Spanish King's First Car Enjoys A Royal Restoration

“Before he was the King of Spain, when he drove a humble car...” Felipe VI was a prince and not a pauper but his 18th birthday present from Spain's King Juan Carlos wasn't as sporty or luxurious as one born into royalty might expect. OK, so his 1986 SEAT Ibiza SXI hatchback wasn't exactly a babe-magnet but being the heir to the Spanish throne more than made up for that.

It's not known if Papa Juan Carlos uttered the Espanol equivalent of “take a SEAT over there” while tossing young Felipe the keys but let's give Majestic JC some credit for making a seemingly ordinary hatchback a little extra special.

In fact, Prince Felipe's ride was one-of-a-kind thanks to some select special features such as air conditioning and fuel injection that wouldn't be offered on the Ibiza for another two years.

As well, the SEAT's seats were custom-fitted to match the future King Felipe VI's height and as a finishing touch, the body was painted a unique shade of gold. That “System Porsche” valve cover on the Ibiza's Mk1 1.5-litre engine is neither a custom touch nor wishful thinking, by the way, as the model's transmission and powertrain were developed in collaboration with Porsche.

Not much is known of the one-off Ibiza SXI's status once Prince Felipe moved on to bigger and better vehicles, though according to SEAT's classic department it had been stored for roughly 16 years. At the time it was parked for good, the odometer registered 152,000 kilometers or about 94,000 miles... not bad for an eighties econobox regardless of its royal pedigree.

Fast-forward to late-2014... 46-year-old King Felipe VI is visiting SEAT's headquarters and industrial complex in Martorell near Barcelona when he suddenly encounters a golden blast from his past: the very same customized 1986 SEAT Ibiza SXI hatchback then-King Juan Carlos had presented him with on his 18th birthday!

SEAT's technicians had performed a frame-off restoration on the old Ibiza that effectively rolled back the clock both mechanically and cosmetically. Not all of the old parts could be restored so the vehicle now sports a new fuel injection system, new cloth seat upholstery on the seats, a new set of alloy wheels and last but not least, a new coat of gold paint the same shade as that specified by King Juan Carlos all those years ago. Check out this video from Ran When Parked to view highlights of the restoration and presentation.

While one might think Felipe gets all the breaks due to his regal status, think again: the former Prince's won't get to relive his salad days in his old/new wheels. Instead, the Ibiza SXI has a special place reserved for it amongst the 250 other cars in SEAT's private Historical Collection. Who's eating humble pie now?