SEAT: 70 years and 16 special cars

Imagine we're at the Barcelona 92 Olympics, with no other than the Electric SEAT Toledo, an electric car that accompanied the Olympic flame on its last stretch towards the opening ceremony.

Although 2020 can no longer be remembered as an Olympic year, it's still a special year for SEAT with it being their 70th anniversary. Enough years to create plenty of history and countless peculiar and unique vehicles like the Toledo. The Toledo had 16 lead batteries that increased the car weight from 1.015 to 1.545 kilos but allowed 55 km to be travelled in an urban cycle use.Enough range for the electric SEAT Toledo to also make way for the athletes during the marathon race on the final day of the Olympics

The SEAT Toledo was not only the official car of those Olympic Games, but it was "The car of the champions". Each of the 22 Spanish medallists received an exclusive car, that was personally developed for them, the SEAT Toledo Podium. A Toledo was recognisable by its two-tone grey paint, and an interior finish of the maximum luxury at the time. It had an entirely cream-coloured interior with leather upholstery and wooden inserts on the dashboard and doors and even had a fax and a phone between the seats.

Special cars

In 1956, based on the first SEAT model, the SEAT 1400 Visitas was developed. In English: SEAT 1400 Visits. No doors, no roof, the 1400 Visitas was ideal for the transferring of illustrious visitors through the SEAT factory. It was manufactured by the same 1400 series production employees, and in 2005, when it was restored by “merging” the two manufactured units into one, it was also made by early retired SEAT employees.

It took until 1964 for another SEAT icon, the SEAT 600, to be used as a car for the visiting authorities at the factory. No one would say that this small urban car served as the basis for the SEAT Savio. The Italian company Carrozzeria Savio put into practice Pietro Frua's surprising design. It consisted of a minivan with three rows of seats, on a wheelbase of just 2 meters, that permits the Savio to easily manoeuvre alongside the assembly lines. The glazed roof provides great visibility, but at SEAT's request, Savio made it even more exclusive: the roof could be removed, making it into a convertible minivan.

The same quest for agility was the reason why SEAT received a very special request on behalf of the visit from John Paul II. A less bulky vehicle than his pope-mobile was needed for the pontiff’s visit to Spain in 1982. The reason can be found in the fact that the official car did not fit through the entrance of the main venues, the stadiums of Real Madrid C.F. and F.C. Barcelona. Working round the clock, Zona Franca Factory workers made the SEAT Panda "Papamóvil". Entirely white, the workers removed the ceiling and the glazing, and created a padded tubular structure at the back where the Holy Father could hold on, saluting whilst standing. Not being an armoured car, it was only used inside the stadiums for security reasons.

Also commissioned by a Head of State, SEAT transformed an Ibiza in 1986. It was the gift received by the actual King of Spain, Felipe VI, upon attaining the age of majority. They called it SEAT Ibiza Rey or Ibiza King. The bespoke Ibiza Rey advanced the technical specifications of the Ibiza SXI, the version which would go into production two years later: 100 PS injection engine and dual brake system in X with ventilated discs for the mechanics, in addition to a special steering wheel, Recaro seats and air conditioning for the interior. It was the most exclusive of the more than one million first generation SEAT Ibiza manufactured, distinguishable by its golden colour and its widened rear sides.

A generous artist gave rise to another SEAT exclusive model, the SEAT Leon CUPRA “Pies Descalzos” – “Barefoot” in English. It is named after the foundation for displaced children in Latin America created by the Colombian singer Shakira. Autographed on the hood, the car was also known as SEAT Leon Shakira, as it was decorated to the liking of the artist, in lilac, both body and interior. One of the two units produced remained in the SEAT Heritage Collection, the other was raffled among donors to the foundation. The winner was a student who collaborated with 1 euro through an SMS.

Milestone cars

Before the SEAT Ibiza reached its first million units, SEAT had already passed other milestones related to that figure. Sixteen year after starting the car production, the SEAT “One Million”, a SEAT 124 driven by the then Minister of Industry, left the assembly line. It was raffled among the workers as well, but the graceful one did not even have a driving license and had just married. He preferred to return the car to SEAT in exchange for the equivalent amount of money.