Theme: Special – Or Not?

As February 2016 slides into memory, we bid a silent adieu to yet another theme.

Volkswagen Polo Harlequin special edition. Image:Hooniverse
Volkswagen Polo Harlequin special edition. Image:Hooniverse

So by way of round-up or merely a chagrined ‘how the hell did we fail to mention that’ groan, we return to the subject one last time to look at a couple of special editions we really should have got around to before now. First and most glaring (in every sense of the word) has to be the 1995 Volkswagen Polo Harlequin special edition. Between the Rock Tribute special editions we featured earlier and this duo, one can only speculate as to what those crazy guys & gals in Wolfsburg were imbibing? Solvents perhaps. But surely it can only have been blind prejudice and a staggering lack of vision that prevented VW’s European rivals from adopting this colour concept en-masse.

The public know nothing. Allegro Equipe. Image:Pistonheads
The public know nothing. Allegro Equipe. Image:Pistonheads

From the innovative house of British Leyland came this, the 1980 Austin Allegro Equipe. Appearances are often deceptive; it was so much more than a be-striped two door 1750HL. In fact, so good was the Equipe, the denizens of Portello were reportedly quaking in their hand-tooled brown suede loafers, so surely it can only have been blind prejudice and a staggering lack of vision on the part of the UK buying public that the Alfasud maintained its position of handling and performance benchmark. The Equipe deserved so much more.

1989 Peugeot 205 Roland Garros. Image:Peugeot
1989 Peugeot 205 Roland Garros. Image:Peugeot

In 1984 PSA began its sponsorship of French tennis – one that continues to this day. To mark this, a series of Roland Garros themed special edition Peugeots was created, the 1989 205 edition featuring attractive metallic green paintwork with a unique green/white upholstery, special Rolland Garros badging, and a white folding top. Surely it can only have been blind prejudice and a staggering lack of vision on the part of tennis authorities across the globe that prevented this concept from being served up worldwide. After all, who wouldn’t have coveted a Mercury Topaz Flushing Meadows?

1988 Citroen AX Air France Madame. Image:Autovia
1988 Citroen AX Air France Madame. Note the painstakingly applied side rubbing strip. Image:Autovia

Finally, staying with PSA, during 1988 and 89, French buyers – well mostly ladies if we’re honest – could drive away in a Citroen AX Air France Madame. Perhaps our readers from across the channel can cast further light on this curiosity which wasn’t even painted in Air France colours – instead being offered in (Jet?) black with little in the way of stand-out features, apart from some extra interior kit like twin interior vanity mirrors and small ‘Air France Madame’ door and tailgate badges. Nevertheless it can only have been blind prejudice and a staggering lack of vision on the part of the European aviation industry that this link between cars and national carriers didn’t take flight. What’s that you say? Lufthansa? Ford Ka? Oh crap.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

16 thoughts on “Theme: Special – Or Not?”

  1. The Air France Madame is so half-hearted. Special equipment ran as far as the sticker. And no further. Small cars were seldom black in 1990 though. Let’s not forget that.
    The Roland Garros cars are not bad. I’ve seen all three and they are less overpowering than fully-leathered Renault Baccaras. Citroen had nothing like this, I note.

    1. Not to forget the chromed (plastic) grille on the AX. You should like this little indulgence from an otherwise entirely chromeless time.

  2. The stripes and black sills on that Allegro are an interesting attempt at visually slimming the car in profile.

  3. Am I alone in wishing that an obsessive collector would collect one, each, of the four VW Harlequin versions, then re-assemble them to make a blue, a yellow a green and a red Polo?

    Such was the power on the nation’s imagination that, even a year after the TV series had ceased production, the vague approximation of the Starsky & Hutch Torino side stripe would be expected to stir the loins of men in search of a red-blooded car.

    Whilst, on the other side, it’s true that there are ‘girly’ cars, but quite a few of them (say Nissan Figaros) will actually be bought by men who are quite comfortable with their identities. It seems idiotic to actually specify the intended sex of a car’s owner, even more so the marital status or, at least, age, especially if the car itself seems devoid of any specifically feminine attributes.

    1. A Texas dealership was given the impossible task of selling quite a few Harlequin Golfs. Desperate, they did as you suggest: reassembled them into their original colors.

      Of the available base colors, just one was never offered in America. How I long to see a Pistachio Green mk3 Golf: the brand new, rebuilt special.

    2. That’s for stopping by Lee. That’s fascinating, I had no idea they crossed the Atlantic. What on earth were they thinking?

  4. Simon: the chromed grille is positively regal. Some more around the window frames was called for. Would it be fair to assume the Air France Madame had good upholstery and Art Blakeslee’s “special” interior.

    1. It had a particularly tasteful velour upholstery covering the seats AND doorcards apparently.
      Other luxuries included a three-spoke steering wheel, a clock, courtesy mirrors inside the sunvisors on BOTH SIDES, adjustable side mirrors also on both sides, upgraded carpet and a backlit cigarette lighter.

  5. We didn’t mention Overfinch or Holland & Holland Range Rovers nor people like Khan or Mr Dany Bahar’s outfit. Zagato and the other coachbuilders might have been discussed. I felt I could shoehorn Bristol in somehow but never did. I found a Japanese-market BMW special edition that I didn’t find time for.
    Have you noticed that the special edition is not generally a thing Audi or Mercedes ever did, not with badges and there were no trim packs with special names – or do Alpine and AMG cover that ground?

  6. I recall there have been instances of Mk2 versions of special editions … so perhaps we can have a reprisal of this theme in a couple of years and fill in the gaps. I meant to add one more before the deadline but fluffed my lines, so I hope it can wait for the reboot of this theme.

    1. I mentioned the R18 American 2 last week and I think you could (and should) run this series every year.

  7. Yes, good point Sam. We could call it “special sequels”. Being reminded of the American 2 brought back many memories of broken, asphalt-scabbed pavements, rusting cars, litter and rain.

  8. Having looked I find the Air France Madame does have nice purply-black velour. The IP is the first version and not Art Blakeslee’s “special” one.

  9. Without the treatment Driven To Write publicly affords these entirely unmemorable runabouts, people could discover their rotting remains at the back of the local scrapyard, and thrill with the pleasure of discovering what they genuinely believe is unknown hidden treasure!

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