I commute by bicycle. Reserving my ageing and increasingly temperamental fleet for special occasions like weddings and funerals, where they can have maximum impact as they rumble onto the hard shoulder in a son et lumiere of knackered gasket or broken timing belt, forty miles from the destination.
Cycling allows me time to reflect and enjoy spectacular epiphanies. Although in retrospect they've occurred at the top of a street in my town which would have a funicular running up it in Switzerland, and may simply be a manifestation of temporary cerebral hypoxia. I also have time to observe the local automobilia in some detail.
There's a Suzuki Kizashi, the mayfly of the four-wheel saloon world, which shares a UK registration with only 327 others. And it is only a matter of time before I put a card bearing my phone number and all my bank details under the wiper of an apparently immaculate Ford Puma (the real one).
I have also seen examples of cars that should not exist. So either my Shimano groupset includes an Einstein-Rosen bridge generator, or I have stumbled upon something even more implausible and hitherto unreported: the DIY limited edition car.
The Nissan Primer
This was doing my head in every morning, to the extent that I almost detoured to Homebase to buy an adhesive upper-case ‘A’. Then the penny dropped when I took in the dull matt paint finish, a combination of the initial non-metallic green and years of weathering. Ladies and gentlemen, it's the Nissan Primer. Light years way from Nissan’s finest limited edition moment: the 280ZX Black Gold.
But it shows what can be achieved with a flat blade screwdriver to the tailgate on a minimum (OK, zero) budget. Fair to say that amongst post-Bluebird mid-size Datsuns, this is distinctive. And over wine and canapés, you could sound entirely plausible as you explain how only 200 were imported to the UK with an extra layer of undercoat instead of two-pack. While the guy with the matte finish BMW wonders exactly what he spent his money on.
The Ford SKa
Now this is really rather splendid. I can find no evidence that this is anything other than a privately produced one-off, with an imagination that Ford never showed with their official limited editions (Blue, Sublime or Millennium, anyone?).
It works so well with Ford’s sharp New Edge style that the Mk1 Ka exemplified: one could never have done it with the Fiat 500-derived Mk2 and its chew toy that somehow ended up in the microwave appearance, and definitely not with today's Ka+.
Although I guess the current model has the height to let four occupants wear their pork pie hats in comfort. There might be a dozen original Kas still left which have not succumbed to terminal rust. Somebody should buy them, apply the SKa treatment and sell them. For really big money.
History would have changed for the better had Ford released a SKa. In fact, there was so much that could have done with the Ka Mk1, the true spiritual successor to the original Mini whose final years comprised pretty much one limited edition after another until the Monopoly board had been exhausted.
The SKaRAB could have taken the fight to the Volkswagen Beetle. And what if Ford had nicked the Desire trim level from Citroën and named a limited-run StreetKa? Quelle couleur? Une voiture blanche uniquement, naturellement. Et un table de bord de bois, aussi naturellement.
The impossible Volkswagen Harlequin
My commute to work being a series of Groundhog Days, my internal monologue as I rode past this car changed as time passed.
Oh, haven’t seen a Harlequin for a long time.
Can’t say I’ve ever seen a Harlequin.
Odd that it’s a Golf and not a Polo.
Surely the Golf Harlequin was never available in right-hand drive?
Hold on, the Golf Harlequin was a Mk3 and never a Mk4...
By this time I was seriously contemplating changing my route as my colleagues were commenting that I was landing in work looking pale and stressed.
The Polo Harlequin has been covered elsewhere in PetrolBlog. Of course, back in the day we had plenty of cars at home with one or more body panels in a different colour from the rest. Typically when a reversing tractor and buckrake or an over excited Charolais bull made high velocity contact with the family Ford, in the days before side impact bars.
You could never get a replacement door from the scrapper in the same colour. But egged on by the UK market, VW produced a Harlequin Polo in 1995 which looked like they had gone to a number of different scrappers to restore the damage done by six Charlolais leaving a china shop that you had parked your car in front of earlier. And sold nearly 4,000.
The formula when applied to the Golf in 1996 was nowhere as successful, probably because the Mk3 iteration was the raw material. Around 300 were made, all for the North American market. And there the experiment ended, as far as VW was concerned.
It seems however that DIY Harlequins are quite the thing among the Dubshed community, The multicolour option is logical if your Mk3 needs a respray anyway, but Caddys and Transporters are getting the treatment too. And our Mk4 under discussion. Clearly a lot of Harlequin fans still out there. I’ve never seen a Phaeton Harlequin, but would own one for the sheer annoyance factor.
Which takes us to the current state of Volkswagen.
Martin and Roman advertising a Volkswagen
Shirlie, you cannot be serious?
True, I have huge respect for the work of Martin Kemp, but I’m not sure that the Volkswagen ad currently filling entire commercial breaks with him and the young fella, (to cut a long story short) having some dad-son time is making anybody rush out and put a deposit on a Mk8 Golf. Not even one in gold. Apart from anything else, the ad suggests the sat-nav is a bit off – not exactly a journey to glory.
The Golf 8 is only a stop-gap. Soon we get the all-electric ID.3. And let’s forget about the ID.3 first special edition already on the website. Volkswagen needs to start plundering their own heritage with an ID.3 Harley Quinn (sic) and advertise accordingly...
A multi-coloured ID.3 accelerates silently and crashes through the glass doors of the headquarters of the Legion of Doom. Margot Robbie climbs out of the optional panoramic sunroof with a baseball bat. Cue carnage as she takes out all the henchmen present then crosses the function room through a heap of compound fractures and blood. She kicks over the top table to reveal a smartly dressed but cowering super-villain: not The Joker, not even Tony Hadley, but the CEO of Tesla, who looks up at her with terror.
I don’t know that he could be persuaded to play himself: maybe Karl Urban would make a decent job of of it? Rather than continuing to inflict ultraviolence, she snogs him to within an inch of his life. Then turns and walks sedately back to the ID.3 and drives off, silently. Cue closing titles: Volkswagen – the environmentally affectionate company.
If there was budget left, you could end with her passing Lex Luthor who is lying in ambush with a wrecking ball – but it bounces off the driver’s door window causing no damage whatsoever.
It is entirely possible, in these strange times, that after release of this ad, nuclear fire would rain down on Wolfsburg from a mysterious and privately built orbiting space vessel. But in the interim, we could learn to love Volkswagen again for their ID.3 Harley Quinn. And maybe even forgive them the whole emissions business.