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The 10 Strangest Special-Edition Cars

Automobile logo Automobile 2015-08-25 Automobile Staff

Nautica Villager © Provided by Automobile Nautica Villager

No other facet of the automotive industry has us shaking our heads in disbelief more so than the strange and bizarre brand tie-ins that automakers occasionally use to boost sales. Especially common in the 1980s, partnerships with with a well-known fashion designer, clothing line, or even singer were common ways for car companies to to produce a strange lovechild of the two brands. More often than not, the cars would be no more special than a few badges, unique paint colors, and some interior trimmings. We found the weirdest of the weird brand tie-ins; Take a look at the entries below, and let us know if we missed any strange automotive branding oddities that we just have to know about. -- Conner Golden

1981 1983 Chrysler Imperial © Provided by Automobile 1981 1983 Chrysler Imperial

1981 Chrysler Imperial Frank Sinatra Edition

The Chrysler Imperial was new in 1981, and its redesign was supposed to help the car counter rival rear-wheel-drive models for other American automakers. To help lure in buyers, Chrysler had a somewhat desperate touch: A Frank Sinatra special edition. It was painted in Glacier Blue to match the famous crooner's eyes, and also featured "fs" badges, and a special center console holding several Frank Sinatra cassettes. As in all Imperials, a 5.2-liter V-8 engine sent power to the rear wheels. Although the package cost only $2,000 extra -- the 1981 Chrysler Imperial stickered for $18,311 – just under 300 examples of the Frank Sinatra edition were sold. Sinatra even starred in a TV commercial for the car, but it didn't appear to help dealers sell the unusual option package. – Jake Holmes

1976 Amc Matador Oleg Cassini © Provided by Automobile 1976 Amc Matador Oleg Cassini

1974-1975 AMC Matador by Oleg Cassini

AMC commissioned fashion designer Oleg Cassini to design a snazzier, more stylish interior for its 1974-1975 Matador coupe. This wasn't the first unusual fashion version from AMC, following a Levi's denim-look AMC Gremlin (see below) and a Gucci Sportabout version of the AMC Hornet. With the Cassini edition, AMC hoped to push the Matador coupe toward 25-35 year-old car buyers. The resultant car included black nylon upholstery with copper accents, various pieces of copper trim, extra-plush carpeting, and various Cassini crests throughout the car. This treatment added only $299 to the price of an AMC Matador coupe, which listed for $3,096 in 1974 and $3,446 in 1975. – JH

2000 Chevrolet Venture Warner Bros Front Three Quarters © Provided by Automobile 2000 Chevrolet Venture Warner Bros Front Three Quarters

2000-2003 Chevrolet Warner Bros. Edition Venture.

In the very late 1990s and early 2000s, the automotive market saw an entertainment technology boom, with many minivans and SUVs coming equipped with built-in VHS and DVD players. Of these movie-toting family rides, the Warner Brothers Edition Chevrolet Venture was the clear winner. Introduced for the 2000 model year, the Warner Bros. Edition came with either leather or cloth seats, Warner Bros. badging featuring Bugs Bunny leaning against the “WB” logo, and either a DVD or VHS player. The WB Edition came with an unusual monochromatic exterior, eschewing the black accent trim of the other Venture models. The cartoon-themed van came with plenty of accessories, including VHS and DVD compilations of Looney Tunes shows, a cooler with cup holders, a set of girl’s pajamas, a special keychain, and the all-important beach blanket. The WB Edition Venture didn’t last long, as it ended with the 2003 model year. - CG

Amc Gremlin Levis Denim © Provided by Automobile Amc Gremlin Levis Denim

Denim Levi’s AMC Gremlin

During the fashion-crazed 1970’s, AMC released a Levi’s denim-branded AMC Gremlin onto an unsuspecting world. The car was exactly as crazy as it sounds. With a faux-denim interior composed of spun nylon, the seat buttons were replaced with burnished copper rivets, just like those found on your favorite pair of jeans. The exterior was painted in the expected denim blue, with red Levi’s badging on the rear haunches. Along with the Gremlin, the Denim package was extended to the AMC Hornet station wagon as well, and was received with a similarly lukewarm reaction. - CG

