When automaker marketing departments conjure up ways to pad their vehicles’ asking prices, they sometimes turn to third parties for a little help and perhaps some name recognition. Associating their brands with firms such as Eddie Bauer, Orvis and Coach has worked well at various points for Ford, Jeep and Lexus, respectively, and I suppose the Chevrolet Venture Warner Bros. Edition was probably on point for its target audience.
These partnerships might have peaked in the 2000s, when the 4×4 boom was riding high, consumers were spending and brands were trying to make themselves known as print readership declined.
Here’s a look at the five oddest SUV special editions, each of which commemorates a product or an event that’s probably not a household name. Some were hits, some were misses, but all were unexpected.
Ford Explorer Ironman
Anyone who can swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles or run 26.2 miles is a proper athlete. Anyone who can do all three in a single day has probably competed in an Ironman Triathalon. The brand surrounding the event has marketed watches through Timex for years and now boasts a huge online store. What you can’t buy through the store is a Ford Explorer Ironman, and that’s kind of a shame. Because what says triathlete like a lumbering, not especially capable SUV painted bright orange?
The package debuted for 2007 as a $1,495 package for the Explorer XLT and included heated leather seats (perfect for post-workout relaxation), rubber floor mats (because working out is dirty) and 18-in wheels (I got nothin’ here). The package wasn’t a bad deal (here’s one with 222,000 miles, which is more than 1,500 Ironman Triathalons), as it cost about the same as adding the items individually to an Explorer XLT, but its application was much better suited to the quirky, vaguely athletic Isuzu VehiCROSS. Find a Ford Explorer on Autotrader
Volvo XC70 and Volvo XC90 Ocean Race Edition
Perhaps the most pretentious things to come out of Sweden are the bright blue Ocean Race Edition Volvos. The Ocean Race is an astounding event — it’s a racing yacht sprint around the world that has been sponsored by Volvo for nearly two decades. (It visits the automaker’s hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden.) Its connection to cars is tenuous at best, other than that Volvo wants to appeal to well-heeled folk, and well-heeled folk presumably go to yacht clubs.
Volvo offered up its 2006 XC70 and its 2006 XC90 in a special blue that doesn’t look much like any ocean I’ve ever seen and gave each one an individually numbered plaque, which was a nice touch. The XC90 made use of a 311-hp V8 engine built by Yamaha, while the XC70 was powered by a 257-hp inline five. Neither offered much in the way of additional features, making the Ocean Race Edition simply a paint package. Volvo still sponsors the Ocean Race, and subsequent Volvo Ocean Race editions have been subtler. Find a Volvo XC70 on Autotrader or Find a Volvo XC90 on Autotrader
Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia
There is nothing subtle whatsoever about the 2010 Porsche Cayenne Transsyberia, which looks like a recce car for a rally. That’s no surprise, as it was inspired by Porsche‘s entry into the 2007 Transsyberia Rally, which ran 4,500 miles through — shockingly — Siberia. It took Porsche a couple of years to sell the SUV in the U.S., by which time the eight people familiar with the event had forgotten it. The rally itself must have been a thrill ride, as it snaked about 4,500 miles from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar. Amazingly, a Porsche dealer opened in Ulaanbaatar last year, so should you choose to recreate the trek, at least know that you can get an oil change at a certified facility when you’re done. The dealership isn’t on Yelp, so I can’t offer any advice as to the quality of the service you might receive.
Anyway, Porsche figured its customers might like to give (the appearance of) rallying a try, so it created the Cayenne Transsyberia, which Doug DeMuro called “bizarre.” Its list of add-ons is nothing short of bizarre: a roof-mounted light bar, orange-painted wheels and exterior trim and various off-road doodads certainly never switched on by first owners, such as a locking rear differential. You could also order one in silver or gray (there’s one on Autotrader right now), but what’s fun about that? Find a Porsche Cayenne on Autotrader
Land Rover Range Rover Holland & Holland
Before putting Range Rovers on 22-in wheels, Land Rover‘s upmarket division cultivated a genteel image selling the kind of vehicles that the landed gentry in Blighty would take into town. Those near-nobles like to hunt, so the company has periodically partnered with British gunmaker Holland & Holland (named after a person, not the place) to make special versions of its flagship Range Rover. A version of the Holland & Holland Range Rover offered today has a storage unit in its cargo area, and owners can drop by the single North American outlet in Dallas to stock those drawers.
The partnership got its start in 2000, when Land Rover painted its Range Rover and the inside of its wheel spokes in a blueish-green and draped its seats in dark brown with tan piping. The curiously painted wheels are balanced by the divine matte gunstock wood trim with Holland & Holland branding, at least to my eyes. A so-called leisure table stored in the cargo area was inspired by the Honda CR-V and made for a rickety place to load a fine gun, which was not included with purchase. The Holland & Holland was certainly the nicest version of the P38, and one recently sold at auction for nearly $25,000 — or about 25 times what a non-Holland & Holland model might sell for. Find a Range Rover on Autotrader
Ford Expedition Funkmaster Flex Edition
Nothing says 3-row family SUV like hip-hop, right? Apparently that’s what Ford thought when it brought it out an eye-poppingly expensive, ultra-gaudy version of its 2008 Ford Expedition. The package draped the big SUV in bright red with black hood stripes and a black top. Inside, the truck had a bright red plastic trim. Ford charged about $45,000 for the Expedition Funkmaster Flex Edition, and it hoped the package would sell well enough to justify Funkmaster Flex Ford Fusions and eventually Funkmaster Flex Ford Mustangs.
Well, that never happened. The package was a tough sell, especially because it was priced on top of the Expedition King Ranch, which clearly appealed more to SUV buyers. It’s too bad the Ford Flex wouldn’t appear until 2009, as a Funkmaster Flex Flex would have been obvious. Find a Ford Expedition on Autotrader
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