I have been after a MK1 panda for a while now to add to the collection and Mr Chris Watson from Newcastle (England) "Take a bow Chris" who had seen my restorations and he very kindly offered me his car.  It's a 1981 45 with only 26,350 on it from new.  We think it may be one of the oldest Pandas in the UK. I'll wait for someone to tell me different  He sent me these photos of the car to wett my appitite.

13/01/07. My friend Alan from Cumbria offered to lift the car and trailer it to Stranrear This ment a 400 mile round trip for him and one hell of a gesture of which I am in his debt. However things didn't go to plan. My mate Jim and I were to go on the 12.20 HSS and meet up with Alan. I was then for taking him out for dinner (theres a great Indian in Stranrear)  as He had driven all that way, only stopping to feed his dogs. The idea was then to come back home on the 19.50 sailing. Unfortunately on route over we were told that due to bad weather the 19.50 would not be sailing. This ment we would have to transfere onto the 14.50 sailing, (the return of the boat we were on ). The booking clerk told us we would literally have 10 minutes to get from the boat to the car and back onto the boat again. We phoned Alan who parked at the boats off ramp and drove us to the car. We jumped in the car and had to fight our way through the traffic leaving the boat back round to the terminal to get back on. The gates were closed right behind us and once booked we had to drive like mad to get on the boat. The staff were waving us on like crazy as they were closing the boat up. Jim filmed us racing for the boat http://www.youtube.com/v/rAbOBsvK6Q8  So we seen Alan for about a minute after him going all that way and were on Scottish soil all off 12 minutes.

These are the pics Alan took when he lifted the car.

 I think Alans dogs had a go at driving to, "You work the pedals and I'll steer"

And this is the car finally on the boat.

Now he's at his new home it was time to take a few photos of what needs done. 

Yes it does only have 26,355 miles on it from new.

I know I haven't started work on the car but this came my way recently. A brand new original Fiat ariel.

18/09/07. I started to strip the car today in preparation for restoration. I intend to try to have it finished looking as original as I can get it but I'm not out to make it into a concours car that I can't use. I will probably carry out a few discreet modifications to make it last longer and more usable for modern day. I suspect like the 127 Sport I'm about to finish the restoration will take over a year. But you never know, it might not be a rusty as it looks.

This is it today ready for starting.


Different views of the engine bay before starting. They're more for my benefit so I don't forget were everything goes. 

Stripped the front off the car and started stripping the drivers door. It's not looking like a good start. The corners of the front panel just crumbled away. This one's going to be fun.   

I had a spare couple of hours so got stuck into the engine bay and interior. 1h.37mins later it was all out and safely stored in the attic.  

Once done I can now see what the floor is like. Not to bad is the answer. It has holes as you can see were all Pandas rot through but is a fix I'm used to now and it doesn't look like it's went all the way along the seam.

Beacuse I got on so well I took the drivers door off to as I have the repair panel to fix the bottom of it. I might sort out the inside welding first though, so the petrol tank will have to come out. 

Took out the rear window. As the window is a flat one it's easy enough to do. I use a very wide flat head screw driver and working from the inside use the screw driver to push the rubber in under the metal lip. It's a slow process but it means you get the window out in one piece. While working along use your thumb to push the rubber a little bit further past the metal lip.


Took about 20 mins but worth it not to

 break the glass or lose the rubber.

Taking the dash out was next and what a nightmare. It may only be the most basic of cars but I have never in all the cars I've worked on seen so much insulation tape and cable ties holding wiring together. It took almost 2 hours to get through it all. The dash itself was easy enough but if you ever have to do it, do remember you have to take the front part of the dash off to get at 2 8mm nuts that release the back bit.


Things didn't get any better when I went to remove the wiring from the engine bay. I gave up counting the cable ties there to after I got to 20. And my patience was starting to go to. Everything was cabled to eachother. Wiring to the speedo cable, to the throttle cable and to the steering rack. I would have had it all out but I couldn't get at the horn to remove the wires from it. The bumber will have to come off to do that and the bolts for the bumper are spinning so I may have to cut the bumper. I'm replacng them with new ones so it doesn't matter about the old ones getting damaged.

10/01/08. First day back at work for the new year sort of thing. Got the front bumper off to see what the damage is. Both corners of the front panel at the wing were the indicators go are rotten clean through. So is parts of the bottom lip. Nothing major to repair though. 

Got stuck into it and took all of 20 mins to get all the holes welded up again. Once welded I treated the exposed metal with rust eater to make sure nothing more comes through.

