Home » Citroën Built A Special Edition Car Based On A Disposable Pen And It Just Makes No Sense

Citroën Built A Special Edition Car Based On A Disposable Pen And It Just Makes No Sense

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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.

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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.

Bicpens

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.

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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.

Saxobics Ext

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.

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Bicsaxo Stuf

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.

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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.

 

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Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
8 months ago

Little known side fact: this went to Citroen after Ford passed on doing a Crown Bic.

Myk El
Myk El
8 months ago

I knew there were car branded pens, Bentley for one. I think this proves we need the reverse more often.

Jack Langelaan
Jack Langelaan
8 months ago

Bic doesn’t just make pens! They used to make windsurf boards and they made a neat little sailboat called O’PEN Bic (apparently it’s now called O’PEN skiff).

Ponloire
Ponloire
8 months ago

French here !
Regarding the ad (which I thought as a kid was a bit funny when it originally aired), in school playgrounds it was generally paraphrased a « une vieille bique ne fera jamais de mal à une Saxo Bic ».

« Bique » , pronounced like « Bic » is french for goat, and “old goat” is a common derogatory term for an unpleasant middle-aged woman (I suppose in english one would call this type of person a “shrew”).

The Saxo (and its Peugeot 106 twin, obviously) was a very solid car, it’s still not rare to see one. Though I’ll say its Ax predecessor was even more of a marvel of ingenuity.

ES
ES
8 months ago

for when a harlequin is too flash. i like it.

Maymar
Maymar
8 months ago

Is it any weirder than assorted Olympic (or other sporting event) editions of cars? Like, in 1984, did anyone think Buick made world class or particularly sporting cars?

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-a_Qs0fjBI3k/TmEn-ZLk6PI/AAAAAAAAAWo/i0xyrb4zzDw/s1600/buickad.jpg

Though, I’m still convinced that the weirdest branded car is the Carhartt edition Chrysler 200, because nothing says workwear like a faux-fancy rental car.

Alec Weinstein
Alec Weinstein
8 months ago
Reply to  Maymar

I still like the Warner Brothers GM stuff. Or, this pace car
https://www.americanmusclecarmuseum.com/files/cars/2001-oldsmobile-bravada-14.jpg

Last edited 8 months ago by Alec Weinstein
Maymar
Maymar
8 months ago
Reply to  Alec Weinstein

Chevrolet’s done the Disney tie-in, the Warner Brothers tie-in, we must be about due for Dreamworks, your choice of a Minions yellow Trailblazer or a Shrek green Traverse (with built-in waffle maker).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtoUFqMl0sQ

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
8 months ago

As a pen afficionado (although Parker pens are my thing rather than Bics), I love it. They should reissue this and team up with Alexandra Stan for a special version of “Mr SaxoBic”. (Pronouncing “Bic” as “Beek”, of course, and dancing around with BIC Boy.)

“You make me write, bring me up, bring me down
Draw it sweet, make me move like a freak, Mr. SaxoBic”

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
8 months ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

This song was playing in my head starting at the first paragraph of the article. I feel seen.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
8 months ago

Citroën always had really many of those “special” models. Usually extra cheap ones, so at least you got some stickers, instead of nothing at all.

somewhere deep down in the sub menus of Citroënët you might find a list of them.

My 1989 Citroën AX had “Beaujolais” stickers on it. Traded it in for my 1967 DS21, I still have.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jakob K's Garage
Harris K Telemacher
Harris K Telemacher
8 months ago

You can grouse all you want, but honestly, isn’t this the kind of craziness you WANT in a car? You’re always complaining about the sea of white/grey/black vehicles, yet when you’re confronted with a car that just went full gonzo Technicolor, you grumble about it?! My gods, look at that interior! Different colored seatbelts, beautiful Bic-yellow badges and balls everywhere, and upholstery that looks like it was designed by the same tortured genius who created the PDX airport carpet! No matter how bad your day is, how could you not smile every time you sit down into that vehicular Benetton ad?! Who cares HOW the two companies got together (obviously it was last call at the local Citroen bar and Bic was giving those sleepy, drunken “take me home” eyes)? Let’s just celebrate the sheer goddamn insanity that birthed this beautiful babe into the world.

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
8 months ago

I absolutely love that interior. The different colored seatbelts, the odd details. Why can’t companies take risks anymore and make fun things?

Strangek
Strangek
8 months ago
Reply to  MikeInTheWoods

The seats, belts, and shifter knob look awesome!

