Unlikely Race Cars #1: Mutant SEAT Marbella

We all love an underdog here at Hooniverse, so I thought I’d highlight a few of the less obvious racing machines that entered the excellent Crystal Palace Hillclimb this memorial weekend.
To succeed in a hillclimb event you’d typically want your car to be endowed with a nimble chassis, plentiful power and a lightweight body, and there are many cars which fit those requirements. Many of the quickest entries conformed to the typical Caterham, Radical, Lotus stereotype, but by no means is it mandatory to follow this well-trodden path.
Not when you can race a Seat Marbella instead.
When this car first flash passed my elevated viewpoint on Sunday it took me a few moments to work out what I was looking at; the rear three quarters strongly suggested Fiat Panda and I immediately broke out in grins and laughter at the idea of Fiat’s boxy urban runabout following the footsteps of the track-bred specials and taking on the Crystal Palace challenge.
Then I saw the front end and it became apparent that we were looking at a 1990 SEAT Marbella; the Spanish cover version of the original, pre-facelift Panda, and if at all possible, even less suited to motorsport. Or so I thought.
I was able to inspect it more closely in the paddock, where the full roll cage and auxiliary interior gauges made me think that there was more to it than immediately met the eyes. Then I spotted the subtle Lancia HF badges on the flanks.
Yes, one of those extra dials is a boost gauge.
This Seat Marbella has been re-engineered by owner Simon Dodwell with the drivetrain from a Lancia Y10 Turbo, and very possibly breathed on a bit more since then. While possibly not a serious powerhouse in absolute terms, compared to any other Panda or Marbella the extra grunt must go a long way towards lending a competitive edge.
And, really, even if it wasn’t competitive at all, it’s still a severely cool piece of kit in its own right, and wears its Lancia Beta alloy wheels very well. Yet still, beyond the modifications, my favourite bit is that it still says Marbella GL on the tailgate. I’d love to see people’s faces when they’re overtaken by it.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)

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  1. Batshitbox Avatar

    Dig those mudflaps.

  2. Alff Avatar

    I like how the rear sets up high. I’ll bet it rotates pretty well.

  3. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    That’s wonderful.

  4. Alan Cesar Avatar
    Alan Cesar

    So boxy. So stupid. So good.

  5. karonetwentyc Avatar

    This is the idea I wish I’d had when I still had my Panda 45.

  6. pandamonius_maximus Avatar

    Hi there, I would like to thank you for your great review and brilliant photos as well. You clearly understand what I am trying to do! 😀 This, as you’ve probably guessed, is my project which I have been working on since 2009. It is getting to the point I would consider complete, but I say that now! Always somewhere to improve. I do have a full write-up on another forum but will only post up an external link if you’re ok with it / want to see 🙂
    Thanks again!

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