By on February 20, 2013

From my post yesterday, you might get the feeling that I think all special editions are bad. That isn’t true. Occasionally, a car company makes a special edition when it’s not desperate. And occasionally, it’s pretty good – even if it doesn’t include extra horsepower. This post details all those special editions that were surprisingly tolerable – even if they were mostly unique badging and special paint.

Chevrolet Venture Warner Brothers Edition

The Venture Warner Brothers Edition got a lot of hate in yesterday’s comments section, but I’m not entirely sure why. It had many strong selling points, chief among them the WB logo in back that replaced the Chevy bowtie – so no one had to know you were driving a U-body. Too bad it still said “Venture” on the tailgate.

Of course, another major selling point was its rear entertainment package, which gave drivers a choice between DVD and VHS. Those who picked the latter are likely regretting their choice, but probably no more than their decision to buy a Venture in the first place.

In the end, the Venture WB was enough of a hit that it inspired the Sienna Symphony, a copycat special edition from Toyota. Of course, in true Toyota fashion, the Sienna Symphony was better looking, drove more smoothly, and didn’t have Bugs Bunny on the tailgate.

Volkswagen Jetta Trek / K2

Even the Germans aren’t immune to the allure of run-out special editions. Witness the Jetta Trek and Jetta K2, which came with a bike or a set of skis depending on which model you chose. As anyone who took advantage of the promotion will tell you, it was a pretty neat idea since it was the only way to guarantee you got something that worked when you bought a Jetta III.

Dodge Dakota Convertible

The Dakota Convertible was perfect because it cornered a market that had been largely ignored since the 1920s: the open-top pickup buyer. Hate all you want, but they sold hundreds of these, or possibly dozens. Every one was sold to drivers excited about the possibility of heading out on a warm summer day, dropping the top and going for a cruise … with a couch in the back.

Range Rover Autobiography

Owning a Range Rover is like being part of a special club. That club is called “other drivers won’t let you over in traffic.” They’re also part of the “air suspension ticking time bomb” club, but that one’s not as exclusive since it was founded by S-Class owners.

Owning an Autobiography Edition puts you in even rarer company: the “only valets will know how much I spent” club. That’s because the highly subtle Autobiography is $30,000 more than the Supercharged, which is $12,000 more than the HSE. So why is it on this list?

Because to the kind of people who buy Range Rovers, it’s perfect. Nothing is left off. It’s the ultimate SUV, saying “Out of my way, peasant!” every time you turn the key. It just doesn’t say it very loudly.

Subaru Outback LL Bean Edition

While I’m not usually a fan of clothing company-car company joint ventures, you have to respect the Subaru Outback LL Bean Edition for no other reason than it showed just how well Subaru knows its customers. Perhaps the only way they could’ve improved it would’ve been a standard “MV” sticker on the back window.

The Outback LL Bean is also praiseworthy because it had a lot of stuff Subaru owners actually wanted. Standard features included leather upholstery, heated front seats, a regulation softball bat and a subscription to “Curve” magazine.

Some of that is true.

Ford F-150 Harley Davidson Edition

Never mind Jesus. Real men love only two things: Harleys and pickup trucks. Armed with this knowledge, Ford created a pickup truck with Harley badging and a throaty exhaust. First offered only in F-150 guise, it eventually expanded to Super Duty models so real men didn’t have to compromise.

At some point, it also added flames. I have no idea why this was done, though I think it may have been because Ford market research discovered real men also like fire.

Mercedes SL-Class Silver Arrow Edition

The age of a person’s SL-Class tells you a lot about when they had their money. A Sam Rothstein-style 1970s “R107” SL-Class, for example, tells you the driver probably had cash in the ‘70s before divorcing her husband. Now she uses alimony to maintain it. An early 2003ish R230 SL-Class is probably someone who bought it used last year, and can only sleep by crossing his fingers and hoping the top doesn’t break.

But a 2002 R129 “Silver Arrow Edition” reeks of class. It also reeks of leather cleaner, since they only came with white seats. Get past that, and you’ve got a distinctive Mercedes sold in small numbers. Sort of like the C-Class hatchback.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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65 Comments on “Special Editions That Actually Were Special...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Wasn’t there also a Silver Arrow version of the last Riviera? With -S- badges embroidered into the seats.

