1983 Fiat 900E CI Autohomes Pandora Camper
(Featured on 26th May 2014)
Model: 900E Camper
Sellers original description:
A once in a life time opportunity to acquire the lowest mileage, best original condition 1983 FIAT PANDORA Motor Home available anywhere - worldwide.
A very rare camper indeed from the renowned British Motor Caravan company CI Autohomes who pioneered the 'bed over cab' concept in the UK.
Based on the delightful little Fiat 900E "Citivan" and converted when new, only a few hundred were ever made.
Marketed when new By CI as a "Motorised Magic Box" being not much bigger on the outside than the average small car yet with so much practical and useable room inside.
Extremely well equipped with a rigid double skinned insulated roof that not only elevates up but extends over both sides to give an extra 76% space with 'upstairs' sleeping.
Hob, grill, sink, 8 gallon water tank, mains hook up and dual gas or electric fridge
Bought new by an elderly couple and hardly used before entering long term dry storage due to ill health.
Retaining all of its original panels, the majority of its factory applied paint finish and, remarkably, all of its original CI Autohomes interior fittings.
Complete original Fiat 900 handbook original CI user manual, sales brochure and magazine articles.
Today this charming camper that simply oozes character has covered just 8,700 (eight thousand seven hundred) miles from new and is presented in outstanding original condition.
Everyone's reaction when they see it is the same:-
WOW - I LOVE IT - I WANT IT!
In the mid '70s, Fiat re-organised the company to specialise in various sectors. The production of industrial vehicles was separated from that of cars. IVECO was formed in 1975 for heavy commercials and the Fiat Light Commercial Vehicles brand was born, bringing onto the market the model 850T, latterly replaced by 900T/E or Citivan as it was known as in the UK.
Italy and the UK both saw a growing demand for "in between" sized smaller vans that gave an a bigger carrying capacity than the car derived options available from most manufactures yet were still small and economical enough to be used in more confined environments.
The Fiat 900E was an excellent van. It followed the popular configuration of the VW type 2 with a rear engine, a side loading door and tail gate.
It was available as The Citivan (panel van) a Multicar (7 seat Mini bus) or an Amigo (Motor Caravan).
The Amigo, claimed at the time by some to be the best- selling 'van' in Britain, was indeed popular and virtually unopposed at the lower end of the Motor Caravan market. However in the early eighties a rival, enemy even, was on the horizon.
Displayed for the first time at the 1981 Earls Court Caravan show and launched the following year was the prototype Fiat PANDORA from longstanding and highly respected Poole based conversion specialists CI Autohomes.
The PANDORA improved all of the tried, tested and loved features of the Amigo which led it to be rated well ahead on appearance and quality not only of its Fiat rival but also of the new to the market Volkswagen based Caravelle.
The rear engined configuration of both the Fiat and the VW imposed limitations on the interior design. Where the PANDORA really excelled though and gained the most ground over both these rivals was in CI's unique and ingenious elevating roof that also extended sideways over the base vehicle on both sides to give space that was not far off being equal to that of many of the elevating roof VW conversions available and much more that the Amigo.
The rigid roof was double skinned and insulated both to the sides and ends as opposed to the expanse of fabric offered by other Motor Homes at the time. The roof had an electric strip light and a Perspex window and curtain in each side. Fold up quarter panels at each end of each side could be left ajar or open altogether for ventilation at night. For excellent ventilation during the day if required either one of the sides could also be left folded down.
Leaving one side and 2 end quarter panels down could also provide a type of Grandstand viewing platform at festivals and events. The bed boards could be fitted at either end and a cushion is provided so one end could be used for seating children and the to give huge storage (see picture). The folded down side also doubles as a surface for drinks, programs binoculars etc.
The other huge advantage of this amazing CI roof was the extra room that it gives to the useable interior space, increasing the total internal area by an incredible 76%. Creating enough room for upstairs sleeping for a 6'x4' double bed and plenty of storage or an optional 6'x2' single to go along side the double, still with space between.
An amazing internal Standing room of around 6' 5".
