10 Special-edition cars that will leave you speechless

What were the product planners thinking?
by Craig Jamieson | Feb 22, 2020

1) Smart ForJeremy

Nope, it’s not for Top Gear alumnus Clarkson that this monstrosity was created. It was the creation of fashion designer Jeremy Scott, who apparently has a propensity to affix wings that sweep back about as gracefully as Donald Trump’s hair to everything he designs. What an artist.

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If a good idea can be said to be the brainchild of its inventor, then the wings on the Smart ForJeremy are orphans.

2) Polo (and Golf) Harlequin

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Yes, it is pretty strange, and no, we’re not sure if it works, either. Apparently, it’s a throwback to a Volkswagen America ad from the ’60s—perhaps some of the cleverest (and almost certainly some of the most misogynistic) ads to ever feature a car.

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The ad showed how, because Volkswagen kept the tooling for its Beetle the same, you could cheaply replace any dented or ruined panel on your love bug with anything from the late ’50s to the mid-’60s. It’s about the only explanation that makes any sense to us, to be honest. That, and...well, it was the ’90s, after all. As Buzzfeed is so fond of saying, ‘Only Nineties Kids Will Get This!’

Apart from the United Colors of Benneton bodywork, the rest of your Polo or Golf was just the same as any other Mk3 Polo or Golf. Which were pretty dowdy automobiles, to be honest. Look, we love the color and boldness, but we think that it works much better on something that already has some style, flash, pizzazz...

3) BMW i8 Memphis Group

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Call us hypocrites (God knows you wouldn’t be the first), but we actually think there is something a bit special about the homage-to-Memphis Group BMW i8. As ever, we’re reminded of the old Latin saying “de gustibus non est disputandum.” Or, in English, “in matters of taste, there can be no dispute.”

And frankly, we dig Memphis Group styling. As much as we know we should be all about muted this, reserved that, and lumbersexual the other, we like to break from the drudgery of the everyday with flights of fancy just like this. Why take yourself seriously all the time? Plenty of other people are already doing that—and look how miserable they are.

The Memphis Group’s style came from the decade of Scarface, Wall Street, and Miami Vice—where altogether too much was never enough. We’re not saying it was always the right thing to do, but what a thing to stand back and appreciate. Kind of like these i8s.

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4) AMC Gremlin Levi’s

The only thing Americans fear, it seems, is not fear itself. It’s the fear of leaving a stone unturned in the quest for the ultimate cross-brand promotional tie-in.

You might pour scorn on the Call of Duty Jeep (and we do, to the extent that the thought-free lump of cynical marketing doesn’t even make this list), but the fact of the matter is that car-and-random-company partnerships have been around about as long as the car has.

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And so we turn to perhaps its magnum opus: trying to jump on the denim bandwagon as it truly arrived in the ’70s. Serious, almost Neil Young levels of denim were going on all the way through the ’70s, to the point where even the American Motor Company tried to weave itself into the weft.

Apparently, regular denim wasn’t strong enough to stand up to the punishment of derrieres sliding in and out of the seat, so Levi’s had to come up with an entirely new fabric. And, as the Top Gear office has worn through enough pairs of jeans to make up a DNA helix, we’d very much like to know why jeans weren’t made from this fabric from then on.

5) Frank Sinatra Edition Chrysler Imperial

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So, we’re going to try to get through this without referring to Sinatra as ‘Old Blue Eyes.’ Oh, dammit. Anywhos, the velvet-voiced crooner did lend his name to this American luxo-barge. But, as the late-night ads say, that’s not all. Even the Imperial’s color was picked to match the hue of Frank’s Eyes. Not in this black-and-white pic, of course.

Better his eyes than ours, we suppose. Unless you’re a particular fan of brownish green...which, um, it appears the Army very much is. So there you go.

6) Subaru Forester Ultimate Customized Kit Special

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There’s an old lawyerly technique where you ask a defendant if they acted in accordance with the law; generally, they’ll answer in the affirmative. You then hit them with all the evidence you have to the contrary, then ask a very simple binary question: Do you consider such behavior to be lawful, or were you lying? Basically, this technique forces them to concede that their actions were not lawful and that they were lying to you and the jury, or admit to being a complete idiot with no grip on reality.

We mention this only because we’d very much like to employ this technique on whoever decided that the best way to get a bit of traction for a Subaru Forester was to name it something whose acronym we can’t mention on a family website.

7) Hyundai Tucson Walking Dead

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American car companies never seem to be above a flimsy marketing tie-in with a TV Show or movie—Nissan Rogue One Star Wars, anyone?—but this one rankles us more than usual. And it’s not so much because of the car’s existence per se as its existence in The Walking Dead.

Is it because, among the destruction and detritus of apocalyptic America, the survivors just happened to find a mint-condition Tucson? Is it our waning suspension of disbelief after, in a brilliant pilot episode, it’s established that fuel stations are out of fuel and Rick is forced to commute by horse, Red Dead Redemption-style? Or is it that, in the midst of death, squalor, zombies, and run-ins with truly sociopathic villains, they manage to give the ol’ girl a wash before heading out on the road for supplies?

Car companies and marketers of the world, read this: We do not want to have your piles of commuter-spec drudgery shilled in our TV shows. Leave well enough alone.

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8) Nissan Juke R

Ever seen those TV news bits where someone has amassed the world’s largest collection of used Coke bottles, or has translated the entirety of Shakespeare’s oeuvre into Esperanto, or unicycled from one end of a country to the other?

It engenders a pretty odd feeling, doesn’t it? You respect the effort involved, but wonder why it wasn’t put toward something with benefits beyond a sense of achievement.

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And so it is with the Nissan Juke R, a car for the kind of person who wants the power, performance, and precision of a GT-R...in the bodyshell of a soft-roader that looks like it has a case of the mumps.

9) Ford Mustang McLaren M81

Okay, the Ricky Bobby in us is abso-frigging-lutely on board with this, at least on the surface. A Fox-body Mustang, in McLaren orange, with full-on Mad Max vibes, fender flares big enough to bring back disco, and a big ol’ lump of American V8 under the hood.

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Except the Mustang McLaren M81 didn’t have a V8. See, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Ford America wasn’t entirely sure that the big V8 had much of a future. After the Oil Crisis (yep, it gets its own capital letters) of 1973, the carmaker looked to smaller turbocharged engines that could offer—at least during relaxed driving—fuel economy that buyers wouldn’t laugh at.

So, the Mustang M81 got a McLaren-massaged 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, which was good for about 175 to 190 horsepower. Considering the 4.2-liter V8 was only good for 120hp, that’s a definite win. Or it would have been, had the Mustang McLaren M81 made it past a paltry run of 10 cars, including the prototype.

10) Volkswagen Beetle Fender edition

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Look, we love guitars—especially Fender guitars. And very especially a 1959 Jazzmaster with a sunburst finish and an anodized pickguard if you were, you know, keen to send one over as a thank you for all that we do to enrich your lives. And we also love big, banging stereos for our tunes. Not like Max Power stereos—like Linn, Focal, and all of that “I know good sound, you peasant” kind of stuff.

So, we should absolutely love a Volkswagen with a 400-watt, nine-speaker stereo and the same color scheme on its dashboard as the sunburst gorgeousness of...you guessed it, the 1959 Jazzmaster. Except that this wondrousness was attached to a Beetle. Case closed.

NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: TopGear.com, Leandre Grecia, Barrett Jackson
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