    The MB Silver Arrow is slick. My favorite version of the SL, ever.

    I have seen a Dakota convertible before! White with goofy teal graphics I think. At the time, I thought it was a home-based job, as it looked kinda goofy.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      The only thing cooler than the Dakota convertible is the Shelby Dakota.

      http://www.trucktrend.com/features/consumer/163_1205_carroll_shelby_trucks/photo_02.html

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      Did Daimler-Benz borrow the name from the Pierce Arrow Silver Arrow, the 1933 show car?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, there was. I was just about to mention that. The 1999 “Silver Arrow” Rivieras were the last 200 Rivieras ever to be made. They included a badge indicating their sequence within that run of 200, a special silver paint not available on any other Riviera nor any other GM car, embroidered “Silver Arrow” leather seats, and I believe they even had “Silver Arrow” kickplates.

      I’m thinking that Opel Cascada might be the next Buick Riviera, albeit convertible-only.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    If you’re going to count the Outback LL Bean, shouldn’t the Ford Eddie Bauers (across any model line) be included, as well? I don’t know how special they were, but, man, they sure were/are successful.

    Mention should probably be made of the Focus Kona edition, too.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Shouldn’t the XJ-L Super Portfolio qualify on this list, as it’s the same sort of upgrades as the Range Rover (except with infinitely more class)?

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    2002 Collector’s Edition Eldorado with specially-tuned exhaust to mimic the sound of the ’59s (allegedly).

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    You left off the fact that the HD F150′s (of the 2002-2003 era) were supercharged!

    Other than that, good read.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    My personal favorite was the Levi Strauss edition AMC Gremlin, man those were hot!

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    Made me laugh again, Doug. Nice job. Is the Jeep Wrangler the vehicle with the most special editions ever? Sure feels that way.

    • 0 avatar
      bills79jeep

      I can’t think of a car with more special editions than the Mustang, though Jeep has certainly added to their tally recently with a lot of dumb special edition JK’s. At least half the Mustang ones are performance oriented, where the only Jeep performance edition is the Rubicon. Bonus points for the Golden Eagle CJ though.

  • avatar
    Pan

    Don’t forget the Studebaker Scotsman.
    It was good enough for Eleanor Roosevelt.

  • avatar
    ldl20

    “Perhaps the only way they could’ve improved it would’ve been a standard “MV” sticker on the back window.”

    Maybe I’m slow today, but what’s, “MV?”

    • 0 avatar
      SilverCoupe

      MV = Martha’s Vineyard. You know, those little white ovals that say not only is my car better than yours, so is my vacation. A better sticker is the Martha’s Vinyard Tunnel Authority, or something like that. Of course, there is no tunnel to MV, just a ferry, so if you ask about the tunnel, it shows you off to be a real rube.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Most VW Wolfsburg editions are good special editions. The 2008-2011 Jetta Wolfsburg was a great value. The engine and transmission from the GTI/GLI with 18″ wheels made an excellent package.

    • 0 avatar

      Amen. Having owned a ’98 Jetta III Wolfsburg and bought an ’08 Jetta V Wolfsburg for my wife, I agree. Both offered excellent value for end-of-run models. No new-model bugs, nice standard features, and quite an attractive price. Throw in the fact that both were largely issue-free (that DSG reprogram notwithstanding), and I’d eagerly buy a third…if they hadn’t dumbed-down the suspension and made the Mk VI ungainly in size. Now, if a Scirocco Mk III Wolfsburg could be had in the USA…

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I’d take a MkIII Scirocco anything. Even the 1.4TSI or BlueMotion. However, I have no faith that we will ever see it here. I’m suprised they still let us have a GTI. At the NAIAS, they didn’t even have a Golf, let alone a GTI.

      • 0 avatar
        Dimwit

        Canada was lucky in 2004-2005 to get a TDI “Sport Edition”. Available in 3 colours only, it had the next gen PD engine with 5! extra hp but with — as Clarkson says — 25 more “torques” which gave it some nice omph. It had Plus 1 tire package with special aluminum rims, it was loaded with all options, it had the GTI leather wrapped wheel and a pair of gorgeous cloth Recaros. A really nice package. They sold about 2000/yr. Too bad it died with the rest of the Mk IV’s.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    F150 Harley Davidson Edition?

