A clapped-out Fiat Panda has been put centre stage at the brand new Grand Basel car show – but there's a solid rationale behind their choice

Grand Basel, a new car show featuring a no-expense spared Lancia Delta Integrale restomod and other dazzling supercars, has placed a well-known product of famed Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro as its centrepiece. It's not a Maserati, a DeTomaso or Alfa Romeo, but a clapped-out Fiat Panda.

There's something of an unusual twist to this new car show, refusing to adhere to the usual car show or concours competition norms. Instead, they've focussed on presenting not only the cars but all that is associated with them culturally, such as art, design, architecture and lifestyle.

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One of the special exhibitions at the first show in Basel is of six curated frames that display cars selected by each of the show’s advisory board members, reflecting their personal interpretation of automotive culture.

Of these six vehicles, a derelict 38 year-old Fiat Panda has become the unlikely prime exhibit. But there's method to this madness, being selected on the grounds of its representation of the simple and a user-friendly vehicle; an iconic Giorgetto Giugiaro design central to the tradition of practical compact cars. The specific car on display was found on the Italian island of Sardinia in 2008 and driven to the Neue Sammlung design museum in Munich.

‘The Panda is the very last car made for people, the last surviving witness of a time when the car was still serving humans - and not the other way around,’ said Professor Paolo Tumminelli who heads up the advisory board and selected the Panda for the exhibition.

‘It is tireless, unpretentious, immediate, uncomplicated: a T-shirt on wheels, pure mobility. While not beautiful in the classical sense, and easy to overlook as a masterpiece of rational architecture, the Panda irrevocably completes the development of the popular automobile, which began in 1908 with the Ford [Model] T.

‘The Panda was built, bought, used, consumed and abused – and the example of display at Grand Basel exemplifies its huge cultural impact in this respect. Furthermore, its design concept is now perhaps more topical than ever: a role model of the ecologically and economically sensible, with the principles for a truly sustainable automobile of the future.’

Grand Basel's star attraction is...a clapped-out Fiat Panda?

Design legend Giugiaro also is on the advisory board and picked the first road legal example of his latest design, the new electric GFG Sibylla GG 80, for the six-car exhibition. To mark Giugiaro’s 80th birthday there will be several other exhibits of his creation elsewhere at Grand Basel. This includes Giugiaro's first concept car, the Corvari Testudo, as well as three original paintings by him.

There was a modern Italian throwback courtesy of former Fiat marketing director Lapo Elkann, who brought his own Garage Italia Fiat 500 Spiaggina for the six-car exhibition. The summery-looking modern-day 500 is based on the unconventional Carrozzeria Ghia-bodied 1958 Fiat 500 ‘Jolly’, which came from Fiat boss and Elkann’s grandfather, Gianni Agnelli.

The original had been designed to act as a summer car that could be carried on his yacht and that was light enough to be hauled ashore by the workforce. Ghia therefore chopped off the roof and doors, fitting wicker chairs and a basic frame onto which an awning could be attached. These features earned the car the nickname ‘Spiaggina’, Italian for 'beach chair'.

Grand Basel's star attraction is...a clapped-out Fiat Panda?