Yes, They Actually Built This: The Story Of The Volkswagen Golf Harlequin Edition

Yes, They Actually Built This: The Story Of The Volkswagen Golf Harlequin Edition

(By Greg Rourke- Photo Credit: – Around here, we salivate when we think of Limited Edition cars. Charger Daytonas, ZL1 Camaros, Boss 429 Mustangs. However, not all Limited Edition cars will be mentioned in the same breath as those monsters. Enter the Volkswagen Golf Harlequin Edition.

Our story starts in Germany in 1994. Some guys were likely sitting in a board room deciding how to sell more Volkswagens. One of the old timers remembered a Beetle ad from the 1960’s that showed a Beetle with many different colored body panels. They were touting the interchangeability of the Beetle of that era, just drop by any boneyard and grab replacement sheetmetal to replace panels dented on the way to the next Grateful Dead show. They decided on doing something like that on the Europe only VW Polo for 1995.
They decided on 1000 units, each coming with a numbered keychain. It sold better than they expected, with 3800 folks willing to pony up enough marks, or lira, or pounds to buy one. Only the first 1000 got the keychain.
It sold in Europe, so surely those crazy Americans will buy them. They decided the Golf 5 door hatchback would be the victim, and called it the Harlequin. They rolled down the assembly line in Mexico as a solid color. Two of the colors were Euro only, unless you bought a Harlequin. Then the workers switched around the hoods, doors, bumper covers,  and hatches to make the unique cars. They weren’t totally random, VW had an order of what color went where. They decided on a run of 264 Harlequins, all consecutive serial numbers.
They went over like a turd in the punch bowl. VW dispersed them to dealers whether they wanted them or not. One dealer in Atlanta got stuck with a bunch of them. Speculation was they just switched around body panels until they had solid color cars they could actually sell. Some may have been painted solid  colors by dealers tired of them clogging up the back row. It seems at least one may have never had it’s panels switched around when new, as it’s within the serial number range but is a solid Euro color.
Now they have their enthusiasts. They identify the cars by the base color, that of the roof, A pillars and rear quarters. There is a Harlequin registry, where folks know everything there is to know about these cars.
Will they ever achieve the Barrett Jackson status of a Daytona Charger? Not likely. But remember, in 1969 dealers couldn’t unload Daytonas, and at least one was de-winged and de-nosed to look like a regular Charger, so what do I know?
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7 thoughts on “Yes, They Actually Built This: The Story Of The Volkswagen Golf Harlequin Edition

  1. Tubbed Pacecar

    Ha! There are still a few on the road, I frequently ride past one parked on a quiet residential street near the University here in Edmonton while out on my mountain bike……

    1. themechanicscholar

      Hey I’ve totally sen that one too! Haven’t seen it in a while though. I’d assumed that it had rusted away.

  2. Tom P

    I didn’t think they were that rare, a guy up the street has one and I’ve seen a second one parked there at times too.

  3. BeaverMartin

    Had one as a barracks beater when I was stationed in Germany. Who knew it was rare? The stories that car could tell…

  4. Louis Kimery

    Is it just a coincidence that this is also pretty much the same era as the Benetton F1 race cars with their multicolor paint schemes?

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