    Pffft. A joke. If they were serious they would have strapped a motorcycle to the roof, like the Jetta Trek.

    The Trek bicycle provides auxiliary transportation when the VW breaks down, and the motorcycle provides auxiliary transportation when the truck runs out of gas and you can’t afford to keep feeding the damn thing.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    The Subaru Outback L.L. Bean edition was sold only with the H6 engine for a few years, which was a much better engine than the head gasket hungry EJ 4 cylinder.

    You could also get an L.L. Bean edition Forester for a few years, which had the dumpy EJ series engine, but lots of nice amenities, similar to the Outback.

    • 0 avatar
      salhany

      We bought an ’07 Outback LLBean ed for my wife a couple of years ago. It’s a really nice car, the interior is a step up from Subaru’s usual, it has a Momo steering wheel of all things, and the 6 is a good engine for the car.

      Naturally we live in Maine, so no one blinks an eye at an LL Bean edition.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, AGREED. I have an H6 and when my aunt wanted to by an OB of that era it was the only engine I’d allow her to buy (ergo, she ended up with an LL Bean unintentionally). It may eat gas more quickly than the 4-cylinder or turbo, but any difference in consumption is destroyed the first time you have to do a head gasket job or replace the turbo in one of the other two options.

      Wonderfully smooth, and it makes a nice sound too. Too bad the 5-speed automatic often seems to be on vacation.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …Of course, another major selling point was its rear entertainment package, which gave drivers a choice between DVD and VHS…

    And the same option was available on the Pontiac Trans Sport and the Pontiac Montana (1999 – 2005). You still didn’t get Bugs Bunny.

    There just wasn’t anything all that special about it because you could get all of the options anyway. What you really got was – well – Bugs Bunny.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I don’t think the intent when launched was to create a special edition. but the 2009.5 G8 GXP, all 1,829 built were pretty special. They are all 2009.5 cars (in the G8 community also referred to as 9L3 cars in reference to the number sequence in the VIN).

    Another Pontiac orphan is the under 1,200 Solstice coupes that were built – I would suspect that the manual shifting GXP version would be the rarest of the rare. Beautiful car.

    I know Ford has had a long list of special edition Mustanges that someone with more expertise than me on the topic could comment on. I remember some of them were darn nice offerings bang for the buck.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    The HD F150 is arguably the best-executed of these specials. But everytime I see one I think, “wow, somebody’s got a realllly, realllly small ego….or something.” I also wonder why Ford thought giving away their brand to another company was a good idea.
    As for the Solstice Coupe GXP mentioned by ApaGtth, our local Pontiac store had one that they couldn’t give away. I went in to inquire with a sales guy I knew and he said they sold it for well under MSRP. NOt so special after all.

  • avatar
    285exp

    1984-85 Mazda RX7 GSL-SE

  • avatar
    rushn

    Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the difference between the two articles besides the tag line? Same snark, same “standard” for making the list. Seems like a part II here.

  • avatar
    Loser

    I always liked the ’03-04 Mustang Mach 1. Was never a big fan of the Bullit edition.

    Not sure if the Lightning, Marauder and ’94-96 Impala SS are considered special editions.

  • avatar
    RogueInLA

    Pierre Cardin Javelin, sitting in one was like an acid trip, but in a good way.

    http://www.cardinjavelin.com/

  • avatar
    MeaCulpa

    TREK, what a wonderfully un-tainted company to be associated with.

  • avatar

    A couple Toyota’s that come to mind for me:

    -Echo Roxy… the straw that officially makes it a girl car. It did, however, offer the unique features for the Echo. They were built to bring in athletic-lifestyle girls, were automatic only, and featured “front and rear water-resistant ‘neoprene’ two-tone seat covers, wet-gear trunk compartment and Yakima roof rack with Roxy logo-imprinted surfboard pads.” It’s definitely not helping the cars’ reputation. Then again, what do all the “special edition” Scions have besides some lighting and grille changes?

    -Matrix M-Theory: this was an interesting one. It still used the same base engine and transmission as an XR, but used suspension and brake pieces from the XRS. Combine that with the unique blue paint and wheels offered on it, and it’s a cool little smurf.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    2103 Camry SE. How special is it?

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      ?

      I don’t think SE stands for Special Edition.

