Are these the best Fiat Panda special editions of all-time?

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Is the 4x4 Antarctica 'Penguin' the best Fiat Panda special edition of all-time? PetrolBlog takes a look at 30 years of Fiat Panda history to find out.

What has the Fiat Panda 4x4 Antarctica special edition ever done to you? While opinions on Fiat's latest car – rolled out to celebrate 30 years and 50,000 sales of the brilliant Panda 4x4 – have been divided, some folk have been pretty scathing.

Indeed, our friends over at Car Throttle have called it "embarrassing", before putting it forward as "the worst special edition ever". Then - the final nail in the coffin - it is called "a laughing stock".

Well, with the greatest of respect, that is simply wrong. A penguin is a curious choice for a go-anywhere spirited 4x4, we grant you. But to call it the worst special edition of all time - well that's unfair.

PetrolBlog immediately thinks back to the likes of the Renault 19 Be Bop, the Peugeot 306 Meridian, the Opel Speedster Scorpions, the Volkswagen Polo Harlequin and the Lancia Beta Hi-Fi as more deserving candidates. Heck, even PetrolBlog's own Daewoo Musso 'Special Edition' is worthy of inclusion.

So while a bird that spends most of its time either slipping and sliding about on ice, hunting for fish or – if the films are to be believed – engaged in happy dancing, might be a strange choice, we applaud the Fiat Panda 4x4 Antarctica. It's got a sense of humour and that's precisely what the Fiat Panda has always been about. It's its unwavering character and personality that gives it the edge over many of its competitors.

Fiat Panda 4x4 Antarctica special edition

So if you were thinking about taking the plunge and buying a Fiat Panda 4x4, consider the Antarctica number 11 in our ten reasons to buy a Fiat Panda 4x4 feature. We'll resist the temptation to offer up a 'p-p-p-pick up a Panda' gag.

But the Fiat Panda 4x4 Antarctica got us thinking. To help the Panda 4x4 celebrate 30 years as being the Tuscan hill farmer's best friend, why don't we take a look back at some of the best Fiat Panda special edition models of all-time. If you thought the 'Penguin Special' was bizarre, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Fiat Panda Van (1986)

Fiat Panda Van

Is this a contender for the coolest van in human history? It has it all. An authentic Roma number plate. A set of steel wheels. A ladder on the roof. And it's a bleeding Fiat Panda.

It was a simple affair. Fiat simply removed the rear seats, fitted blanking plates instead of rear windows, and put side-hinged doors where the tailgate would have been. It's the real Italian Job.

PetrolBloggyness: 8

Fiat Panda Elettra (1990)

Fiat Panda Elettra

Talk about being ahead its time. The Panda Elettra – which sounds like the perfect name for a Bond girl – dates from 1990, and was an all-electric Panda. Like the aforementioned Panda Van, Fiat removed the rear seats. Only this time they put batteries in its place. Power came from a 19bhp (14kW) DC motor, and the top speed was a lowly 43mph.

The problem was the weight: the Elettra weighed a whopping 1,150kg, some 450kg more the standard Panda. As a result, Fiat had to fit stiffer suspension and uprated brakes. It wasn't a success, but Fiat's thinking was a full two decades of its time.

PetrolBloggyness: 5

Fiat Panda Italia '90 (1990)

Fiat Panda Italia 90

Still one of the most desirable Fiat Pandas ever created, if only for those fantastically kitsch football wheel trims. Check out the Ciao mascot on the C-pillar and the seats. The Panda Italia '90 special edition was rolled out to celebrate the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. Remember it? Gazza's tears, Nessun Dorma and England losing on penalties.

The Fiat Panda Italia '90 was one of the first cars to feature on PetrolBlog. Four years on, the desire shows no sign of going away. Just look at those wheel trims...

PetrolBloggyness: 9

Fiat Panda Destriero Prototype (1992)

Fiat Panda Destriero Prototype

What do you get if you cross Barbie's car with the Mini Moke? Why the Fiat Panda Destriero Prototype of course.

It was a one-off. Which is hardly surprising.

PetrolBloggyness: 4

Fiat Panda Sporting (2005)

Fiat Panda Sporting

The Fiat Panda Sporting is a mere aperitif in comparison with the much-loved Panda 100HP, but for some reason it remains ridiculously cool. It was available in either red or black, both of which featured snazzy twin offset racing stripes. There was also a bodykit, featuring revised front and rear bumpers, 14-inch alloy wheels, a roof spoiler and some interior upgrades. Shame it was only a diesel.

But here's the really curious thing. Apparently there are only SEVEN in the UK. Seven? Surely there's been some mistake?

Edit: having spoken to the Fiat UK press office, we can now confirm that around 400 Fiat Panda Sportings were registered between 2005 and 2006. Now that's more like it.

PetrolBloggyness: 8

Fiat Panda Terramare (2006)

Fiat Panda Terramare

Ah, so now we know where the Top Gear boys took their inspiration from. This is the Fiat Panda Terramare, the work of an Italian engineer named Maurizio Zanisi. In what was probably a better job than a Top Gear Special, Zanisi fitted a floatation belt and a water jet propulsion kit.

