Mamma mia: M-Sport’s turned a ‘90s Fiat Panda into a 300bhp rally car | Top Gear
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Tuesday 26th September

Mamma mia: M-Sport’s turned a ‘90s Fiat Panda into a 300bhp rally car

The folks behind Ford’s rally cars launch their special vehicles department in adorably aggressive style

Published: 07 Dec 2021

We’d say M-Sport aren’t short of work. Based in a cosy little corner of the English Lake District, they build both Ford rally cars and Bentley GT3 racers. They’re putting the finishing touches to 2022’s Puma WRC car as we speak.

Happily, though, M-Sport finagled some time in its packed schedule to answer the wonderfully whimsical demands of one customer. Namely ‘turn the Fiat Panda 4x4 into a fully blown rally car’. Whoever that customer is, we’ve identified them as our spirit animal.

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Meet ‘Pandamonium’, the result of that age old question of ‘what happens when you squeeze an R5-regulation Ford Fiesta rally car inside an old Nineties Fiat Panda?’ The result is a tiny little box-arched sugar cube loaded with aggression and, we suspect, capability.

“The original shell of the Fiat Panda was carefully widened by 360mm to allow it to fit the Fiesta chassis,” M-Sport tells us, “providing 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.”

We’re not going to argue, apart from perhaps the ‘subtle’ bit. Never mind Kung Fu Panda. This is Whack You In The Face For Looking At My Pint Panda.

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The Fiesta R5 is described as a M-Sport’s most successful ever racecar. There have been 294 produced, amassing just shy of a thousand rally victories all told. Its 1.6-litre turbo engine – providing 300bhp and 332lb ft, plumbed to all four wheels via a five-speed Sadev sequential ‘box – makes it wholesale into the diddy engine bay of an L-reg Panda 4x4.

“I am blown away by what we have been able to achieve,” says M-Sport director Matthew Wilson. “I was very fortunate to complete the car’s shakedown and put it through its paces; not only is it amazing to look at, it drives very well too.

“It has been a very interesting project from an engineering point of view,” he continues. “It has provided M-Sport the perfect springboard to launch M-Sport Special Vehicles, highlighting that we are geared up and ready to accept new clients with unique commissions of their own. M-Sport Special Vehicles, or ‘MS-SV’, is our new bespoke car building service which is only possible thanks to the opening and introduction of our new test track and manufacturing facility that are within the Dovenby Hall Estate.”

Exciting times, huh? The cost isn’t disclosed, nor what the Panda’s new owner has planned for it. So let’s instead open the floor. Money no object, which old car are you asking the Lakeland folks to squeeze the innards of a rally car or GT3 racer into?

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