Save ! the Panda
A journey across Italy—from Brennero to Sicily—in search of the lesser but better automobile. Rediscovering the quality of periphery, redefining sense and sensibility in design.
All this for the small, white, poor car pictured above: with the semblance of a washing machine and the cute name of a teddy bear. Panda, a design worth one Compasso d'Oro award in 1981, a car produced in the millions. Identical boxes, each of them individualised by use and thus transformed into most popular fuoriserie.
The Germans hailed the tolle Kiste, whose ads remain memorable: A kid, on his toes tall enough to see beyond the wedge-beltline and into the Giugiaro-designed interior, asks whom is supposed to be his big brother & girlfriend (or the other way around): "what are you doing in there?".
Panda: the first and possibly last car with seats that could make a bed, refuge, playground.
Most of them have been bought, consumed, forgotten. Then in 2007, one of the little cars resurrects from a backyard in Sardinia to be driven almost non-stop to Germany and finally become the star of Paolo Tumminelli’s exhibition Rettet!den Panda in the Neue Sammlung der Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Europe’s largest design museum.
One very rare example of the first production run Pandas, chassis number of 20.422 out of 4.4 millions, provocatively acclaimed Car of the Year in 2008, Gerettet #1 (see pictures and read story in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Auto Motor und Sport) is the ideal first, the very symbol of a hopefully long list of surviving people cars.
Themselves a part of the exhibition were the pictures below: really plain snapshots portraying the least famous, possibly never seen before corners of Italy, from the Alps all the way down through Sicily – a nowhereland beyond the oh-so-famous places to be.
The little white Pandas feature as by surprise—always looking the same though always different—and have no ambition of stealing the show. These are no cars to stare at. They are just an occasion to stop, snap a shot, appreciate the evidence.
These are images of plain normality, dull architectures, everyday life in the periphery of countryside: before roundabouts and speed cameras, besides megacities and lifestyle, instead of hybrid and smart.
Real, cars for real life and real people. Possibly disappearing soon, unless we Save ! the Panda.