Other features of the Pandora were front cab seats that pivoted to the rear facing position to form part of the four seater dinette and a double rear seat that converts to a single seat providing standing room in front of the kitchen unit, or in conjunction with the driver's seat, creating a low level single bed and plenty of floor space without the need to raise the roof.
Standard equipment on the early, now most desirable, CI versions included an integral stainless steel sink with tap and electric water feed from on board 8 gallon storage filled from outside through lockable flap. Two burner stainless steel cooker and grille. 1 cubic foot Electrolux dual gas/12v refrigerator. Not an inch of space was wasted in the design with wardrobe, store away dining table, cupboards, lockers, and vented gas bottle storage compartment. Plus luxurious soft furnishings in gold/brown patterned velvet Draylon upholstery and long pile nylon carpet.
Overall with the roof down the Pandora would fit into the average garage being just 12' 3" long 4' 10" wide and just over 6'5" high. It would also fit into most parking spaces and was easy to drive and manoeuvre into tight places. It had a top speed of over 60 miles per hour and could return 40 + MPG.
The CI Autohomes sales literature in 1982 proclaimed.
"Fiat Pandora. Sheer magic from CI Autohomes" going on to say that "The new CI Pandora is the only really compact Motor caravan with a rigid, insulated elevating roof combining economical everyday transport with the facilities of a full sized motor caravan. That's magic!" - well quite, we could not have put it better ourselves!
Today these hugely popular and sought after compact Motor Homes are very, very rare indeed. Only a few hundred were ever made.
Italian vehicles of the era were, of course, renowned for rust and nearly 3 decades since the last PANDORA left Poole most of the few that were made are long gone and there are only a handful that survive.
Those in the know will be aware that on average only one or two a year come up for sale. Of those that do surface, almost without exception, they have, at worst, had extensive welding and body work, at best, a re-paint and re-trim.
When CI Autohomes converted a Fiat Citivan into a PANDORA they only used brand new base vehicles which remained in their factory paint finish.
The new vans would be transported to the CI facility in Poole Dorset were each one would be hand built before being distributed to dealers.
In the early eighties CI Autohomes ltd became Autohomes UK ltd and dropped the CI initials along with making changes to the trim and other items. It is thought that the new company also began converting second hand Fiat 900's which meant that Light Van would show on the log book rather than Motor Caravan which would show when converted from new.
To find an original PANDORA that has never been welded or totally repainted is a big ask. To find an rare early CI badged example that retains the sought after gold/brown patterned velvet upholstery and original long pile nylon carpet almost unheard of.
To find A PANDORA that has both of the above, that has covered just 8,700 genuine miles from new and shows Motor Caravan on the V5 (logbook) - impossible you may think and you would be right - until now that is!
The first owner took delivery of VOA 391Y in 1983. Extras fitted prior to delivery were an Audioline 432 auto reverse radio cassette player and an, all important, rust proof treatment that coated the underside and injected sealant into the cavities.
The Pandora was never intended to be a vehicle for daily use but one just for the owner and his wife to use for leisure trips around the lakes near his home in Craigavon.
Only used infrequently during the summer months VOA 391Y was kept in the garage attached to the owners house when not in use, covering less than 3000 miles in its first 2 years. In the Fiat's third year and before it had even needed its first MOT the owner became ill and sadly died.
The owners widow could not bear to part with the Pandora that her husband had cherished so dearly. She parked it up in the garage for the next 15 years or so.
In 1998 the owners widow decided that she should get VOA 391Y collected by a local garage and fully serviced (invoice in the file) in preparation for sale. The mileage then was 3,149. However when it came to it she was still unable to part with the Pandora and after the service it was returned to dry storage.
The following May VOA 391Y was taken back to the garage for a further check over. The mileage had risen by 32 to 3,181. The owners widow, now elderly herself, but still driving asked the garage to take VOA 391Y on an extended test drive before MOT'ing it as she had now decided that she would like to use it again herself for awhile and relive some of the fond memories of the good times she shared with her husband in it. In June 1999 the MOT was carried out by the same garage with the mileage recorded at 3,238.
