Sankt Moritz. A luxury Hotel Country Club. A car meet.
No, this is not about a Lambo or Ferrari rally on "the top of the world", that'd be too easy and predictable.
What took place in the most famous alpine resort in the world, icon of Jet set and of the Gianni Agnelli era, was something really different: a Fiat Panda 4x4 Meet.
Author: Matteo Wolter
Pictures by: Andrea Klainguti for Classic Driver, Carlo Di Giusto for Ruote Classiche and AutoItaliana, Matteo Wolter for Milano16V
Organizers: Classic Driver and Larusmiani
When we heard about Classic Driver's idea to celebrate the minimalist automotive masterpiece by Giorgetto Giugiaro, and when we heard it would have been in partnership with Milanese luxury textile brand Larusmiani, we didn’t hesitate for a second.
In the early morning of December 7th, our expedition took off from Milan in a 1983 first series Panda 4x4, with a looong road trip lying ahead, passing through Lake Como, Valchiavenna and Maloja Pass. The sun was up in the sky, the car was warm, nothing could have gone wrong.
In fact, nothing did. After many hours of wonderful roads and breathtaking views, we arrived at the rendezvous in the Kulm Hotel Country Club right for lunch, welcomed by an unusual high density of Panda 4x4 and their owners.
Lopresto family, known worldwide for the extraordinary collection of one-off Alfa Romeos, was represented by Duccio and his limited edition Panda 4x4 “Val d’Isére”, and he was in good company: the Milanese car collector Edoardo Locatelli was lucky enough to have his limited edition Panda 4x4 interiors upholstered with Larusmiani fabrics, giving the car that luxury charm, quite appropriate in the Engadine habitat.
Another limited edition came from Bologna: his owner, Enrico Rondinelli of Gulfblue, restored it beautifully for an American client. Panda collector Paolo Ronconi faced an adventurous 500km road trip from Central Italy to join with his incredibly well-preserved Panda 4x4 Limited Edition 5000.
Quite incredible fact: amongst many second series and limited editions, our car was the only basic and humble Panda 4x4 first series (1983-86) in the meet.
Apparently, much more rare than a limited edition.
With the sun going down and the temperature growing cold, the rally moved to legendary Grand Hotel Suvretta House, where we and our Pandas stayed for the night, after an exquisite Italian-Grisonian fusion dinner at Chasellas Restaurant.
On Sunday morning we woke up to this.
The night before the company decided to get up early and to head to Bernina Pass, and so we met the other guests at breakfast in the Hotel.
After an incredibly rich and excellent breakfast (but, I must admit, a quite bad Cappuccino), we gathered outside the Suvretta.
Surprise! We had a flat tire. No problem though, a very good feature of this Fiat is its practicality: in 5 minutes we easily changed the wheel and set off to the Pass with our mates.
We took the road up to Diavolezza, following the world famous Bernina Express' route, and started collecting incredulous looks from everybody we met on the way.
The landscape accompanying us during the trip was astonishing, the snow everywhere around us reflected the blinding sunlight on our really exceptional convoy. We finally arrived to the Pass and stopped there to take a few photographs of our sun-kissed Panda crew.
Leaving towards home has never been so sweet: we set off before lunch directly from Bernina Pass with Paolo Ronconi and Carlo Di Giusto, taking an alternative beautiful road to Italy, and what a great time.
You wouldn't say, but the little Panda, thanks to its lightness and small dimensions, is quite fun to drive (especially downhill, as the humble 48 horsepower engine is not really, let’s say, exuberant). That constant sensation of toppling over at every corner, then, gives you much more thrill than an Alfa Romeo 4C.