The water Panda then travelled from Folkestone to Cap Griz Nez in just six hours. Top effort. Apparently the Panda Terramare underwent sea trials in London's Battersea Park Lake. Which offers exactly the same conditions as the world's busiest stretch of water.

Fiat Panda Monster (2006)

Fiat Panda Monster

Wait, what's this? Pretty young women on PetrolBlog. Whatever next, a celebrity corner and a guest appearance from Rachel Riley?

What have they got to smile about? Well they're clearly part of the chosen few who were 'approved' by Fiat as potential owners for the Panda Monster special edition. It was developed in conjunction with Ducati, with the Monster name derived Monster 695. Truth be told, it wasn't a looker. So you're much better off looking at the ladies...

PetrolBloggyness: 4

Fiat Panda Alessi (2004)

Fiat Panda Alessi

The Fiat Panda Alessi was the official car of the Ideal Home Exhibition and is no stranger to us here at PetrolBlog, featuring it, as we did, last year.

We still adore its two-tone paintwork and hubcaps. The coolest Fiat Panda special edition ever made? It's right up there.

PetrolBloggyness: 9

Fiat Panda 100HP (2006-2010)

Fiat Panda 100HP

Technically this wasn't a special edition at all, but so blinking awesome is the Panda 100HP, we had to give it a mention here.

It's amazing just how special these things look. If PetrolBlog were to disband the fleet and opt for one single car, the Fiat Panda 100HP would be very close to the top of the list. Awesome little car.

PetrolBloggyness: 9

Fiat Panda Special Series 360 (2007)

Fiat Panda Special Series 360

The Fiat Panda Special Series 360 was a special edition. No really, it was. It's just that it was one of those lukewarm, must-try-harder, marketing-led specials.

But you did get a sticker.

PetrolBloggyness: 2

Fiat Panda Aria Concept Car (2007)

Fiat Panda Aria Concept Car

Well wasn't this quite the pioneer. It may have been a 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show concept special, but its two-cylinder engine with start-stop technology was a glimpse into Fiat's future.

Almost everything about the Fiat Panda Aria was designed to be as ec0-friendly as possible, with all parts made from either recycled or recyclable materials. The seats were upholstered in a combination of cotton and linen, and then stuffed with coconut fibre. The body panels - whilst looking stock - were made from eco-resin and treated with opaque paint.

The 800cc, 80bhp engine could run on either standard petrol or methane-hydrogren. Clever little thing.

PetrolBloggyness: 6

Fiat Panda Mamy (2008)

Fiat Panda Mamy

Oh God help us. It won't surprise you to learn that the Fiat Panda Mamy was targeted exclusively at women. Get this for a list of women-friendly accessories. And no we're not making this up...

A second rearview mirror for keeping an eye on the kids, bag hooks in the boot, front seat covers with pockets, washable upholstery, a high-grip mat in the boot and ISOFIX points. Available in feminine aubergine, orange, black or grey, the Mamy cost £8,200. We'd like to think the ads begun with the strapline, 'women know your place'.

PetrolBloggyness: 1

Fiat Panda 4x4 Cross (2008)

Fiat Panda Cross

If the standard MK2 Fiat Panda 4x4 wasn't rugged enough for you, Fiat would offer you the Cross version. With an increased ride height, 15-inch alloys, heavily revised front and rear lighting arrangements and a two-tone paint job, the Panda Cross looked every inch the Panda for the apocalypse. Or one set up for life as a 'lucha libra' wrestler.

PetrolBloggyness: 6

Fiat Panda 4x4 Rossignol (2008)

Fiat Panda 4x4 Rossignol

Mk2 Fiat Panda 4x4s don't come more appealing than the Rossignol from 2008. Only 200 units were built in conjunction with French ski equipment company, Rossignol.

Each car came with a set of Bandit B78 skis, Axium 120 bindings and a magnetic carry rack. Which might mean something to some of our readers. Just one thing – if the Panda Rossignol came with some Bandits, why didn't Fiat call it the 'Pandit'?

PetrolBloggyness: 8

Fiat Panda 4x4 Antarctica (2013)

Fiat Panda 4x4 Antarctica rear

And so we come to the present day, and end with the all-new Fiat Panda 4x4 Antarctica. A fitting tribute to a 4x4 icon and a piece of Italian heritage? Perhaps not, but it is a bit of fun.

The Antarctica is only available in white with a black roof, giving it that authentic penguin look. Only 300 will be built and each one is priced at £14,895. They like to be fed with fish and will occasionally poo on your garage floor. The audio equipment is also pre-loaded with Pingu's greatest hits, including Eskimo Disco and Pingu Boogaloo.

The worst special edition ever made? Not a bit of it. But we can't help but think a more fitting 30th anniversary edition would have been the Fiat Panda 4x4 Tuscan Farmer edition. In Tuscan Green, of course.

All images © Fiat.