Meeting The Angry Pandas
Car Culture Unites

It doesn’t matter what part of the world I happen to be in and whether I speak the language or not – sooner or later I’ll just feel right at home. That’s what it is to be a car guy: to share a passion and love for something mutual. Add to the fact that I’m lucky enough to be a Speedhunter and travel the world in the hunt for everything and anything car related, and this sentiment is multiplied tenfold.


I don’t know if it’s because I happen to have a GT-R, but at times I can’t quite comprehend how, regardless of what country I’m in, I always seem to always find myself in an R34! A few days prior to riding shotgun in this particular car in Torino, Italy, I was being driven around Rudskogen up in Norway with a very special BNR34 I’ve already featured. It certainly brings a smile to my face.


So after a very interesting afternoon spent talking to car designers at GranStudio, I headed into the night to meet up with the Angry Panda Klan – an established group of friends that enjoy getting up to all sorts of car-related fun together.


The idea was to rendezvous with them at the Fiat Mirafiori factory, grab a quick pizza – as you do in Italy – and then head out for a drive through the streets of Torino.


It would be the perfect opportunity to talk cars and to see how car culture in Italy has grown over the last few years – something that I’m not able to keep up with as much as I used to, now that I live on the other side of the planet.


What a lot of people don’t understand is how difficult it is for someone to own and tune their car in Italy. Countless times I’ve had people ask me about Italy, and just assume that the streets are laden with all sorts of exotics being driving without much regard for speed limits. Well, while the disregard for speed limits might be somewhat accurate, everything else couldn’t be further from the truth. Italy is a great country to live in, and from a driving perspective has a never-ending selection of epic roads, but the actual car-owning experience is nothing short of torture. Or a joke. Actually both.


You see, thanks to all the government’s bureaucratic paper-pushers, it’s always been very difficult to up the performance of your car. Since after the war, the government has penalised those that want to get their hands on anything with a powerful or bigger engine than the 2.0-litre motors that Italian manufacturers like Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo churned out. All the stuff with the bigger and more fun engines are being sold abroad. So go above a 2.0L and you would be paying a lot more car tax, which is also calculated by taking your engine horsepower into consideration.


But it doesn’t end there, because vehicle regulations stretch to all sorts of things. For example, you are unable to upgrade to bigger and wider wheels unless the size you choose is specified and homologated in the manufacturer handbook. You can pay for a specific check and homologation yourself, but it’s not 100 per cent guaranteed that you’d be able to go ahead (legally) with the modification. Even suspension and brakes modifications – irrespective of the fact that you might be making the car better handling and safer to drive – can land you in trouble.


That’s why I have a ton of respect for those that despite the draconian laws endure the prohibitive costs and the constant hassling from the police, just to be able to enjoy their real passion. Maybe that’s why these guys I met in Torino are the ‘Angry’ Pandas. I too would be very angry if I had to put up with such malarkey.


Obviously the Italian government hasn’t realised that if they allowed customisation they could pocket more revenue from potential sales – something they’re trying to do to supposedly save the country. The guys in Torino showed me they follow their passion – with everything else taking a back seat.

A Closer Look

After arriving in the very center of town we made a second quick stop to pick up a few other team members that were waiting for us with their cars.


We chatted, as you do, and then after I had snapped a few shots it was off to a better-lit location.


It was there that I wanted to take a closer look at the four-wheeled – and two-wheeled – machinery that showed up to the meet.


One of the first cars I noticed was this little EF-series Honda CR-X – a perfect example of how tuning has to be approached in Italy. The car may look stock but its handling has been completely upgraded with a full Weitech package, complete with coilovers and silent block bushings to tighten it all up. Behind those stock EG6 rims at the front end hide S2000 calipers mated to VW Corrado G60 discs and upgraded pads and lines.


The engine has been overhauled and treated to a bit of head polishing, upgraded conrod bearings, trick headers and a B16A2 throttle body – all stuff that gives the seemingly unsuspecting Honda a welcome increase in performance.


Among all the Japanese cars it was also cool seeing this Abarth 500 – an nice example of probably the most popular performance car that I saw during my two days in Torino.


