Sometimes, car companies get desperate. This usually happens at the end of a model run, when a car is obsolete but the new one isn’t quite ready to launch. Or, if you’re Chrysler, this happens the day a new model is released.
Automakers have four ways of dealing with this problem. One is to simply let the current car die a slow and painful death. This strategy is commonly employed by Acura, who stunned journalists when the latest RDX came out not because of its new styling or V6 engine, but because everyone thought the old one had been cancelled three years ago. The other two involve fleet sales and trunk money – tactics invented and perfected by General Motors.
But there’s always one more possibility: a special edition. Because nothing makes people feel better about buying an outdated car with a black and white navigation screen than a unique paint color and some custom wheels. Today, I’m going to explore some of the most ridiculous special editions of our time. They include green seats and movie-themed badging. But most importantly, they all reek of desperation.
GMC Jimmy Diamond Edition
GMC decided to try something new in order to distinguish its second-generation S-10 Jimmy from the otherwise identical Chevrolet Blazer. No, it wasn’t a passenger airbag: neither model offered one of those newfangled gizmos until three years after the government mandated it in 1995. Instead, it was the Diamond Edition.
Named because the interior was inexplicably finished in diamond-pattern leather seats, the “Jimmy Diamond” sounded more like a transsexual lounge singer than a “professional grade” SUV. But professional grade it was – just ask the casket makers who undoubtedly provided GM with the material to upholster each and every one.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Orvis
When Ford came out with the Eddie Bauer Explorer in 1991, Chrysler couldn’t sit idly by. It had to respond by courting its own outdoorsy company that sends you catalogs you never asked for, yet are vaguely appealing.
The result was the 1995-1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Orvis, which was sold only in Forest Green with Forest Green leather seats unusually trimmed in red. While the green seats were intended to bring the outdoors inside, they instead succeeded in making the occupants wish they were outdoors. Around 50 of these still haven’t succumbed to transmission problems and can still be found on various Craigslists wearing at least a few of their original panels.
Mercury Villager Nautica
After Jeep snagged Orvis, Ford rushed back to the drawing board, or possibly the junk mail pile, to find another catalog manufacturer/clothing company it could mate with its cars. The result was the Mercury Villager Nautica, which used unreadable pale yellow Nautica trim on the usually-white minivans, presumably because Nautica was embarrassed with the relationship. They had reason to be: most Villager Nautica vans had white wheels. And nearly all had blue interiors.
The Nautica/Mercury tie-up ended in 1998. Presumably, Ford only allowed Nautica to back out after the company promised it would stop mailing catalogs to Ford executives.
Lexus Coach Editions
It’s not just the Americans who are into sappy special editions. Witness the Lexus LS and ES Coach Editions, which came with a set of leather luggage as if the buyer was purchasing a Ferrari F50. Unlike the F50, however, the Lexus Coach Editions didn’t come with driving footwear – probably because Lexus owners wouldn’t understand how to put them on over their orthopedic shoes.
Pro tip: if you’re buying one of these used, insist on the original luggage. No one still has it. Then pull a CarMax and demand a huge discount because the car is missing “original equipment.”
Toyota Tundra Terminator 3 Edition
Yes, this exists. A Toyota Tundra that commemorates Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Interestingly, while the movie featured humanoid robots with automatic weapons built into their liquid metal exoskeleton, the Tundra didn’t come standard with a tachometer.
Each Tundra Terminator 3 was finished in either green or black and featured a bunch of sporty bolt-ons Toyota wouldn’t have been able to sell otherwise. The Toyota badge was also removed from the grille, replaced by a simple “T3” in the lower right corner. Total production run: 850 units. Yes, a Tundra Terminator 3 is rarer than an F40.
Porsche 911 Turbo S Edition 918 Spyder
Yes, that’s the official name. I checked. It’s by far the longest car name, unless you count stuff like the “Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Short Bed Extra Cab,” which wins by only six characters.
But a special car should have a special name, and that’s precisely what this was, since you could only get one if you had a 918 Spyder on order. Imagine the pissing matches in South Beach garages: oh, you just have the regular Turbo S? Well, I have this to tide me over until my million-dollar supercar arrives.
By the way, this model was definitely not a last-ditch effort to sell the last few 997 Turbo S units by throwing on green paint and green calipers. Nope! It wasn’t that at all.
BMW M3 “Frozen Gray”
This one is almost too easy. The particulars: it came with a paint job that looked like bad bodywork and couldn’t be dented or scratched. Washes had to be done by hand. It cost $9,000 on top of a normal M3, which was already $15,000 on top of a 335i despite offering less torque. And they only made 30 of them – an announcement which undoubtedly caused a collective groan among BMW’s 30 largest dealerships, since they knew they’d be the ones on the hook.
But the real losers here are BMW body shops. They’ll have to incur the inevitable wrath of owners when they find out the paint can’t be blended following a fender-bender caused by the “M3 Special:” a one-handed, no-signal lane change without looking.
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.