panda’monium!

M-Sport are of course well known for turning the humble Ford Fiesta into winning rally cars – and the M-Sport Pandamonium will feature a first generation R5 Fiesta chassis. The Mk1 Panda chassis has been widened by a crucial 360mm to allow this to happen and give the Panda a little more cornering and straight-line stability. With M-Sport’s considerable experience with the Fiesta rally car, we can certainly expect that this ground-hugging Panda will perform well.

The M-Sport Fiesta R5 300bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre rally was based on the Cologne-built Ford ST-Line and became M-Sport’s most successful global rally car, winning championships and stages wherever it competed. It continues to do so and is a trusted and proven vehicle to use as the basis for turning this nineties Mk 1 Panda into something it was never designed to become. The combination of a widened form factor and that square utilitarian boxy shape with added aggressive bodywork has certainly given the Pandamonium a very restomod look. The front skirt sweeps up elegantly to the custom wheel arches before levelling off to that very angular look that the rest of the car embodies.

Powering the Pandamonium will be the Fiesta EcoBoost turbo 1.6-litre engine controlled from a Sadev 5-speed sequential gearbox. All 4 wheels will receive 300bhp and 450Nm of torque. The Panda rally is effectively a 2-seater, as the rear seats make way for spare wheel storage, and a 6-point roll cage and bucket seats with 6-point harnesses add security.

M-Sport has become a much-respected name in motorsport since its inception in 1997. The company was even appointed official technical partner for the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY all-electric touring car project. The company now also has an FIA-grade test track at its base in Dovenby Hall, just to the north-west of the Lake District, to go along with its M-Sport Evaluation Centre where the vehicles are built.

The Pandamonium M-Sport Panda rally car will be the first bespoke vehicle from a planned series of low volume vehicle runs and serves as publicity for the new M-Sport Special Vehicles arm. M-Sport SV is ready to welcome anyone with a serious project that they would like to see come to fruition. As for the Pandamonium, the mystery owner requested a car that would prove equally capable on both gravel and tarmac, which might hint at some sort of extreme use in the future – but for that, we will have to wait and see.

Images: M-Sport

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