Golf Harlequin: The Clown Car You'd Be Lucky to Own
There are times when automakers drag their feet, test products with groups of panels endlessly, and by the time they finish, there isn’t much spice left to the recipe. History doesn’t remember much those beige econoboxes anyway, but it does remember something like this. This is the Golf Harlequin, a multi-colored Golf GL that hit the American market in 1996. The story of its creation goes – like all Volkswagens – back to Germany, where VW executives in the early ‘90s thought it would be a cool idea to build a mix-and-match 1995 VW Polo using different colored body panels. The car was quite popular and sold more than 4,800 units over its short lifespan, so the Germans decided “why not try this in America?” PHOTOS: Check out these pics of 2015 Golf R
For the 1996 model year, Volkswagen commissioned a total of 264 Golf Harlequin five-doors to be sold in North American, however it didn’t go over quite so well.
Dealers had a hard time moving the oddly styled hatchback, and contrary to the notion of an exclusive limited-run car, many Harlequins were sold with big price cuts after sitting for months on dealer lots. There are even reports of some dealerships using spare body panels to revert the cars into their original base monochrome color.
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It all seems like a haphazard, seat-of-the-pants type of decision for Volkswagen, and it sort of was, but production did follow a strictly measured building code. The Harlequins were first built in one of four base colors – Tornado Red, Ginster Yellow, Pistachio Green, and Chagall Blue – only to have their body panels flipped and flopped at the Puebla VW plant using a pattern to insure that no similarly colored panels touched. Base color is denoted by the roof and rocker panels.
Despite the initial hard sell that the Golf Harlequin faced, these quirky little VWs have become highly sought after today, and a registry has been set up to account for the lasting survivors. As of February 2014, 113 of the original 264 Golf Harlequins have been found and documented, with the occasional model up for sale online.
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