Cleared for takeoff: Driven to Write examines a special edition with lofty pretentions.
Typically, special editions of mass market cars are the domain of clothing or sports equipment brands. Usually, they consist of not much more than a particular colour/trim combination and a set of logo stickers. But there is one special edition from the 1990s that was so much more than that.
Aviation is a strange beast: those associated with its most heroic aspects – the pilots – are symbols of derring-do and globetrotting urbanity. Yet those closer to its lesser aspects don’t lend themselves to such glamorous properties, least of all the ones lowest down the prestige hierarchy, albeit high up the enthusiasm order: the enthusiasts.
Ford’s Ka Lufthansa Edition was, to come to the point, obviously catering to the latter. Imagining a wide-chested pilot – uniform, Ray Ban shades et al – nonchalantly throwing his suitcase into the boot, before smashing the tinny lid and taking a seat behind the little Ford’s ovoid steering wheel, is an image too silly to consider it being even remotely in touch with reality.
The Ka Lufthansa Edition was therefore the car for the young stewardess or the airline professional apprentice who’d actually wanted to become a pilot but had issues with his eyesight. Or my very own teenage self.
Thankfully, the Ka came out some years before I was legally granted the opportunity to pursue a driving license, which probably prevented me from gaining funds through unorthodox channels in order to place a deposit. In hindsight, I thus also avoided some kind of car-related social suicide, probably.
But why was I ever bothered? Well, as a young boy, I loved airplanes just as much as cars, so the Ka appeared to be the best of both worlds, in certain respects (which today tend to elude me). I also happened to be very fond of the corporate identity Frog Design had just created on behalf of Lufthansa, which, for the first time during my lifetime, bestowed the German flag carrier with a kind of visual appearance that did not conjure up impressions of West-German tax authorities’ offices.
The first time I’d set foot on an LH jet with those grey leather seats with yellow piping, I had been deeply impressed. That Ka would therefore, quite obviously, have to make a noise quite similar to a Boeing 747’s four General Electric CF6 turbofan engine, just simply as it was equipped with that upholstery.
As an exercise in cross-branding, the Ka Lufthansa Edition can hardly have been a smashing success though, as we’d certainly have come across the Dacia Logan Ryanair Special or the Mercedes CL500 Singapore Girl in the meantime. But what it did was to exert a magnetic pull on an impressionable aviation nerd. Who unfortunately/luckily had neither the cash nor the driving license to do anything about it. Ford/Lufthansa had done everything right, yet gained nothing at all.