Let’s say your drive a Ford Focus, and you’re out and about. How many other Ford Focus do you pass that day? Given the car’s popularity, the number will be higher than it would be if you drove, say, a Honda S2000. Of those Focus’ you passed, how many would give you a thumbs-up, or engage in passing conversation at a traffic light?
Chances are, it’ll be absolutely zero. The reason isn’t snobbishness or nervousness, it’s because almost all those owners purchased the car because it offered safe, reliable transport for the right price. Not because they loved it.
It’s the opposite with cars like the Panda 100hp, a car few people in their right minds purchased because it was overly fuel-efficient, or was particularly great value, or offered the best ride in its class. It’s a car chosen because the new owner fell in love with the way it looks, handles and performs; and they’re happy to put up with its faults. The very essence of an enthusiasts car, and an enthusiast owner.
Here’s what prompted me to write this. Over the weekend, I was on my way to pick up my wife, and saw a black Panda 100hp slot in behind me. We drove in tandem until my turning, when I was stopped by a traffic light. The other Panda stopped alongside me, and the driver and I exchanged nods of approval, which led to a short but excellent conversation about our cars.
Although this has happened in the past, this was the first time in a long while, and was a positive point in an otherwise regular day.
The Panda has even prompted conversations on Twitter (I’m @AndyBoxall, by the way) in the past, with people I’d never normally have met.
Of course, the Panda 100hp isn’t the only car like this, but it’s one of the few modern cars — certainly within its price range — that falls into the category. Most cars over a certainly age, when they’re obviously cared for, will attract not only fellow owners, but fans of the car too. Who hasn’t wanted to have a quick chat with the person behind the wheel of a Lotus Cortina, or an Alfasud, or a spotless 80s Porsche 911?
The Panda 100hp may not be as collectible as these examples, but it’s niche enough to have a decent following, and unless you’re into cars, it can look like just another Panda; and who’s going to want to chat about one of those?
Over the years, only a few other cars I’ve owned have fallen into the same category as the Panda. It was extremely rare I would see another Westfield driving around, but the car did get plenty of attention in petrol stations and car parks, and fellow MR2 owners would almost always flash their lights as we passed. It helped that at the time I owned mine, the Japanese import scene was only just beginning, and they weren’t all that common.
Strangely, it was the MX-5 that proved to be the most social out of all the cars I’ve owned. It wasn’t an unusual sight on the roads, but I would often get a thumbs-up or a flash of the headlights when I met another car, and with the roof down, people passing by while I was sitting in traffic would comment on the car.
If you drive an enthusiast’s car, whether it’s a Panda 100hp or something else, next time you pass another, make their day by offering a sign of recognition, as there’s a good chance they bought it for the same reasons you did.