At the ripe old age of 60, SEAT is younger than ever. In earlier days, the Spanish brand mobilized the country with its robust small cars. Today, SEAT is a byword for design, dynamism and urban mobility with a healthy dose of driving pleasure. Its thrilling combination of superior engineering and pure enjoyment is the natural outcome of its Spanish and German background. Today, the two SEAT generations come together in Barcelona.
The seagulls fly over Barcelona’s city strand; a few windsurfers sail over the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean; an airplane on the horizon glides towards the airport. On the patio of the “El Bierzo” strand bar, Francisco de Pablo, Clara Lamarca and Álex Blanco are enjoying coffee, croissants and the mild fall morning sun. De Pablo, recently retired, was Head of Production at SEAT’s Martorell plant. Parked on the promenade is a piece of automotive history: his cream-colored SEAT 600 from the 1960s. Next to it, in fiery Dakota red, is the new Ibiza ST belonging to the young designer couple Lamarca and Blanco.
THE SEAT THAT PUT SPAIN ON THE ROAD
The SEAT 600 evokes many memories. “My parents drove to the registry office in a car like that,” says Lamarca. And Blanco adds: “An uncle of mine owned a 600 that he looked after for years with tender loving care. Once he even let me get behind the wheel – a great nostalgic treat.” Francisco de Pablo smiles. He himself passed his driving test in a SEAT 600. “This car mobilized the entire country,” he says. “The SEAT 600 was to us what the Volkswagen Beetle was to the Germans. It revolutionized Spanish leisure activities.”
Francisco de Pablo traveled to SEAT’s meeting of the generation from a suburb of Barcelona. And he is looking forward to driving his spotless vintage car through the city that he has called home for the past 50 years. After breakfast with the two young interior designers, he plans to take the vintage car up to Barcelona’s Montjuïc mountain to savor the spectacular view. Lamarca and Blanco will remain in the city for the time being. As evening approaches, they will join de Pablo and his SEAT 600 again at Plaça Reial, not far from the famous “La Rambla” pedestrian mall.
GRACE, STYLE – AND EVOLUTION
THE MODERN CITY OF BARCELONA –
Contemporary architecture and art
shape the promenade: The fish
sculpture created by architect Frank
Gehry has established itself as a
modern symbol of the city.
They say their goodbyes at their cars on the promenade. Compared with the striking modern design of the Ibiza ST, the chubby 600 looks undeniably cute. “You could fit four elephants, your mother-in-law and the kitchen sink in there,” says de Pablo, “at least, that was the impression we got back then.” He opens the trunk, which by today’s standards would be just about enough for a piece of hand luggage. Blanco’s jaw drops and he then attempts to close the trunk with the utmost care. And fails. “This calls for grace and style,” explains de Pablo – then pushes down on the trunk and lets it fall shut. Despite being a vintage car enthusiast, de Pablo also has an expert eye for modern bodywork and admits to having a soft spot for SEAT: “From component to component, from build year to build year, you can trace SEAT’s evolution.” He then gets into his 600, starts the 22 PS engine, slips out of the parking space and chugs away.
Both generations agree that, as Blanco puts it, “the development of the brand is most apparent in the design. As with architecture, form and function must be in harmony. This is demonstrated by the fourth-generation Ibiza models, which look great and are ideal for everyday driving.” Clara Lamarca and Álex Blanco both grew up in Barcelona and studied at prestigious design schools there. “This city lives and breathes good design,” says Lamarca, “and it exerts its influence on everyone who works in the field of design.”