Leading World Rally Championship (WRC) squad M-Sport has unveiled a one-off rally-honed Fiat Panda 4×4 that will be the first in a new line of bespoke low-volume projects.
The Cumbrian firm fields Ford Fiesta WRCs in rallying’s top-flight, previously ran Bentley’s works GT programme and has produced high-spec versions of the Ford Transit van. It has built the new Panda by M-Sport for an unnamed client who wanted a machine capable of contesting both gravel and Tarmac rallies.
The Panda by M-Sport is the first machine from the firm’s new M-Sport Special Vehicles arm.
It’s built from a standard road-going Mk1 Panda that has been extensively modified and rebuilt and fitted with the underpinnings from the first-generation Fiesta R5 rally car.
To house the Fiesta R5’s chassis, the shell of the Panda had to be widened by 360mm – a move that M-Sport claims also improves handling. To avoid changing the Panda shell’s shape, new custom-built wheel arches – inspired by those features on Group B cars – were added.
The Panda by M-Sport uses the Fiesta R5’s Ford Ecoboost 1.6-litre turbo engine, which is tuned to deliver just under 300bhp and 332lb ft of torque to all four wheels via a Sadev five-speed sequential gearbox.
Inside, the dashboard is inspired by the original Panda design, although it features six-point harnesses for the seats and an FIA-homologated roll cage. The rear seats have been removed to offer storage for spare wheels.
While the project is a one-off built to the demands of a client, M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson said that the Panda “is one of the first of a new era of bespoke, low-volume projects being carried out at [M-Sport base] Dovenby Hall.”
Wilson added that M-Sport Special Vehicles is “geared up and ready to accept new clients with unique commissions of their own” and that the new arm benefits from the development the new test track and M-Sport Evaluation Centre manufacturing facility recently built at Dovenby Hall.