Things were going well until I started taking the black stuff off the front passenger side inner wing. It's pretty bad with 2 large holes and a lot of rust. The drivers side isn't as bad but has holes in it just the same. I didn't have any time left today to grind back all the bad metal but once I do I will have to make the decission weather to continue restoring the car or take it apart for parts. There's a lot of work in putting new metal in to an inner wing and I can't justify buying a fitting a full inner wing, that's even assuming I could get one.


Drivers side.

11/01. Ok got the grinder out and ground away all the bad metal leaving 3 big holes and the panel like a tea bag. Not good. However I'm not one for giving up even though I know it really doesn't make sense to restore a car that's not really worth a lot. I'll let in new metal and double skin it from under the arch as well to give it as much strength as possible. Going to take a lot of work though.


Once I started with the grinder it was hard to stop and I found another area of rust on the scuttle panel right up were the vent is on the drivers side. Another awkward area to get the welder into. The little cars not making it easy for me to get him back on the road. 

17/01. Well got the passengers side inner arch all welded up from the top side but I still have to do it from the bottom so it will be double skinned. Took 2 hours to weld the new metal in and even managed a couple of little fires.

However things are not going well at all because I started to take a little bit of the underseal off as it looked to be bubbling and found rust under it. If I'm honest I thought the underseal was in good condition as there is lots on and it's not broken anywere so I was hoping I wouldn't have to remove it all. I'm now going to have to to see what extent the rust might be. I'm now having to ask myself again if it's worth all the effort to restore the car. I'll just keep going until I run out of patients.


18/01. The passenger front wing isn't in the best of shape and is going to take a bit of work to get in some sort of order..


The quarter panel is in poor shape to and will be harder to do because it has ribs in it.


That's another 3 hours welding done. I think that makes around 14 hours welding now and I'm still at the front of the car! 

02/02. The brake master cylinder before removing the pipes. More for my own benefit this photo so I'll remember what way they will go back on.

09/02. Called with Chris a friend of mine and another Fiat/Lancia collector. He had a surprise waiting for me. A genuine MK1 Panda drivers door skin in as new condition. Excellent.


The new skin and the rusty door it has to go onto. Might do it next week if I get a chance as I don't want the skin sitting about to get damaged.

12/04. I had to take some of the cars out of the garage today to clean up a bit so while they were out it gave me the oportunity to re-skin the drivers door because I was afraid of the new skin getting damaged just lying around.

 Re-skinning a door actually isn't a big job and is quite straight forward. All you do is lay the door flat and with a grinder, go along the edge of the frame. You just have to be careful you grind only until you see a trace of the inner frame.

You know your doing it right if the edging comes away as in the photo below.

On some cars the frame will be spot welded on the frame at the middle for strength, the Pandas is here just were the quarter window goes. You can either drill the 2 spot welds out or since the door scrap anyway just grind the spots out.


Once you have went round the edge of the entire door only then lightly using a good width screwdriver do you start to prize the old skin away from the frame.



Frame and skin split. Took about 20 mins in all to do. As the Mk1 Panda door is mostly metal it gives great access to any corrosion and plenty off room to put it right. This door does have a bit on the bottom which I will be welding new metal into so I won't be putting the new skin on just yet. I treated it with rust eater first.   


I also found the part of the window winder mechanism has broken. I would never have seen or been able to fix this if the skin was still on. Needless to say the welder will be in action for this to.


Although I'm not fixing the new skin just now as I need to sort some of the little bits out first, I did put it on the frame, 1 to make sure it fitted ok, which it does, and 2 if it's on the frame there is less likelyhood of it getting damaged.

30/07. Although nothings been done to the car of late I'm still gathering up litle bits as I go along. I got this Mk1 Panda brochure today and it is in mint condition. It'll look well on the back parcel shelf at shows. I love stuff like this. A Mk1 Panda keyring would be nice if anyone has one.


12/09/08. Time to get stuck back in. I've been tied up doing other stuff but started back with the grinder today. This is the rear passenger side wheel arch. I cut out all the rust back to good metal and then made up a new piece of metal and welded it in. I was checking round the car and I think really the only bit of welding still needing to be done is along the seams of the boot floor.


29/09. I've had a few emails asking what's going on with the car. Well work is still going on but as it's all bodywork at the moment it's slow work. I had to replace some metal at the bottom of the passenger side quarter panel which is ribbed so it's taking time to re-profile the ribs. I did get the front panel finished though and have covered it with rust eater and stone chip so far.


