Panda-ing to customers’ needs
Hampshire-based Fiat enthusiast becomes world class Panda restorer
A Fiat panda restorer has become the go-to specialist for these characterful economy cars – without even trying.
Vernon Hibberd bought his first panda in 1992 as cheap transport and has ended up becoming the UK’s biggest specialist for them.
Says Vernon: ‘I used to work on my own cars and before long other panda owners asked me to look after their car. So four years ago I set up Limited Editions Unlimited and can’t keep up with demand. Considering, on average, a full restoration costs about £10,000 you’d think the market would be limited, but so far there’s been no shortage of enthusiasts keen to revive their cars. One owner has just spent ‘One owner has just spent £30,000 on upgrading her 4x4’ almost £30,000 on her 4x4, including some upgrades.’
There are usually 15-20 pandas at Vernon’s premises in Droxford, Hants, including special editions like the Fantasia, Bianca and Sergio Tacchini. There’s also an ultra-rare pink, which Vernon is restoring voluntarily in conjunction with the Fiat Forum, to raise funds for Breast Cancer Research and Children in Need.
Vernon concludes: ‘Most desirable of all pandas are the MkI 4x4s which are now very rare; superb ones can fetch £8000-10,000. The later 4x4s such as the Sisley can reach £6000 while excellent front-wheel drive MkII versions are more like £3000.
‘Some fans want upgrades such as Alfa Romeo 147 seats and a 16-valve 1242cc engine. There’s much more enthusiasm for the panda than I originally realised – the best MkI 4x4s will be changing hands for £20,000 soon.
Vernon Hibberd with some of the cars he’s restoring at his Hampshire business.