LEGO My VW! The Strange Tale Of The Volkswagen Golf Harlequin

One car two car red car blue car... make that red and green and yellow and blue car! The innovative Volkswagen Golf Harlequin was the ideal choice for indecisive carbuyers who just couldn't settle on an exterior paint color.

Resplendent in Tornado Red, Pistachio Green, Ginster Yellow and Chagall Blue, exactly 264 quad-hued Golf Harlequins left VW's factory in Puebla, Mexico, and 18 years later a dedicated registry devoted to them lists 116 survivors.

The concept for the Golf Harlequin probably derived from a 1960s VW Beetle ad displaying a Bug whose body panels were of different colors and from different years.

The point, presumably, was that the Beetle's locked-in design – almost a heresy back then – was actually a virtue as parts were interchangeable (and cheaper, and more readily available) over time.

Fast forward a generation... someone back in Wolfsburg dusted off the old ad and postulated producing a limited run of multi-colored, Europe-only, 1995 VW Polos as a nifty promotional gimmick.

Once the execs signed off on a limited edition of 1,000 cars (plus a numbered keychain), psychedelic Polos began popping up all across the Eurozone. Demand for the four-colored cars was so spirited, VW kept the factories running and in the end about 3,800 Volkswagen Polo “Harlekin” editions were made.

Being a global car company, VW figured the Harlequin concept would be snapped up by American and Canadian buyers. As luck would have it, in 1996 VW had a plant in Puebla, Mexico, that was already engaged in producing the Golf – a slightly larger car than the Polo.

Some strings were pulled and some ears were whispered into and before you could say “Ay caramba!,” 264 Golf GL five-doors each sporting body panels in four contrasting colors were on their way to most (but not all) North American VW dealers. Odds are, if you saw a Golf Harlequin in a dealer showroom, it was the only one in stock.

One dealer, Jim Ellis Volkswagen in Atlanta, Georgia, took delivery of up to a half-dozen Golf Harlequins with his possible motivation being some sort of tie-in with the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. In the event, Ellis couldn't sell all his stock and arranged for the last few four-colored Golfs to be “reverted” to single shade vehicles so they could be more easily sold.

This was surprisingly easy: the Puebla plant made 66 future Harlequins each painted Tornado Red, Ginster Yellow, Pistachio Green or Chagall Blue (the last two colors were not offered on standard North American VW Golfs).

After the completed cars came off the assembly line, their body panels were manually mismatched following a detailed color-chart (above) provided by the bigwigs in Wolfsburg.

The chart ensured no body panel of one color would touch another of the same hue. The original base color can be discerned by viewing the fixed C-pillars, roof and rocker panels.

VW sent a number of Golf Harlequins to major auto shows in the United States and Canada while promoting so-called “Golf Design” in popular auto magazines. The latter campaign encouraged readers to visit the Volkswagen Internet Website (this was 1996, remember) and give VW their opinion on whether multi-colored body panels should be an option on all VW vehicles. Can you imagine?

Luckily for Volkswagen and, well, everyone else, sites like 4chan didn't exist and VW was able to sweep the Harlequin under history's rug. (via The Truth About Cars, VW Vortex, and Passionford)