Eight special editions that weren't so special
The limited-run motors you might want to swerve. - By Graham Hope
A version of this article was first published on YesAuto UK.
What makes a special edition special? Often these limited-run models offer a combination of extra equipment and an attractive price, making them an attractive choice for buyers. But sometimes special editions are less inspired – the result, perhaps, of an ill-thought out marketing tie-up. Here’s our selection of eight of the most unconvincing special editions in recent times.
Fiat 500 Ron Arad
Few, if any, cars have been as ruthlessly milked for special and limited editions as the 500, but the 2015 Ron Arad model was among the most divisive. Arad is an Israeli-born, London-based industrial designer, and to celebrate his life-long love for the 500, he was tasked with creating a unique look for the car. This was what materialised. Available only in black, the 500 Ron Arad featured white graphics on either side of the bodywork that depicted the outline of an original 500 from 1957. The result was a rather bizarre X-ray effect that looked clunky rather than cool. Weird.
Range Rover Evoque with Victoria Beckham
It’s not unusual for the name of a celeb to find their way on to a special edition. But in 2012, Land Rover decided that we wanted – what we really, really wanted – was a Range Rover Evoque with input from former Spice Girl turned fashion designer Victoria Beckham. The one-time Posh Spice was said to have created the interior of the hand-finished matt grey Evoque special, a not unpleasant but wildly expensive (£79,995) version of the SUV. All seemed well as she posed for pictures of the car with Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern, but things took an unexpected turn five years later when McGovern, irate at Beckham taking the credit, was quoted as saying: “She didn’t design the car. I’ve forgotten more than that woman will ever know about designing – to be a car designer takes years.” Ouch.
SsangYong Korando Sports DMZ
The Korean peninsula is one of the world’s great potential flashpoints, where the competing ideologies of self-sustained socialism and open market capitalism sit uneasily side by side, a glaring representation of the differences between two countries still technically at war with each other. And nowhere is the tension more apparent than the so-called demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South, described by former US president Bill Clinton as “the scariest place on Earth”. In 2016, SsangYong thought it would be “a bit of fun” to produce a DMZ special edition of its Korando Sports pick-up, complete with a camouflage paintjob that looked like it had been done by a graffiti artist. There’s no accounting for taste.
Jeep Patriot Led Zeppelin edition
Got a ‘Whole Lotta Love’ for this one? Maybe not. Just seven versions of the Patriot were offered by branding/wrapping company RVGA to mark the rock supergroup’s appearance at the O2 in London in 2007. Graphics on the side showed a rather basic illustration of the band at work, but arguably the real attraction of the car was that it came with two VIP tickets for the long-sold out show and after-show party. The model was only available in the week preceding the gig and on offer for a hefty £35,000. There’s no record if all seven Jeeps were sold, but despite the rudimentary artwork, they probably held a certain appeal for ticketless Zep fans, if no one else.
Mitsuoka Orochi Evangelion edition
Sadly – or perhaps that should be thankfully – the extraordinary looking Orochi has never been made available in the UK. Its resemblance to an unwell fish makes it a regular visitor to any ‘ugliest cars in the world countdown’, but – presumably deeming its pure ungainliness to be insufficiently odd – maker Mitsuoka dialled things up to 11 with this Evangelion special edition. Taking its name from the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series that was a big hit in Mitsuoka’s native Japan, the multi-coloured paintjob has a polarising effect – it either distracts you from the unpleasantness of the design, or takes the whole proposition to a new level of awfulness.
Volkswagen Polo Harlequin
This is the automotive equivalent of the straight-laced, ‘pint of shandy’ company man from accounts putting on a zany Mickey Mouse tie for the Christmas party. The Polo is a car that should be admired for many reasons, but despite all its many assets it is, in essence, the epitome of utility motoring. But in 1995, it embraced its ‘fun’ side with the remarkable Harlequin special edition, which featured a different colour for each body panel and – even more bafflingly – patterned ‘joker’ seats. The result was unsurprisingly awkward. Twenty-six years down the line, it’s still hard to believe that this car was actually sold.
Volkswagen Golf Rolling Stones
In the 1960s, the Rolling Stones may not have been able to quite match the mass commercial appeal of the Beatles, but they had that indefinable edge that somehow made them just that little bit cooler. By the 1990s, things had changed. The Fab Four were remembered wistfully and looked at with reverence, while the Stones had become a money-making exercise that sold their name to go on the back of a Volkswagen Golf special edition. The justification was to mark the Voodoo Lounge tour of 1995, and in mitigation they weren’t the only rock act to agree to a VW tie-up – Bon Jovi and Pink Floyd did, too. But the Stones badging didn’t make the Golf any more trendy, and it certainly wasn’t a career highlight for the band.
Dacia Duster Strongman
The Dacia Duster is a good car. Its blend of all-round competence and supreme value for money makes it an attractive purchase for many. But buyers do not, generally, choose the Duster to make a style statement – which makes this rather lairy Strongman edition of the SUV, offered by Dacia Italy, a rather puzzling addition to the line-up. Named after the Fisherman’s Friend Strongman event – an annual obstacle course event held in different locations across the world – the Duster featured a matt white wrap and marine-themed illustrations of anchors, rudders and ropes which, like the famous lozenges that inspired it, was an acquired taste.