In the summer months following the MOT VOA 391Y was used for a few hundred miles before once again being laid up in dry storage for the next 4 or so years when it was MOT'ed again (4,079 miles) this time, eventually, prior to sale.
In Spring 2004 VOA 391Y was acquired by its second owner - an Italian company director who lived on the Cambridgeshire/Norfolk border. The second owner kept VOA 391Y on its original Northern Ireland registration number but registered it in the mainland on 1 May 2004.
The second owner had bought VOA 391Y to add to his collection of Italian vehicles and hardly used it at all during his ownership. The 2005 MOT shows the mileage at 4,541. Shortly after this time it was sold to the third owner, a retired engineer from Southampton, before being acquired in 2006 by a Fiat enthusiast who lived locally and had persuaded the engineer to sell it to him.
The Fiat enthusiast had six other vehicles and only used VOA 391Y to attend summer events, shows and festivals where the PANDORA stood out and attracted a huge amount of attention amongst, what the owner considered, row after row of boring VW's.
Despite infrequent use VOA 391Y was serviced every year and maintained as needed with more recent new tyres and replacement of the brake master cylinder.
In May last year VOA 391Y changed hands once more and was acquired by a Motor Caravan engineer for his own use with his young family. During his ownership he sorted out a couple of minor problems such as the heater fan fuse blown and the fridge not working on gas, which of course it does now.
The last owner recently fully serviced the PANDORA, changing hoses and belts etc. It had fully been his intention to keep it indefinitely but a new business venture meant it had to go - much to the disappointment of both himself and his family.
Today this extremely rare Motor Caravan is presented in outstanding original condition has covered just 8,700 miles and is without doubt the finest CI Autohomes PANDORA available.
Finished in Verde Mela (Apple Green), the best of the Fiat 900 colours.
All of the panels are the factory fitted originals.
No welding has ever been done and none is required.
For a 30 year old Fiat, as we say they were renown for corrosion, VOA 391Y is remarkably rust free with just the smallest of hardly visible areas of surface only oxidisation in one or two places.
When we acquired the van with the exception of a small repair made some years back to a scrape to the drivers door it retained all of its factory applied paint finish.
The vast majority of the paint remains factory applied complete with unintentional but standard 'orange peel' effect, considered acceptable in the early eighties on Italian built vehicles intended for commercial use.
We have had our body shop attend to a couple of areas of surface only rust such as around the rear vents and in a couple of other places. No body filler, other than perhaps the thinnest of surface finishing skims was required and all the metal was absolutely solid. The new paint consisted of localised 'blow ins' and it was not necessary to paint any of the panels completely with the exception of the engine compartment cover which had holes drilled for a square number plate and a small dent.
There are a couple of stone chips that have been touched in and the odd tiny dimple dent.
The underside is completely solid having been rust proofed from new and most likely never having been subjected to road salt.
Even items so often requiring replacement like the window and windscreen rubbers have not deteriorated.
Under slung spare wheel with original tyre.
Overall the original body and paint finish maintains a fantastic lustre and looks stunning.
The fibre glass and aluminium of the roof is all good and it raises and lowers as it should and is completely water tight. One of the rear retaining springs has stretched, it is present and will need recoiling or replacing the roof holds in place fine without it.
We just love the original interior which is, very rarely, still completely intact. CI were considered one of the best manufactures of Motor Caravans and attention to detail and quality of components was second to none.
The design and use of space is ingenious with every inch utilised and covered with hardly any body colour left showing.
The cab seats which reverse with the pull of a leaver are in excellent condition as are the matching double in the rear.
The original carpet also remains and is in excellent condition.
The faux wood faced fittings are all very good and with just a few marks and blemishes.
The curtains are complete and cover all windows.
There is a fridge, sink with electric water pump and 8 gallon external fill water tank, double gas hob and grill. All of these we are told by the previous owner are in working order although we have not had any of them safety tested and the new owner should do so.
There is ample storage with cupboards under the sink/hob with holders for bottles etc. There are lockers and even a wardrobe! storage space above the engine and below the folded roof sides.
Internal storage for gas bottle.
Dining table which doubles as the base for the down stairs single bed covered by the rear seat cushions.
