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Why Owning a Car with an Enthusiastic Following is Great

Panda 100hp FilterLet’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.

Long Time No Update, But the Panda is Still Going Strong

It has been a little over two years since I last updated OneHundredHP.com, for no other reason than real-life writing (by which I mean, writing I get paid for) getting in the way. However, a personal email inspired me to write at least one new post, as although the last couple of years have been fairly quiet on the car front, there have been one or two things that should be mentioned.

The Panda has around 37,000kms on the clock now, which is particularly low given it’s reaching its fifth birthday this year, but is still the same as it was the day it was purchased. Despite some thoughts of changing the exhaust and air filter, I’ve never bothered, just like I’ve never bothered to change the MP3/CD player.

Reliability-wise, the car has been fine except for one glitch last year, which I’ll detail in another post.

As you can probably tell by the mileage, I don’t get to use the car very often, but still enjoy every journey I do make in it. The engine still feels as perky as ever, and it’s still fun to give it the beans when possible.

The only adventure came during the summer last year, and I’ll relay that story soon. Until then, here’s the 100hp once again.

Panda2011

Attempted Theft of the Panda.

Walking to the car one recent Saturday morning, I pressed the unlock button on the fob, heard the central locking activate and pulled the door handle.  It didn’t open the door, so I looked at the remote and pressed the button again, thinking I had pressed the wrong one the first time.  Still nothing.  That’s when I noticed the slightly odd angle the door handle was sitting at.

Panda lock

Yes, someone had tried, unsuccessfully, to break into the Panda, presumably to steal it as there was nothing of any value on display and the car still has the original head unit.  Crouching to examine the lock, you could plainly see where a screwdriver had been inserted and wiggled about with increasing force.  So much so, in fact, that the lock section of the handle has been lifted away from the door and left a dent underneath!

This has resulted in my being unable to open the driver’s door and therefore, unable to use the car until it has been repaired.  It couldn’t have happened at a worse time, as plenty of work and a business trip has made it impossible to take it to Fiat for repair.  Well, I say that, but wrong information given by the service centre saw us use the only time we had to visiting the wrong place.

The Panda is now booked for the 29th October at the correct location, where I imagine a hefty bill awaits.

The Panda’s New Boots!

t1rI mentioned in my last post that the 100hp was shortly going to need a new set of tyres, well, after it being called into service on a far more regular basis than the beginning of this year, that time came around a little sooner than expected.  Adding 1500kms in just a few weeks saw grip and braking performance disappear and an increase in road noise and fuel consumption.

There was actually plenty of tread left of the Eagle F1’s the car came with, but the rubber had started to crack, so a search for the best price started.  If I wanted to continue with F1’s then a set of 4 195/45/R15’s would cost 400 euros fitted, or I could go for Rainsport 2’s at 380, however I had them on my Golf and wasn’t that impressed.  So, I decided to go for the F1’s again and cough up the money.

But when it came to the day I just couldn’t do it, instead I took a trip around some more dealers to see if I could better the price.  I was shown some Toyo Proxes T1-R’s which have essentially the same tread pattern and stickiness as the F1’s, and were 370 for 4, but if I went for 195/50/R15’s they were 290 for 4!

What can I say, stuff the slightly higher sidewall and possible iffy speedo reading, that was a big saving.  An hour later and they were on the car.

The first journey was a strange one and saw me visiting the nearest petrol station to check the pressures and sure enough, tyre man saw fit to pump my new Proxes to between 33 and 35psi, hence the odd feeling.  Pressures adjusted properly and a decent drive later, I can honestly say I don’t notice any downsides with this change, in fact, the upside is the increased sidewall has lessened the crashy nature of the Panda on the potholed Athenian tarmac!  Grip is also excellent and the car feels like new again – it really has made a massive difference!

My original F1’s lasted 26,800kms, which I don’t consider too bad, especially on Greek roads.  I’m hoping the Proxes will prove equally as long lasting.  Anyone else made this change?

A 100hp Update – Summer 2009.

Seeing as it was 2008 when I last updated the blog, I thought it was about time to add a little something about the Panda.  In the eight or nine months since the 20,000km service, I have completed another 5,000kms and had no problems whatsoever!  As always, I hope this statement doesn’t jinx my run of good luck!

As summer is now in full swing, I’ve noticed my tyres really are on their last legs.  Not because of available tread – of which there is quite a bit – but due to the poor tarmac quality robbing them of grip, especially under acceleration.  Seeing as I’m still on the originals, I can’t complain too much about the impending bill to change all four, but it will need to be done before the winter or any long journey.  I will probably go for the Eagle F1’s again, as I consider 25,000kms to be a decent figure for one set, and the performance they offer when at their peak is excellent.

In another 1000kms or so, it will receive the scheduled oil change, plus I really hope to get it professionally valeted, as the interior would benefit from a good clean.  Outside there is a scuff on the rear corner which needs to be addressed, but as I’m responsible for this one – rather than one of the millions of careless parkers in Athens – I’ll have to swallow my pride and take it in.

As the car is two and a half years old, I shouldn’t complain about a scuff joining a tiny parking ding on the base of the passenger door.  There are far newer cars in far worse condition here!  The Panda continues to be the best car purchase I’ve ever made, and it’s still great to drive.

MP3 Stereo Problem Cured?