To get it to perform a little better than stock its owner had the ECU remapped to take into account the Essesse exhaust system that was added. The black OZ Racing wheels couldn’t have been a better match either.


I spent some time riding around in this Z33, which has had quite a lot of work done to it. Bearing in mind that you don’t want to bring too much attention to your modified car in this country, the exterior was pretty simple – just case of wheels, gently rolled fenders and ’06 model taillights.


Seeing that the 350Z sees a lot of track work, there’s a full set of adjustable Tein Flex coilovers and tie rods, as well as adjustable SPC arms to dial in a little more camber. The VQ35 has been treated to a set of hotter Tomei Powered cams that surprisingly bump power without affecting the nice low-RPM pull that these engines are known for. The car dumps its gasses through a Nismo S-tune exhaust, which is just as loud as you’d would want to run in Italy.

It All Comes With Frustration

Still from the Nissan camp is the rarest car of the group: a BNR34 that has miraculously been legally imported into Italy. I say this because getting any non-EU certified car imported directly into this country is a big no-no. But thanks to a single-example loophole, the owner was able to bring his dream car in – at great cost – and replace his long-serving Z33. The Skyline GT-R is running a substantial number of engine mods, and a dependable fuelling system made up of upgraded pumps and Power Enterprise injectors. It’s all controlled by an A’PEXi Power FC engine management system which has been especially mapped for Italy’s poor fuel grade.


The Skyline is lowered on a set of Cusco dampers that are adjustable from the comfort of the cabin thanks to the e-Con controller, and on the exterior fitted with a Nismo Ver.1 front bumper, side and rear skirts, and Superior taller wing stays. The wheels will soon be swapped out to finish up the look, but this will no doubt be a bit of a headache to get past the authorities. As they say though, where there’s a will, there’s a way.


Evos and Imprezas have always been the most popular Japanese imports in Italy, for the simple fact that they were cheekily sold in the country via their respective manufacturers. Add to that the fact that they’re so easily tuneable with the addition of some stealthy upgrades and it’s not hard to see why they remain a favourite. I like the use of a Kansai Service front bumper and 18-inch OZ Racing Ultraleggera wheels on this white Evo VI.


It’s one of the fastest cars of the group thanks to a CNC-ported head with Crower 272-degree cams and upgraded springs and titanium retainers, plus 85.5mm HKS forged pistons and H-section rods, and a balanced crank. Supplying the boost is a very responsive Evo IX RS turbocharger, while ignition and timing is managed by a MoTeC M85 engine management system. Serious stuff then!


And then came the GD series Imprezas. The car on the right I thought had the more daring execution, boasting some pretty evident aesthetic upgrades that would make it stand out in Torino’s traffic. But its owner wasn’t too fussed – he’s used to dealing with the police, so on top of the looks he’s also dedicated much time to getting it to handle well with Tein Monoflex dampers and a host of other suspension improvements. Boosting the EJ motor’s performance are custom cams, an upgraded fuel supply and a Link G4 engine management system. The car is even fitted with a carbon propeller shaft to shed precious weight from the driveline.


The silver Bug-Eye runs basic mods to slightly boost power, and a set of stock STI wheels repainted green that reminded me of the old JGTC Takata Racing NSX!


All members of the Angry Panda Klan are avid racers and travel throughout Italy to participate in as many track day events as they can – which is why all of the cars you have seen so far sport a lot of upgrades in the suspension department. And it’s much the same story for the red Evo IX that joined us in our first convoy into the city.


One of the newest cars present, it runs more power thanks to a rebuilt turbo and revised fuelling, while the factory-spec Bilstein dampers have been overhauled with more aggressive valving and mated to lower Tein springs.


Which brings us to the last car to make it out that night – a Mk5 Golf GTI that’s running a Mk6 Golf turbo upgrade, plus an Audi S3 twin intercooler setup and ignition borrowed from a Lamborghini Gallardo, all on top of a long list of other upgrades.