Continental Bill Blass © Provided by Automobile Continental Bill Blass

1977-1979 Lincoln Continental Mk. V Designer Editions

As the Lincoln Continental got bigger over the years, so did the strange special editions. For the 1977 to 1979 model year, however, there was not just one strange special edition, but four different designer editions that changed every year, alongside the changing tide of fashion. Mark V buyers were spoiled for choice, with a special edition from Bill Blass, Givenchy, Cartier, and Pucci. All of the “Designer” editions featured unique paint and interior schemes, often of the two-tone variety, along with bespoke rear badging. Of particular note was the 1979 Bill Blass edition, with its contrasting nautical theme. Cars came equipped with a cloth or vinyl top styled to match the designer in question, with a particularly unique offering from the Givenchy edition, with a half-vinyl roof. - CG

Ford Thunderbird Fila Front Three Quarters © Provided by Automobile Ford Thunderbird Fila Front Three Quarters

1984-1985 Ford Thunderbird Fila

Ford’s big overhaul of the Thunderbird in 1983 turned it into a smaller, sportier, and more aerodynamic coupe that could appeal to younger buyers. The addition of the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe was the best example of this effort, but Ford hadn’t totally removed its crosshairs from the luxury side of its young, affluent target market. Hoping to capitalize on the growing popularity of Italian sportswear manufacturer FILA, Ford brought out the Thunderbird Fila from 1984 to 1985. Fila made its name producing active leisure sportswear for blue-blooded types involved in tennis and skiing. The brand’s distinctive red and blue stripes were taped over light oxford gray paint with charcoal trim. Oxford white leather or oxford gray cloth interior was offered, with charcoal detailing throughout the cabin. It retailed for $14,471 for the 3.8-liter V-6 model, or $14,854 for the 5.0-liter V-8, constituting a roughly $1,800 premium over the Thunderbird Elan. Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s not hard to see how both nameplates went the way of the dodo. - Eric Weiner

The 10 Strangest Special-Edition Cars

2013 Smart ForJeremy

Someone actually managed to make a Smart ForTwo look goofier. Leave it to fashion designer Jeremy Scott, who spent eight months developing his own Smart ForJeremy complete with enormous (non-functional) wings. The idea seemed pie-in-the-sky when a concept was shown at the 2012 Los Angeles auto show, but Smart actually went and launched a legitimate special edition of this flighty concept version of its ForTwo. The huge wings mount to the D-pillars along with bright white paint and chrome trim. Scott says the wings fit with the car’s theme of lightness and low-emissions, but we cringe to imagine how much weight gain and aerodynamic losses his modifications actually caused. Sadly, the wings didn’t function as brake and tail lamps as they did in the concept version. Thankfully, like many fashion fads, this winged wart on automotive history never took off. - EW

Nautica Villager © Provided by Automobile Nautica Villager

Mercury Villager Nautica

Even though the Mercury Villager minivan was already developed jointly with Nissan, Mercury branched out further by creating a special edition with the Nautica clothing company. The Nautica Villager was outfitted in a Cape Cod-worthy two-tone paint scheme, with dark blue paint contrasting with white trim for the lower body cladding and alloy wheels, along with special Nautica-badged blue and white leather seats. An update for the 1995 model year switched the colors, with the refreshed Nautica Villager using white for the upper body and navy blue for the lower cladding. - Joey Capparella 

Lacoste © Provided by Automobile Lacoste

1984-1986 Peugeot 205 Lacoste

Lacoste’s green crocodile logo wasn’t always for preppy polo shirts—in the 1980s, Peugeot teamed up with the French clothing company to create a version of its 205 hatchback. This model was outfitted in an all-white exterior color scheme called “Blanc Meije,” and featured plenty of green crocodiles inside and out along with special seat trim and a few extra bits of equipment like folding rear seats, an analog clock in the gauge cluster, and power windows and locks. The rarest of these Peugeot hatchbacks are the five-door versions, of which only 1,000 were produced in 1984. More common are the three-door versions from 1985 and 1986, of which around 23,000 were made. - JC

Jeep Grand Cherokee Orvis Edition © Provided by Automobile Jeep Grand Cherokee Orvis Edition

1995-1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee Orvis Edition

Outdoor outfitter Orvis was the perfect match for Jeep when the two companies paired up to create a version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV in the 1990s. The Orvis Grand Cherokee was a package offered between 1997 on the top-of-the-line Limited model, and featured a Moss Green exterior color along with some extra luxurious trim for the interior like red accent piping and Orvis logos for the two-tone leather seats. (Fun Fact: an Orvis edition of the Jeep Cherokee was also offered, but only in the U.K.) - JC

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