Special edition cars are sort of inherently strange things, especially ones that tie in with unrelated brands. I get the general thinking: by teaming up with some established brand or product, you can pull in devotées of both camps, and then sell more cars, and everyone wins. Usually, the brands that are paired up with are ones that actually do have some sort of following, like those designer-signature cars, such as AMC’s Gucci Hornet or Volkswagen’s Etienne Aigner Edition Cabriolet or even the Nautica Edition Mercury Villager. [Ed Note: Or the Grand Cherokee Orvis edition. -DT]. One thing all of these very different special edition/brand tie-in cars have in common is that the partner brands were relatively high-end, and imparted a sense of quality or status or exclusivity.
That could be why none of these companies thought to reach out to a company that made, say, disposable plastic products so cheap and ubiquitous that they’re almost invisible in everyday life. You know, products so valueless that they’re one of the few commercial items in modern society people routinely and absent-mindedly steal without any guilt or repercussions. Products like, say, disposable pens. Well, most carmakers avoided this kind of tie-in, but not all. Not, for example, Citroën, who, in 1998, proudly gave unto the world the Citroën Saxo Bic.
Yes, the Saxo Bic. Bic as in the company best known for making three very useful and humble disposable things: razors, lighters, and pens. Citroën was pretty discriminating here, since they seem to be focused on just the disposable ball point pen aspect of Bic for their little hatchback, because having a special edition car based on a lighter or razor would be ridiculous, right? Not like a disposable pen, which, of course, makes a metric crapload of sense.
Everything about this fascinates me. No slight to the classic Bic ballpoint pen, which is really an under-appreciated design icon, one of the few objects that I suspect nearly everybody has handled extensively and is intimately familiar with, in a gut-level, tactile way. I know the contours of that cap by feel, in my hand or even mouth, and I’ve employed that cap to cover ball point tips and clean ears and act as a spaceship to fight boring-class ennui more times than I can count. You could argue that these pens are one of the defining objects of modern life.
At the same time, they’re so common and worthless as to be forgettable. I suspect they’re one of those things that, for normal people, you’ve owned hundreds of them, and very likely only actually bought a tiny fraction. Because mostly you just find them in drawers or on tables or windowsills, and that’s just fine. I’m not even sure “owned” is the right word for Bic pens; they enter your life as needed, and then just disappear, somehow, only to be summoned again, somehow, at your next time of need.
So, how did Bic pens end up as a theme for a special edition of a car? Were the Q-Tip people not returning any calls? The prima donnas at Ziploc were too difficult to work with? Maybe focus groups found that Acco paper clips just weren’t resonating with the youths anymore? Whatever it was, Bic ball-point pens won the day, and so got their special edition Saxo.
As far as what special edition meant in this context, it doesn’t seem like Citroën busted their collective ass too hard to make this happen. The car was the basic Saxo – a tidy little transverse-engined car that was a badge-engineered sibling to the Peugeot 106. By Citroën standards, it’s quite a conventional little car, and could be had with a variety of inline-four engines ranging from 1-liter/50 horsepower to a ravenous 1.6-liter/120 hp hot version.
The Saxo Bic edition I don’t think ever got that engine, instead having a choice of four engines (1.0, 1.1, 1.4, and a 1.5-liter diesel) and a few things to make it Bic-style: little Bic badges in the side molding strips, a decal of the little ball-headed BIC guy (officially known as the Bic Schoolboy, it seems or just BIC Boy) on the C-pillars, a bright yellow shift knob and little yellow balls on the door locking knobs. Also, there was the colorful casino-carpet-style “Tetoubo” upholstery with yellow piping all around, and, most oddly, each seat belt was a different color. Oh, and the car itself could be had in one of six colors: white, silver, green, blue, red, or orange, the color closest to the iconic plastic pen, I think.
I suppose that’s a reasonable set of things to define a special edition car? And yet, it’s worth remembering that this was a special edition to commemorate a pen. And not like a Mont Blanc or something swanky like that, a fucking disposable Bic pen. I’ve been writing about this for paragraphs and I’m still amazed.
Only 6,000 Saxo Bics were made, but I suppose that was enough to merit their own commercial, which seemed to imply the car had some sort of unholy power to control Bic pens:
Is… is that car attempting to stab the meter-person with the pen? Is that what’s happening there? Are we witnessing an assault by a car that wants to avoid a ticket, so it takes some sort of magickal control of that woman’s disposable pen and positions it to stab her in the head? That’s what’s happening there, right? I just want to be sure it’s not just me seeing this.
There’s actually at least one Saxo Bic fan video out there, too – well, I assume it’s a fan video, because I nearly failed college French and don’t really understand but every 20th word in this:
This thing fascinates me. It’s like a strange celebration of the humble, the mundane, the utilitarian. The car is already a little unpretentious workhorse, a basic economy hatchback that I’m sure does its job just fine and doesn’t attract undue attention. The same goes for Bic pens, I suppose. They just work. They’re around, you use them, then you stop thinking about them. The only time they let you down is when they’re finally out of ink, and when that happens you just scribble a bit on a page to see if there’s any more marking-juice in there, and if not you fling it away without another thought and find another one. Or, if you’re me, you put the cap back on it and stick it back in the pen cup, so you can be frustrated all over again at a later date in the future.
Maybe, in that context, this makes a sort of strange sense.