I felt really privileged to have been given such a true insight into one facet of Italian car culture from this tight-knit group of friends. They welcomed me like I was one of their own and shared all the stories – both good and bad – that make modified car ownership in Italy the fun yet frustrating experience that it is. 

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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I really enjoy the articles like this; snapshots of other countries car culture are absolutely fascinating. Cheers!
(They also serve as a pretty good "don't be a moron here, the police crack down hard" warning for those of us with dreams of driving across the continent, my wallet truly thanks you for the prior warning)


I'm from Turin, and as a avid reader of Speedhunters I can say that every time I stumble upon these guys and their cars is a deep breath of fresh air: they makes Japan seem a little closer. Great job Dino, great job Pandas.


Wow I had no idea that such strict laws exist in Italy... I'm definitely NOT a fan of that.  Thankfully in the US you can always find a way around these things.  If only our importation laws weren't so out-dated and silly.


I'm not sure if it's ideal to show those modified car's number plate when the country have a strict laws toward modified cars though ... but then , if the owner doesn't say anything , it's ok , I guess ? :P
Another thing I wanted to say is , strict laws makes modified car more epic (IMO) , because you had to modified it , without regular people know it's modified , for example that CR-X , it looks like stock , but actually it wasn't !


Those draconian regulations have brought about some very market specific cars, though. Like the Ferrari 208GTB, Dino 208, and so on.  Cool feature, when I was around Milan a few years back, there was definitely no shortage of tuned imports around among the expected Alfas, Lancias, and Fiats, so it's cool to learn a little more about the scene. Hard to mistake the sound of a turbo Subaru or a boosted inline-6 in the night, no matter where in the world you might be. :)


In brazil you cant up the power or displacement over 10%. Bigger than 2 liter you go on heavy taxes, you are FORBIDDEN to change your brakes, engine swaps that infer on the aforementioned rules are also forbidden. Imports MUST be brand new or 20+ years older, you pay thrice the price of a single import on taxes. RWD cars are pratically non-existant too , aside for some old machines or the occasional bmw/mercedes or semi-trucks.
Yet still, people are gearheads, trackdays are around, everybody do the mods and even the authorities turn a blind eye to the mods, since everybody likes their cars with a little spice

Great country to live in, i must say, but really the car-related regulations and speed limits are a joke


These are my favorite kind of articles on the site: The ones that do a really good job of showing modified car culture from around the world. Great job!


can we get a article on that mk5 golf?


I lived in Italy for a year and I can honestly count on 1 hand the number of times I saw a vehicle that had been modified in any way other than the ones from the US naval base. Granted I was in Sicily and the economy down there is pretty poor compared to the rest of Italy, but compared to the western US, it was a real shock to see how few upgraded cars there were.


zephoto They really are crazy, aren't they?


That Evo VI is gorgeous.
The laws seem pretty close to what we have here, though.


Ok then, tell them to start a petition and change those laws! :D

Great write-up, amazing to see such a close group.


All those cars look great to me, really subtle and elegant.  I love the OEM+, 'can't quite put a finger on why that car looks so good' school of exterior upgrades.


Great article like always Dino :D 

One thing interest me. How it looks in japan? What prohibits? What king of mods are illegal?


Great article like always Dino :D

One thing interest me. How it looks in japan? What law prohibits? What king of mods are illegal?


@Pawel Powroznik You can get away with pretty much anything in Japan...


SeBaBunea That's an idea...


Michael Atwell Thanks!


mbretschneider Sounds like hell


Riccardo25 Grazie Riccardo!


TarmacTerrorist Thx!


