M-Sport is by no means a stranger to building high-performance machinery with a proven and successful track record, the Ford Fiesta WRC and Bentley Continental GT3 to name but a few recent examples. The Panda 4×4 project presented an altogether different challenge though; a bespoke vehicle build where the only rulebook to adhere to was the client’s brief. The brief in this case was remarkably simple: to make a Panda fit for rallying that is truly a one-of-a-kind production.
The Panda by M-Sport started life as a standard road-going Fiat Panda. Following months of pain-staking design and craftsmanship, it left Dovenby Hall as a fully-fledged, fire-breathing competition car ready to take on special stages in gravel or tarmac trim.
Using their knowledge and expertise, the engineering team that worked on the Panda took the underpinnings of a Fiesta R5 Mk1 as their starting point, the most successful customer competition car ever produced by M-Sport. Since launching in 2013, M-Sport have produced 294 R5 Mk1s which have delivered a combined total of 953 rally victories to date (and still counting…)
The original shell of the Fiat Panda was carefully widened by 360mm to allow it to fit the Fiesta chassis; this provides a more stable platform for cornering performance. To not overstretch the original shape of the Panda, aggressively styled wheel arches were sculpted and fitted, with the added effect of giving the car that subtle Group B-esque look.
Powering the Panda by M-Sport is a 1.6-litre Ford EcoBoost engine, producing just under 300 bhp and 450Nm torque through a five-speed sequential Sadev transmission, mated to bespoke front and rear differential units.
The Panda by M-Sport seamlessly combines the old and the new in one purpose-built package. The interior features a dashboard inspired by the same basic one found in early Fiat Panda models, with added six-point harnesses and an FIA homologated roll-cage surrounding the driver and co-driver. Like all modern day rally cars, the rear seat bench was removed to make way for spare wheel storage, while the rear-hatch now features a carefully hand-embossed ‘PANDA 4×4’ badge, in homage to the original model. Style and safety all-in-one.