3 Part Work top over kitchen units, the centre one double as a coffee table and attaches to the van side. the other two fold upwards. Over fridge work top.
The roof really is an excellent feature of The CI PANDORA it makes the vehicle just so versatile and increases the space enormously. It is so much better than fabric pop up roofs and is very stable. Being made of insulated aluminium it is very cosy and less prone to wind buffeting etc. The van will accommodate 4 with 3 in the roof and one below, plus you could always add a drive away awning to further the options.
It can be raised by one person in a couple of minutes, less time by two.
The plastic internal lining is in excellent condition.
Either side of the roof can be left folded down which is a fantastic design and gives an elevated viewing platform.
With the roof up you get space for a proper double bed and a single. The new owner would be advised to provide blow up mattresses though.
Please note items shown in the pictures such as the picnic basket, crockery, cutlery, kettle bedding etc are for demonstration and not included with the vehicle.
In the cab everything works and apart from a radio cassette player fitted when new and fire extinguisher is standard. No holes have been cut or drilled in the door cards or dash.
There is a mains hook up and cable which we are told works but again have not had safety tested and may not meet current regulations for the fitting of this type of hook up.
UNDER THE BONNET:
Well - in the engine compartment actually.
Exceptionally clean with original stickers.
More use of dead space with hinged storage for the tools, unused and in original wrap, oil, rags or any of those things that we like to carry but our wife's do not understand and won't want inside!
ON THE ROAD:
So much fun!
We just can't believe how much we enjoyed driving this little Fiat. Economical to run, exceptionally easy to drive and manoeuvre.
There is plenty of head room the driving position is great much like driving a VW - but smaller.
Economical to run, exceptionally easy to drive and manoeuvre.
VOA 391Y has only covered 8,700 miles and has been well cared for all of its life and this is obvious the moment that you start the engine which just purrs.
Top speed around the mid 60's you are not going to be winning any races, but that surely just adds to the attraction of this dinky little camper.
Always well maintained and just serviced and MOT'ed.
New tyres and brake master cylinder fitted (£500) within the last few hundred miles.
Our mechanic has just checked it over and reports no issues other than the gear lever linkage starting to perish. So we have sourced a new genuine part - it's here and it will be fitted before auction end.
1. V5C registration document that shows vehicle type as Motor Caravan (which should reduce insurance cots) in our name after the change over from NI plates, showing 4 previous keepers.
2. MOT February 4th 2015
3. Rare Original Fiat Pandora CI Autohomes sales brochure dated 17th May 1982
4. copies of road tests and reports from Motor Caravan magazines from the early eighties
5. tax discs from 2006
6. very rare CI Autohomes PANDORA owner's manual with full specifications and full instructions on how to use everything from the two way fridge to the roof
7. various copies and parts of old V5's
8. Original Fiat 900E owner handbook
9. some old MOT's as stated above
10. original radio cassette player instructions
11. old service and parts invoices
It is a safe bet that you will never again get an opportunity to own such an original, extraordinarily low mileage Fiat 900 motor Home - let alone the rare and highly desirable CI PANDORA.
VOA 391Y is more than just an exceptional Fiat PANDORA - it is the "Holy Grail" of such examples. It has unmistakably been cherished, cared for and loved by its first elderly owners and its subsequent owners since. It has covered just 8,700 miles from new and been used very infrequently during its thirty year life.
It's a bold claim "the lowest mileage, best original condition 1983 FIAT PANDORA Motor Home available anywhere - worldwide. It is not a claim that we make light heartedly, but one that we genuinely believe to be correct.
This very, very rare vehicle will be of great interest to collectors, investors and enthusiasts, of Fiats and classic CI campers alike. Who, no doubt, will realise that they may never get such an opportunity again.
It will also be of great interest to those who want to use it for the purpose that it was designed for - a compact camper van that offers so much and that will fit in the average garage.
People love classic Fiat's - just look at the popularity of the original 500. Not everyone wants a VW, not everyone wants to spend the sort of money that they command.
VOA 391Y really is something special and we, like everyone else, just Love it!
Already it is a show winner if ever we saw one.