Theme: Special – Ford Ka Lufthansa Edition

Cleared for takeoff: Driven to Write examines a special edition with lofty pretentions.

Ford Ka Lufthansa Edition, Photo (c)

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.

The Boeing 747-400, arguably the only Lufthansa-branded item even more dashing than the Ka in the 1990s. Photo (c)

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.

Grey leather! Yellow piping! Could anything be kewler than that?! Photo (c)

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.

There’s even, ohmygosh, a plaque! Sporting the Lufthansa crane! Photo (c)

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.

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

3 thoughts on “Theme: Special – Ford Ka Lufthansa Edition”

  1. Lufthansa!? Why did it have fo be Lufthansa!? Apologies Kris for the following rant about your national airline…

    I still remember the profound sense of disappointment I had the first time that I transferred onto a longhaul Lufthansa flight at Singapore airport in 2004. “Welcome to the greyscale world of Lufthansa, you will enjoy our sense of visual austerity and lack of personal tv displays in economy class. For non-German customers we have provided an absurdly whimsical piece of yellow piping on the seating surfaces to keep you amused, and the inflight magazine also has English translation for several bland articles. Now sit back and contemplate the horror of realising you’re stuck for the next 12 hrs in the world’s least desirable Recaro-branded seat, only to arrive at the industrial ashtray that is Frankfurt Airport (key features at tne time: unenclosed but well-populated ‘smokers corners’, a long hike down grey corridors between terminals and the ‘spielbank’ casino). Your Singapore Girls can’t help you now.”

    I agree that the graphic design and branding looks good in advertising and the service is generally professional but having to switch from longhaul out of NZ to Lufthansa at one of the big airports in Asia felt like punishment for Star Alliance mileage. The print advertising I recall featured attractive european people sleeping happily in the warm glow of a window seat on Lufthansa, but what they didn’t tell you was that sleep was the only escape from unremitting grey, and if you were in the central aisle away from the natural light you’d probably cry yourself into unconsciousness.

  2. That was a great comment, Mark. The last sentence was enough to make me laugh. Why did they pick the Ka? A Focus saloon would have been good or perhaps a Galaxy.

  3. Thanks Richard, although I feel a little guilty launching comments on Kris’s story with a rant about Lufthansa. I think the best Ford for a Lufthansa edition would be a Transit Connect with a yellow flashing lightbar on the roof, Lufthansa livery exterior paintwork and FOLLOW ME sign across the rear doors. Each car would come with modified door pockets containing a Lufthansa inflight magazine, inflight shopping catalogue and an airsickness bag. The owners manual has been replaced with a laminated foldout card of key features of the van. The glovebox will have a sticker warning passengers that contents may have shifted during flight, and thanks to special acoustic matching with the TDCi engine the lid would rattle under hard acceleration just like on a tired Airbus.

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