      And how you have a clue what Toyota is releasing 90 years from now is beyond me.

      • 0 avatar

        It doesn’t, but there is an SE Special Edition (or Limited Edition… something like that) that really isn’t. Per Car & Driver:

        “Toyota has announced a new special-edition Camry variant for 2012 called the SE Sport Limited Edition. Basically, the unique model is a regular, four-cylinder Camry SE (the sportiest trim level in the Camry lineup) loaded with several optional extras and a set of 18-inch wheels that are otherwise only available on the six-cylinder SE model.

        Essentially, the Sport Limited Edition groups the SE’s $2405 “Display Audio with Navigation and Entune” package with the SE V6’s dark-gray-colored 18-inch wheels, which replace the four-cylinder car’s puny 17s. The awkwardly named Display Audio and Navigation and Entune bundle includes a 6.1-inch touch-screen audio system with navigation and Toyota’s Entune infotainment gear, as well as a power driver’s seat and a sunroof. A regular four-pot SE equipped with this package will run you $26,420, but the Sport Limited Edition with all of that equipment, plus the upmarket wheels, is being offered for just $370 more. If you like the sound of a well-equipped Camry SE that does a decent job of visually impersonating its V-6–powered twin brother, then the Sport Limited Edition is worth a look—but act fast, because Toyota’s only offering it for three months. The special-edition model goes on sale this weekend for $26,790.”

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Ford F-Series King Ranch. I really like these trucks. They have an interior better than any trim above or below them.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    “A Sam Rothstein-style 1970s “R107” SL-Class, for example, tells you the driver probably had cash in the ‘70s before divorcing her husband. Now she uses alimony to maintain it.”

    that got a hearty laugh.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    As opposed to my “Ultimate Edition” 09 Mercury Grand Marquis. Ultimate? No heated seats, no light on the ignition, no lock on the fuel filler….heck even my 05 Sonata has the last two!

    John

    • 0 avatar
      joeveto3

      But you got the digital gauges with the Ultimate Edition, right? Mine had heated seats too. I really loved that car. Probably should have kept it, but I just get bored so fast.

  • avatar
    tbone33

    Isn’t the Harley F150 loaded with dainty amenities for the princess F150 driver?

  • avatar
    JMII

    My brother owned a VW Golf 337, which only 1,500 examples came to US shores. As a result the resale value was actually quite high – I think he sold his in 3 days for $3K MORE then he paid it. The upgrades were actually worth it too: different seats, better brakes, aero bits, bigger wheels, etc. To date this is best braking car I have ever been in, it literally stopped on a dime.

    I have seen exactly ONE convertible Dakota, its pretty rare with only 2,500 being made and clearly special. As a Dakota owner I’m always on the look out for rare combos. For example if you ever see a two tone Patriot Blue over Light Driftwood Satin R/T let me know. Per the Dakota forums brain-trust this is rarest combo known to leave the factory.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Maybe it wasn’t so good , but it certainly was different : the Ford Pinto Cruising wagon, set up to look like a ” Good Times ” van with stripes and porthole windows . IIRC , Datsun made a similar attempt with , of all things , an F10 wagon , also with stripes and portholes .Don’t recall if Datsun or an outside company did the conversion but I vaguely remember reading about it in Motor Trend or somewhere in the seventies and I actually saw one a time or two back in the day . Not surprisingly , it was hideous , albeit perhaps better looking than the F10 wagon with the optional and perhaps the most unconvincing wood siding in history . The Pinto Cruising wagon sold a bit better but was still a rare sighting even when new .

  • avatar
    mccall52

    I’m a bigger fan of ‘limited’ editions. They are, after all, limited to the amount they can make.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Super Duty Outlaw > Harley Davidson Edition

  • avatar
    Redshift

    My vote is the 1993 Mazda RX7 R1 package. (Or to a lesser extent the slightly softer R2 on the 94/95.)

    The most hardcore of the 90s Japanese sports cars gets a hard core track package.

    Firmer suspension, aero kit, second oil cooler, sun-roof delete, bloated Bose stereo delete, cloth seats instead of the leather and the availability of an exclusive colour in 93. (Competition Yellow Mica.)

