What makes a ‘special’ car? Limited production? High power and speed? Remarkable design?
All of the above could be – and often are – combined to make a Special Edition car, and it’s certainly an interesting and effective way of building mystique around a model.
If done too much, though, are special editions still 'special'? A car has to be special in order to deserve special edition recognition, but excessive special editions undermine the original car's special-ness.
Fiat is guilty of this with the 500; which seems to get a new special edition every month. With such a sunny, quirky and strong-selling car, a special edition here and there reinforces the heritage element of the model. The 1957 and Pink editions were excellent brand-builders, drawing respectively upon the car's heritage and character - the two strong points of the model.
But with the multitude of 500 special editions, it’s getting difficult to differentiate one from the next, and the whole thing becomes a big mush of two-tone paint, retro trim, and now meaningless ‘1 of 250’ plaques.
Often, higher-end brands get in on the action; think Bugatti with the Veyron, Pagani with the Zonda or the one-off Rolls-Royce models - a prime example can be found here. These one-off or limited edition cars are often indistinguishable from the standard car, aside from seat embroidery, or the smallest smearing of carbon fibre interior trim known to man.
Away from special editions, this overpopulation also applies, to an extent, to special versions of manufacturers' cars, track-honed by the manufacturers' performance divisions. Take AMG, for example. Once upon a time, AMG models were Mercedes' performance pinnacle. Now, we have AMG 43, AMG 63, AMG 63 S, AMG 63 Black Series, and so on, with optional performance packs often adding to the confusion. There's also a BMW M4, track-focused M4 GTS and somewhere-in-between M4 CS; originally dreamt up for the Spanish market alone.
Manufacturers argue that the cars fill different markets, but realistically, how many people who buy an AMG 63 would draw the line at the AMG 63 S?
Whether it's a one-of-500 hot pink Fiat 500, or an M4 CS, what happens is dilution of the original, what it means to be that special model. We want our special models back.