Created by Italian car collective Carmagheddon, this Panda claims to be street legal and officially a record breaker, neither of which is fully verifiable. Not that it matters all that much unless you're stuck on such titles. Carmagheddon has a soft spot for both Pandas and new world records, but they also have a soft spot for strange fabrications that test the limit of what's possible. This one fits that latter category, if not the former.
Unveiled officially earlier this week at a Fiat Panda event, the world's lowest car is actually half a Panda strapped onto a new steel frame that holds a golf kart-like chassis. From the outside, the illusion is that the roof of the car and the hood float over the cement, much like a glitch in a video game or, say, as if the rest of the car were traveling under the ground, with just the top visible. In reality, the entire structure rolls on the cement, with exactly 3 cm (1.2 inches) of ground clearance, as neatly calculated by the guys behind the creation.
The donor vehicle was more of a shell, which they picked up from the junkyard with no engine, no lights, and no wheels. As it turns out, they didn't need any of those: they cut the car in half horizontally and then proceeded to build the chassis that would put the whole thing in motion.
First, they built the tubular steel frame offering structural rigidity to the structure. The resulting lowered Panda would not be able to go very fast, but the build still had to withstand the wear and tear of demonstration drives. In the process, the hood was turned into a fixed part of the "vehicle," sitting on a pair of supermarket pushcart wheels. This helps with the impression that the car is floating off the ground and keeps the whole structure level.
The driver has no visibility through the original windshield, whose sole function is now to maintain the illusion that this is still a car. Instead, the driver sees through the GoPro camera on the roof, which sends the feed directly into his phone, so he knows which way to turn.
This part could have been eliminated altogether: the Panda moves very slowly and can only operate on even ground, preferably on the street. At this speed, the driver can just as easily take direction from the team outside, but that would probably ruin the illusion.
The lowest Fiat Panda in the world is not practical or some kind of engineering wonder. If we're being honest, it's not even a car anymore: it's junk turned into a little vanity project for clicks and cash. But that's not to say that it's not a standout or that it's not awesome. In motion, this Panda is a real-life glitch in the Matrix, an optical illusion that tries to break your brain before giving away its little secret. It's awesome because of that and because it's fun.