Thank you for the good article,
This is just an idea for you, but you should go speedhunting in this island i believe is called Jersey.
My parents went there for a holiday and my dad took a picture of the cars just parked in their street...
GTR R35, some lambos and ferraris, shitloads of well-modded evos and a lot,,, but i mean A LOT of normal people drive abarths and clio RS's...
Its just an idea, but i think if you're ever in france or in the neighboorhood of the island jersey, you should go and take  a look ;)


thank you Dino, this article explain perfectly the situation in Italy.
recently tyre producers and sellers association with OZwheels are making new rules, introducing new standard that formally will let legal fit only rims and tires with sizes designed for your car and certified from the producers. Not Italian brands are going to have no business spending time and money for certifications dedicated to a such small market like ours and this is going to be the classic Italian favoritism. maybe OZ will say i can fit their 7x15et35 on my mx5, thank you very much!
Flame was not my intention but the topic touch


robzor It's weird cause here in Sicily, and near the US base, in Catania, there are two clubs with some jap goodies, the Etna Tuning Club ;) and a little bit in the north, in Messina, the Messina Car Club ;) , but also in Palermo there are pretty nice modded cars ;)


yes!! great article! I'm glad to see them on Speedhunters, I follow them for years,
in all these years since I follow Speedhunters I would never have imagined seeing Torino here, that's a great surprise!


This was the article I was waiting for years... Thank you Dino for showing the world how difficult is to live here for a car enthusiast!
This made me think about all the problems and the bureaucratic nightmares i've faced since I bought my supra... and it's true sometimes living in Italy is a torture but don't surrender guys, there's always a way to make things work!
I will build my single turbo supra no matter what it takes, it's been my dream since i was in high school and i wont give up now!


That's crazy! I lived in Palermo for 4 months of my time there. I wasn't seeking out anything car related while there, my sightings were limited to just while out and about walking around. I also lived in Gela and agrigento. I saw a car show in Palermo once but it was all nicely restored cars or straight up race cars that weren't road legal anyways.


robzor Ahah well i'm really sorry, and it's weird cause we knew some guys from the us base in Sigonella ! :)


This article is something all italian speedhunters readers were waiting for.
Finally, someone has unveiled the hard kock life that a car enthusiast has to suffer here in the country of "pizza mafia and mandolino".
All our politics can do here is to create a more and more complex chaos of regulations and rules, which 90% of the times are completely non-sense: one for all, the fact that car taxes are calculated on power instead of the actual cost of the vehicle.
If you buy a 10.000 € used Nissan 350Z you will be taxed a lot more compared to, let's say, a 60.000 € Audi Q7 diesel.
Basically in Italy, if you like sportscars you are a tax dodger, but if you buy luxury SUVs you're fine.
Question: how possibly could a young guy want to live here?
Answer: Look at how many 25-26 y.o. leave the country every year.
And I'm so glad that we are bankrupt, so that maybe finally someone will come and erase completely our joke-government.


FrancescoDiGiuseppe me ne sto andando anch'io, non ho un futuro qui


FlaviuCatalin FrancescoDiGiuseppe Lo stiamo facendo tutti ormai, che morissero da soli


speedhunters_dino mbretschneider As said, its a great place to live overall
It would just be better if we could legalize things, people would feel more comfy. 99% of the time nobody checks your car properly, even at registration.. but if somebody checks, it will be taken right on because its totally illegal
I know a bucketload of guys who would gladly pay more in registration fees/taxes if they could have their cars the way they want (also , would be a better way of raising public money, instead of just applying felony/fee to a mis-regulated situation, because fees bring hate to the table...)


Man, I love that Evo VI.


Great post Dino! Still no evo 8 posts! ;p


Love the OZ Racing wheels on the Abarth, wish they came in 15" sizes.


The CRX you viewed is it a genuine imported EF? Or the European EE?


Confused. Have driven to Turin many times in my E46 Touring - slammed, cambered, 19s - and not been hassled once by the polizia. Was it my Brit plates that gave me a free pass?


FrancescoDiGiuseppe Sono d'accordissimo con te. Il problema é che le leggi le fanno fare a quelli che del tema della legge che stano creando non capiscono NULLA come nel caso da te citato. E come ha detto Dino la legalizzazione di modifiche alle auto porterebbe molti e molti soldi nelle casse del paese. Ma forse in un certo senso é meglio così perché se si rendono conto che ci possono guadagnare tassano le modifiche come tassano benzina alcolici e sigarette.


Very nice article. Now the world knows how hard is being a petrolhead and living in Italy at the same time. Nice cars Pandas! Cute on the surface and angry on the inside in a perfect italian style tuning.