The Blaupunkt stereo and its inability to play entire CDs of MP3’s was the only real issue I’ve had during my ownership of the Panda, so it gives me great pleasure to – for now – put the problem to rest.

I had been burning my CDs with an HP laptop and a program by Sonic, which although slow, did the job.  I have recently switched over to an Apple Mac and having transfer my music library over to iTunes on my MacBook, decided to burn a new CD to give it a try for our brief recent holiday.

On went ninety or so tracks and the CD played from beginning to end, twice, without a hitch!  So, I can only presume it was my older laptop’s DVD burner or the Sonic program which didn’t agree with the Panda’s stereo.  If anyone else out there has had the same problem, try another PC or try iTunes to burn it.  It’s so far worked for me!

Panda 100hp First Full Service Report.

It has taken a while to get there, but the Panda has finally amassed 20,000km’s under its wheels and with that figure came the message ’service coupon expired’ on the dash display along with a little picture of a spanner.  I had booked an appointment with Spicar in Alimos when the car was on 19,900, so only a few days wait was needed before the car went in.

Duly delivered at 08:30, we left the Panda and went about our days business.  Since we have had the car for well over a year now, it had a  minor service at 15,000 so it was running perfectly well, however the brakes had started to squeak and the tyres (still the original Eagle F1’s) have given up some grip thanks to a couple of very hot summers, so I was predicting the worst when it came to these two items.  The alarm had also begun to emit an odd sound a few moments after it was set – intermittantly of course – so this, along with the other two points were mentioned when we handed over the keys.

The car was completed at 4pm and upon collection we were told the brakes still had a good 6,000km’s in them, the tyres were fine and they could find no problem with the alarm.  Otherwise, the full service had been carried out and we paid just over 250 euro for the work, 100 of which was labour.  The experience at Spicar was far better than our first visit and I found them helpful and prompt.

Driving the Panda since them has been a different experience.  It has felt livelier, with more linear acceleration and considerably more punch.  The brakes have benefitted from their fluid change and feel far better under foot and my confidence in them has returned.  Prior to the service, the 100hp had felt less perky than it had, so clearly the service was much needed, despite my diligence when it came to oil changes and attention to driving style.

The alarm has continued its odd behavior and it will have to return again, but as the problem doesn’t occur each time it’s set, the chances are when I go, it will be fine.  Still, it doesn’t seem to affect its operation, so it’s not a big concern at this stage.  Spicar recommended a further visit in 5-7,000km’s time for an oil change and the next big service to take place at 40,000km’s.  A recent change in circumstances has seen the Panda used even less during the week, so it may be sometime before we head back to Spicar!

A Well Deserved Holiday – 100hp Style!

After many months of the Panda doing a simple, slow and short journey everyday, we took a small holiday outside of Athens, giving the 100hp 600 kilometres to stretch its legs.  We headed off and took a 150km journey along the old National road of Greece before turning off towards Arahova and Delphi which despite being known as a winter destination it’s also ideal as a summer one as you avoid the crowds.

Anyone familiar with Delphi will know how mountainous the area is, so we had a great mix of fast motorway and wide, twisty mountainside roads on which to play.  Before setting off naturally I checked the oil and coolant, and although the oil was fine, the Panda needed coolant.  We picked up some Paraflu from Fiat and topped it up to the maximum.  I didn’t notice the car running any differently (as it’s always steady in the middle of the temperature dial), but the airconditioning seemed more effective!  

With a final fuel fill-up and tyre pressure check, we were on our way.  The National road is a hideous stretch of tarmac, filled with even more careless drivers than Athens itself, and this time traveling considerably faster.  But at a steady 120kph, it soon passes and as long as you keep your eyes on the idiots around you, it’s all fine.  Turning off the three-lane road gives a new challenge, as everyone moving quickly know has a single lane road on which to make progress – resulting in dangerous overtaking moves, often over double white lines.

Once into Arahova and friving around the magnificent mountain roads, it’s all much more civilised.  Exploration was enjoyable and just taking an unusual route revealed another impressive view and many hairpin bends followed by long straights.  Best of all was the quality of the roads themselves, as they yielded much more grip than the central city tarmac at home.  Here is a picture of the Panda enjoying the scenery.

 

This short break reminded me of what a great car the 100hp is, especially with Sport mode on and making quick progress!  Hopefully it won’t be too long until a similar trip.

A Quiet Life with the 100hp.

I know there has been a lack of updates on onehundredhp recently, but there is a very good reason for that; I simply haven’t been doing the mileage!  Since the service back in May I have done no more than 1000kms and all that has been made up by work runs – the same road everyday.  Of course, the massive cost of petrol here puts me off just driving about, as a tank now costs nearly 45 euros!

Despite this restricted use, the Panda is running fine but it does feel like it needs a good thrashing to wake it up.  A planned getaway in August may require a car journey, so perhaps it will be then.  Its friend the Suzuki Swift is away on a road trip in Europe at the moment, which the Panda no doubt is jealous of!

Anyway, rest assured the Panda is still great and problem free and this blog is still up and running!

Panda 100hp Owners on Facebook

Do you own, or plan to own a Fiat Panda 100hp?

Do you have Facebook page?

Want to become friends?

Yes, Onehundredhp.com is all Facebooked up and would like to have some 100hp’ers listed as friends so search for me, Andy Boxall and send me a friend request, or pop your name in the comments below and I will find you.  Don’t forget to add Parker’s My Cars application to show off your 100hp!