01/10. I was getting bored working on the body so decided it was time to see about putting the new bottom panel on the passenger side door. I haven't been looking forward to this because the only repair panel I could get was actually for the drivers door so I was going to have to do a lot of fettling to make it fit and to look right. You can see that the bottom of the door has the same black rubber mucky stuff the front inner wing had on, which revealed a few big holes for me to repair.


I took to the black stuff with panel wipe and to my absolute surprise the door is in remarkable shape. There is a 3inch bit of a rusty hole on the bottom inner side of the door but that's it. I don't need the repair panel and I get to keep the door original. This has cheered me up no end.


07.10. Ok I have the hole in the passenger door now repaired so it's time to move inside the car to the floor. Both sides of the floor at the rear arches are going a bit at the seams, a common problem it seems with Pandas. The drivers side is the worst. However as I have repaired a few Panda's in this area now it's an easy fix.  


Passenger side.

31/12/09. Thoughts for the year. I didn't get anywere near what I had planned to get done in 09. For 2010, I'd love to get the car finished but not sure it will happen. I'm even more unsure what I'll be doing with him once he is finished as he's the only Panda I now have since Juppy's off to a new home. Time will tell...

16/10/10. I'm still trying to tinker with the car from time to time but my date for having the car finished is just not going to happen due to other commitiments. So I took the engine and box out today as I had a spare hour. Pretty straight forward. As I was for taking front suspension out as well I just dropped the lot onto the ground and lifted the car over the engine.

It didn't take long to get the lot out. over the years the engine has gathered a lot of dirt. I'm looking forward to having it sitting like new again.

While I was working in the engine bay I removed the steering rack to.

 And once everything was out I was pleasently surprised at how solid the bay was, there seems to be little rust at all and it shouldn't take to long to have the bay done.

Before I finished for the day I welded the winder bracket that was broken,

And then put the new door skin on properly. I Got more done than I thought I would.


22/01/11. Today I lifted the new bumpers from my mate Trevor. I only asked him for them 3 years ago! but with one thing and another I just never got round to lifting them. But true to his word trevor held on to them for me. I'm well pleased as these were a key part of the build..

12/03. While working on the Panda van bits today I was able to get the rear bumper off the car. The drivers side of the rear panel has holed a bit as you can see. I'll be cutting it out a fitting in new metal but I need to be careful as I don't want to lose the original bumper mount holes.  

Interestingly the number 81 'in the big blue circle' (for the model year?  or the 80 1st made that year?) proves the car is completely original. I'm very tempted when it comes time to paint the car to leave this bit original. The towing mount 'little circle' is starting to rust through so will need work.

The seam that runs along the drivers side rear inner arch to the floor has crumbled through a bit and will all need replaced. This one will take a little time.

04/09. Work is progressing but slowly. I want to get the underneath finished first so put the car on its side. I'll be stripping the rear suspension, petrol tank and all other bits that come off. I Plan on getting as much of the suspension powder as possible as a close mate has started to do this.

07/09. Took the petrol tank out tonight. I was intending to paint the underneath of the car the same colour as the body but this light grey colour appears to be the original coating on the car. So change of plan. I'm going to check if it is and if so, match the colour and paint the floor that colour. 

01/10. Got the first coat of grey underseal on the most of the floor. I have a little bit of welding to do to the rear arches, pretty much it really but I ran out of time.

12/10. Got the rear part of the floor stone chipped and now the underneath is ready for paint.

I have to clean the rear axle as it is going to be powder coated in the next few weeks.

28/10. I got the paint for te car today. Its original colour "Fiat 854 Rosso Siam". The underneath of the car has been very well preserved with at least 4 coats of rubber sealant and now 3 coats of stone chip but I want the engine bay area smooth yet protected so I also bought a litre of oxide primmer. This will protect the engine bay hopefully for years to come. I'll be doing the inside of the doors with it to. I'm hoping to get the underneath painted tomorrow. 

29/10. Got the underneath painted today. I was originally going to paint it light grey but I was unable to match a colour that was right so although technically not correct I painted it the same colour as the car. It will be easier kept clean. It looks more of an orange colour in the photo but its not.

I was going to powder coat the rear axle and the petrol tank but to be honest they both cleaned up really well so I used the Chassis black paint I had originally bought for the job. 

The petrol tank before.

After it was cleaned with the wire brush.

And finally painted.


05/11. I found a copy of 'Motor' from June 1981 with the main feature being the Panda when it was launched. I couldn't pass up buying it to go with the history.

12/11. The springs and axle now painted were re-fitted along with the petrol tank. The tanks only losely bolted in for now as its going to have to come out to refit all the pipes.

And the new dampers arrived this morning. As you can see the original ones were blue so I bought paint the same colour to keep things authentic looking.