Very nice repo! Very nice combination of cars


This may be off topic but I would greatly appreciate opinions of you guys. I'm looking to buy a 2006 Impreza wrx sti as my first car; 6 speed manual, bbs wheels, brembo brakes so it all sounds good, but like every used car is has its cons. Ripped steering wheel, a few stains on the back seats, both front tires are worn down and might need replacement, and the biggest problem of all it's being sold at a very small time dealer, and I know dudes like that are notorious for ripping people off. I really love this car but I just want some advice before I make a decision.


That's is just crazy what are fellow car guys have to go trough out there. Give them lots of respect for still finding ways and looking fresh, nice article


speedhunters_dino i guess thats why the 'only in japan' phrase is used so often then...!


i really didnt think that italy of all places has such a tight hold on mods to cars!
much respect to these guys!

Also when is Speedhunters going to start showing some 2 wheels stuff, because that Ducati looks so dam sexy! Even though i dont know much about bikes!


Nikhil_P While most of us all like bikes, SH is staying strictly 4-wheel oriented for the foreseeable future :)


Riskee Thx and yeah, big respect to everyone that pursues their passion


Mattblackhatchback Most probably


JDM_Luca FrancescoDiGiuseppe É incredibile che un paese come l'Italia, con una grossa industria di svariati tipi non sia più in grado di dare opportunità ai giovani. È ovvio che se ne stanno andando sempre di più... ogni volta che ritorno mi fa serpe più pena sto paesello...


importfan :D


mr_clarence ah bene....


Nikhil_P You want DeathHunters?


That's fine by me! Suppose I can live with seeing the odd bike picture!


I believe the way to import a nice sports car into italy is to own it for 6months+ before moving to italy... but that's a bit difficult for the italians :(

in my 6 years around Brescia i saw some nice modified cars.. but many with tiny rims..
and got pulled over a few times with my 318is with 330 brakes :P .. always walked away.. due to my dutch drivers license :)


Alguien me podria decir como Editan o con que lente o iso  sacaron estas fotos me ayudariasn bastante  Gracias 
Espero respuesta A


Someone could tell me how They edit or lens or ISO that took these pictures quite ayudariasn me Thanks 

Hopefully Answer


Sure was for your Brit plates! ;-)


FrancescoDiGiuseppe Thank you, FrancescoDiGiuseppe, for your comments.  

It is our quest to celebrate the passion of car enthusiasts around the globe - and when that passion shines through the adversity of heavy red tape, we believe bringing the whole story to our readers is that much more important.  FORZA!


zephoto There's always your buddy Canada, where cars 15+ yrs old are allowed to be imported. R34s are legal now, and I've seen a couple already! S15s too!

Gianluca FairladyZ

Ciao ragazzi. vivo in svizzera e vi capisco totalmente. anche noi abbiamo le regolazioni troppo strette e veramente ci rendono la vita difficile per importare una macchina giapponese oppure modificarla. forse l'unica cosa (aver letto questo articolo adesso) e che abbiamo documenti di omologazione, oppure possiamo creare un documento di omologazione (per cherchioni, supsensioni, marmitte) per girare legale su strada! Pero in confronto alla germania o ad altri paesi europei e proprio una rottura di scatole. Sono italiano, ho anche il passaporto, pero sono nato e cresciuto in svizzera. Pero vedere ed ascoltare il telegiornale co tutti sti casini che creano questi politici mi fa veramente pena! spero che l'italia si potra riprendere di questa crisi. Sempre in speranza che potra rendere la vita piu facile a tutti, sia la gente normale ed anche gli "petrolheads". Forza ragazzi tenete duri! E vivete la vostra passione, sia legale o illegale, perche alla fine e quello che rende felice! live your dreams! Everything else is a waste of time! Saluti, Gianluca


Interesting. How low quality is the fuel in Italy? What's the octane number?


yanes33537 Well, fuel quality in Europe in general is much better than in US, probably in gas stations there are 95/98, which means its about 91/93 respectively.