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
8 months ago

When I was starting my Master’s degree, they had a concert during the fall orientation week. Campus security had a booth set up and were handing out pens and lanyards and some other little trinkets. Anyways, after the concert, the booth had been packed up but a half full case of pens had been left behind. I grabbed it and stuck it in the drawer in my lab bench. For the full 2.5 years of my degree, I was never wanting for a pen. I had pens for days. I think I was down to single digits by the time I graduated.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
8 months ago

You may be missing some cultural context. Bic pens in France aren’t just some disposable pen. They are THE disposable pen. “Stylo Bic” or even just “Bic” is synonymous with “ballpoint pen” much like Kleenex is synonymous with tissue. “Je peux emprunter ton Bic ?” means “Can I borrow your pen?” whether it’s a Bic or Pentel or Paper Mate or Pilot or Parker.

Bic pens and lighters (seeing as everybody and their dog smokes) are cultural fixtures.

So a Bic car is no stranger than e.g. an Eddie Bauer F150, and in fact it makes more sense in the overall cultural fabric of the country. Lots of people don’t know wtf Eddie Bauer is in the US. In France, even illiterate non smokers know what “un Bic” is. So a Bic car isn’t really incongruous.

Last edited 8 months ago by Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Andreas8088
Andreas8088
8 months ago

Thank you for the context!

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
8 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

You’re welcome!

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
8 months ago

I’ll tell you what happened. One day a convoy of very large Bic branded trucks parked outside the Citroen HQ. And all those trucks were full of money.

George Millwood
George Millwood
8 months ago

I love these stories

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
8 months ago

Frenchies gonna French.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago

One of my friends really wanted a Ford Ka Lufthansa edition for a while. Planes! Except car! There’s a nerd crossover that I, nerd, can confirm that we absolutely needed.

This is pretty rad, though. That shift knob is great! A simple, bright ball in a classic Bic color. TIL Bic is a French company, too. I didn’t ever think to look until now, but it makes sense for Citroën to honor the everyman’s French icon.

I also love how randomly violent that commercial is. Reminds me of the SportKa one where the sunroof beheads a cat. (This is a lot of Ka talk. Sorry, not sorry.)

David Escargot
David Escargot
8 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Ah yes… that wonderful SportKa ad… the Ka’s evil twin

Chris Jackson
Chris Jackson
8 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

I’ve wanted to import a Ka since the late 90’s.

2023-1996 = 27….

Excuse me, I’m off to do some research and ….

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Jackson

Yes. Yesssssss.

NotSpanky
NotSpanky
8 months ago

To be fair, Citroen has a pretty strong history of celebrating comparatively simple, function-first automobiles (balanced by clever but absolutely bonkers design in other areas), so the Bic tie-in actually makes a certain kind of sense.
Guessing the idea was to add a sense of reliable and approachable to an otherwise forgettable badge-engineered car.
And honestly, if they actually sold 6000, that seems amazing. Well done, really.

R. Symmes Coats
R. Symmes Coats
8 months ago

BIC? Car? Oh yeah: https://i.imgur.com/EGtKu43.png

Mike F.
Mike F.
8 months ago

Nothing new here. The French were just following Ford’s lead with the more subtle tie-in between the Bic lighter and the Pinto.

Last edited 8 months ago by Mike F.
MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike F.

Pretty sure that’s a Zippo, dude!

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
8 months ago

I understand the tie in.

Saxo: “You probably shouldn’t buy it.”

https://www.solopress.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/bic-honest-slogan.jpg

Bic Saxo: “Who the hell bought it?”

Last edited 8 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
8 months ago

Drive it like you stole it?

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago

I mean, now that I know it exists, I kinda want one.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
8 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Oh.. it’s you again?

That’s exactly how ants think about grains of sugar!

Delta 88
Delta 88
8 months ago

Ooooh, piece of candy…

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago

Well, that’s why I wouldn’t eat in my Citroën Saxo Bic Edition, that’s for sure.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
8 months ago

I’m still pissed about the oil stain on the breast pocket of my favourite dress shirt.

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
8 months ago

disposable pen disposable car. Same same.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
8 months ago

Did they sell all 6,000 examples to the Bic company for use as sales rep fleet cars? Does Bic even have 6,000 employees?

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
8 months ago

This is the he perfect vehicle for transporting your Bic windsurfer.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
8 months ago

Given the tradable, disposable, temporary usage nature of the special edition it seems to be a perfect candidate for a Zipcar competitor.

Also, how cool would it have been to have a yellow convertible model with a removable hardtop that resembled a traditional blue pen cap? (see horrible ASCII art below and use your imagination for the rest)
______
/__/

Last edited 8 months ago by OrigamiSensei
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