It’s not only celebrities that are going electric. Classic trucks and SUVs are now being converted to electric drive, keeping classic utility without problematic powertrains. Swapping the engine out for an electric motor also makes affordable importable off-road SUVs easier to live with—fewer obscure parts to break. But SUVs aren’t the only off-roaders. Both Lancia and Audi made some iconic classic off-road vehicles, like the Delta Integrale and Ur-Quattro. But Fiat also made an affordable four-wheel drive car, the Fiat Panda 4×4. And now, there’s a fully-restored electric version available.
The Fiat Panda 4×4: Four-wheel drive for the masses
Although the Ur-Quattro beat it to market, the 1983 Fiat Panda 4×4 was one of the first small four-wheel drive vehicles available, according to Motorious. It was also significantly more affordable than the Audi. And much like the Suzuki Jimny (aka Samurai), the Fiat Panda 4×4’s size meant it could punch above its weight when it came to off-roading.
The Panda 4×4’s 4WD system also played into it. According to Petrolicious, Fiat turned to Austrian firm Steyr-Puch to give the Panda 4WD. That name should sound familiar: it’s the same company that made, and still builds, the Mercedes G-Wagon. These little hatchbacks were so tough, Classic Driver reports Fiat entered them in the Paris-Dakar, where they competed against the likes of the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution, Nissan Patrol, and Unimog.
Even today, the Fiat Panda 4×4 remains a respected off-roader. Top Gear named the 2012 Panda 4×4 its SUV of the Year. Fifth Gear found a new Panda 4×4 could conquer terrain that could flummox a Range Rover. And even when the Fiat gets stuck, it’s so light, you don’t need a winch to get it free. Petrolicious reports original models are still used in the Italian countryside, due to their utility and fuel efficiency.
That fuel efficiency, though, is due to the Fiat Panda’s small engine. The original 0.96-liter four-cylinder only made 48 hp, according to Hagerty. The current Panda’s most powerful engine is a 0.9-liter turbocharged two-cylinder making 85 hp, according to Auto Evolution. While the car is fairly light, The Drive reports performance is best summarized as ‘adequate.’
Luckily, there is an easy and environmentally-conscious solution: make it electric.
Converting the Fiat Panda 4×4 to electric drive
As The Drive reported, Italian publication Car & Vintage commissioned Italian restoration firm Garage Italia to convert the classic Italian off-road hatchback into an EV. This process included a ground-up restoration with like-new donor parts.
This isn’t the first time Garage Italia has done this. In 2018, Motor1 reported the company turned a Fiat Panda 4×4 owned by the company founder’s grandpa into a one-off EV. That was a particularly special Panda, however: Garage Italia’s founder Lapo Elkann’s grandpa was former Fiat leader Gianni Agnelli.
The electric Panda 4×4 still isn’t that quick. The new powertrain is only good for 72 mph, and a 62-mile range limits the car to mostly city driving. However, the Fiat Panda retains its original Austrian-made 4WD system. In addition, Garage Italia added modern off-road tires, vintage Carello rally lights, and brush guards front and rear. The interior was also redone in Alcantara.
Pricing and availability
Unfortunately, Garage Italia is only making 5 of these electric Fiat Panda 4x4s. And official pricing has not been revealed—it’s likely in the “if you have to ask” range.
However, recreating the build isn’t actually that difficult. Many first-gen Pandas are legal to import into the US. While low-mileage examples can be rare, even restored Panda 4x4s are fairly affordable: Bring a Trailer sold one in 2018 for $7,900.
Once you get your hands on one, there are several companies in the US that can convert the Fiat Panda into an EV. Stealth EV, for example, worked with restomod firm Icon to make a Tesla-powered 1949 Mercury. And Road & Track reported on another firm, EV West, whose classic car EV conversions retain their original transmissions and drivetrains. Firms like this might even be able to give the Panda some more juice than Garage Italia.
So, if you’re looking for a classic compact 4×4 with some Italian zest, an electric Fiat Panda 4×4 does have a lot to offer.
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