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    The 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited was actually pretty nice. It had a lot more leather on the inside (including leather on the door panels), and of a much nicer grade than regular Limiteds. It was also the only Grand Cherokee from 1993 all the way through 2004 that had a fold down rear armrest. Add to that the 5.9L V-8, hood vents and model specific wheels and it was a pretty nice package overall.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    S Class owners air suspension time bomb club? I thought that was exclusive club to any Ford built with air suspension ever?

    I saw a Dakota convertible for the first time in a long time the other day. I didn’t examine it closely, but it looked to be in excellent shape. Unusual, since I was in Bowling Green OH.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      It’s a lovely club to join, especially as fixing an S-Class air suspension requires a Master’s Degree in Engineering and a ten man workforce. The price of service is not for the faint of heart.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    How is the H-D F-150 a “special edition”.

    It was a trim line on the F-series trucks. Just like you can get an XLT or Lariat trim.

  • avatar
    AFX

    I was going to mention the Pierre Cardin Javelin and the Pinto Cruising Wagon, but you beat me to it. I’ll just say the Mark Donohue Javelin SST, and the Mustang II Cobra instead. Other special editions I thought of, the 1972 Buick Skylark Suncoupe with fabric sunroof, any Hurst Olds, the 1977 Pontiac CanAm, Chevy Monza Spyder, Buick Nighthawk, Dodge Lil Red Express, John Player Special Lotus Esprit, Martini Porsche 924, 50th Anniversary Pininfarina Fiat Spider, Bill Blass Lincoln Continental, Mustang GT/CS California special, Joseph Abboud Buick Regal, 1984 Olympic edition Buicks, ASC McLaren Mustang and Capri, Ford Pinto and Mustang II MPG, Plymouth Gold Duster, black and gold 10th Anniversary 280ZX, Buick Free Spirit.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    Does the SVT Contour count? Mine was Toreador Red with midnight blue leather. Fun car for the time.

  • avatar
    lastwgn

    As a Mazda RX-7 afficianado of sorts, there are a few distinct limited editions from the first generation that come to mind. For the first year, there was a limited edition that is very rare to find today with a special Beet Black paint, unique console facia, and a unique set of wheel rims. I believe it was advertised as a 3,000 model run, and have only seen a handful pop up on e-bay over the past six years. For 1980 there was a special LS edition, with the LS standing for Leather Sport. Along with unique leather upholstery, there were gold tone wheel rims and one of three unique paint colors available, solar gold, black, and white. There was also for 1980 a Mazda Xth anniversary edition with a reannaisance red paint and unique upholstery pattern that was offered in all of the Mazda cars for their 10th year in the U.S. Finally, in 1983 there was a limited edition with a unique silver paint, burgundy interior, and unique BBS wheel rims.

    Each one of these special editions is highly collectible today for RX-7 enthusiasts, if you can actually find a pristine example.

    My favorite special edition of all time would have to be the 1991 Mazda Miata in the one year only British Racing Green color.

  • avatar
    cheeky.monkey

    Doug, you write well and many of your zingers are amusing, but the non-stop snark is not a substitute for thoughtful content and is therefore starting to wear thin. I’d personally be interested in seeing you write something that doesn’t rely on a steady stream of car stereotypes, and not just because I own an LL Bean Outback (which I actually really like but prefer to think of as an “Outback 3.0R”).

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    How about the 1955-56 Dodge La Femme ( I think that’s what it was called) a Coronet geared towards ” The American Woman ” and painted in I think pink or lavender paint with matching interior and accessories , umbrellas , purse , etc . A sales flop but interesting marketing idea for the era , maybe the first direct marketing of a car model to women .

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Little known VW promotion fact. When the company promoted the K2 edition (it was for the Golf, not the Jetta — Jetta had the Trek: separate promotions, separate cars, Doug), they worded their offer quite poorly.

    A guy came into a VW dealership and said, “Okay man, gimme my skis.”

    The dealer insisted the customer had to buy the car first. The customer, possessing a legal background, told the dealer the way VW’s ad agency had worded the advertising was illegal, and was consideration. Long story short, went to court, guy was right, received a free pair of skis, and VW quickly shut the program down. So if you have a pair of VW | K2 skis, whether you bought the car or not, they are collectors items.

  • avatar
    h2323

    FYI, that is not a f-150…… that is 3/4 ton


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