The latest car to leave M-Sport’s famous production line isn’t a Puma, a Fiesta, or even a Ford. Its latest, stage-ready rally car is an old Fiat Panda.
But this isn’t just any old Fiat Panda. The Panda by M-Sport has been designed from the ground up to be a rallying weapon, with its underpinnings based on the original Ford Fiesta R5.
Commissioned by an M-Sport customer, the Panda’s shell was widened by 360mm to allow it to fit the Fiesta’s chassis, providing more stable handling characteristics. Aggressive wheel arches were subsequently styled and fitted, giving the car a mean and menacing stance unlike the road car on which it’s based.
Because it’s instead based on an R5, the Panda by M-Sport is powered by a 1.6-liter engine that produces a shave under 300bhp and 450Nm of torque through a five-speed gearbox. But both the front and rear differentials are bespoke to this unique design.
Inside, there are echoes of the original roadgoing Panda with a dashboard inspired by its very basic design. As per FIA regulations, a six-point safety harness and homologated roll-cage with the rear seats of course removed to allow space for a spare wheel.
M-Sport director Matthew Wilson has driven the bespoke machine, and admitted it’s been “very special” watching the Panda by M-Sport transform from design brief to reality.
“I am blown away by what we have been able to achieve, ” Wilson said. “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.
“We are very proud of the end result and it has been a very interesting project from an engineering point of view.”
Wilson added that the Panda by M-Sport has given the company “the perfect springboard” to launch M-Sport Special Vehicles (MS-SV), a new arm to the expanding business.
“We are geared up and ready to accept new clients with unique commissions of their own,” he said. “M-Sport Special Vehicles 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.
“The testing and project design for the Panda by M-Sport was completed entirely in house using the M-Sport Evaluation Centre, which we are abbreviating to ‘MS-EC’. This entire project has opened our eyes to a new level to which we are now capable of delivering.
“The vision is now to show the rest of the world what M-Sport is capable of thanks to the amazing resources we have right on our doorstep.”
Take a closer look at some of the finer details of the Panda by M-Sport below.