Yesterday’s Specials…Fiat Panda Italia ’90

Ah, the memories of the 1990 World Cup. The sound of Luciano Pavarotti, the sight of Gazza’s tears and the gallant but inevitable failure of England to get past West Germany on penalties. In truth though, this was England’s best post-1966 performance, a genuine team effort and a real case of a missed opportunity. Or penalty. Or two.

world cup 1990 mascot italia '90 ciao
Ciao – official mascot of Italia ’90

It is hard to believe that it is 20 years since Italia ’90. A distant age, before the Interweb, the Spice Girls and Dale’s Supermarket Sweep. Glancing through a copy of Car magazine from July 1990 reads like a guide to building a perfect dream garage. The mag opens with a double page spread for the Peugeot 205 GTi – ‘a wolf in wolf’s clothing’.

A bit later on comes an ad for the Renault 5 GT Turbo Raider. Then the Lotus Esprit. the Mk1 Golf Convertible, the Alfa 164, E30 BMW Alpinas – the list goes on. Plus you could still buy a brand new Lancia in the UK. Halcyon days that make me wish I was old enough to drive in the summer of 1990.

Fiat Panda Italia 90

But one car stood out more than others in 1990, but maybe not for all the right reasons. I refer of course to the Fiat Panda Italia ’90, which today is probably just about as rare as a penalty shootout victory for England. But what did you get for your money if you wandered down to your local Fiat dealer and ticked the Italia ’90 box?

Well, for starters each car was finished in white with an Italia ’90 pinstripe down the flanks. Then there was the Ciao mascot on the rear 3/4 panels and the baby blue seats with the same motif. But all of these paled into insignificance compared to the sheer delight of having hubcaps in the style of a football. I’m confident in stating that these football hubcaps were a world first and I’m happy to predict that they will be a last.

How many are left today is anyone’s guess. I’d hazard a guess that there’s fewer than the number of goals England will score during this year’s finals.

fiat panda italia 90
Maybe Stuart Pearce would have hit the net with this?

Will we ever see the likes of the Panda Italia ’90 again? Well, with the World Cup looming again in the summer of 2010, rumours persist that manufacturers will once again jump on the football bandwagon. Well here are PetrolBlog’s ideas. How about the ‘Italy’ edition. A car that will do little to stir the imagination, produce little in the way of excitement but ultimately gets through to the very end.

Maybe the Toyota Avensis would suffice? Then there’s the ‘England’ edition. A car that gets a huge amount of pre-launch hype, but then stutters to get going before failing gracefully at the second roundabout. Too much reliance on past glory – MG, are you listening? Or how about the ‘Australia’? It shouts a lot, drinks a lot, has a huge presence but ultimately can’t compete with the Europeans on the world stage. Ford Falcon XR6 anyone?

Finally, what about the ‘Brazil’? Full of flair, imagination, party tricks and the ability to outpace the world’s heavyweights. Rather like the Lotus Evora really.

But here’s one top tip for the World Cup: when England’s games are being broadcast on live television, the UK roads are almost deserted and therefore an absolute delight. Go out and enjoy your favourite B-road…

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Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. October 4, 2012
    Abi Brockis

    Hi there, I own an original Fiat Panda Italia 90 with original ‘football’ wheels and stickers! I am hoping you will be able to direct me to a dealer or somewhere with more information? I would be greatful for any info, thanks, Abi

    • October 4, 2012
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Hello. I’ll send you an email. Good to hear of an original Italia 90 still going strong!

  2. July 9, 2015
    Gavin Big-Surname

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