A Volkswagen With a Coat of Many Colors: 1996 Golf Harlequin

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber

Full gallery here.

It’s not clear whether they were inspired by one of Doyle Dane Bernbach’s clever ads for the VW Beetle in the 1960s or by the biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors, but in the mid 1990s, Volkswagen decided to make some multicolored cars. TTAC previously looked at the Halequin Polo and Golf and you can read more of the story at the link, but the short version is that in 1995 the German automaker decided to offer a colorful option for folks buying the Polo, VW’s hatchback slotted just below the Golf in Europe, *NAH. The car with body panels of different colors turned out to be a bit of a hit, with an initial production run of just 1,000 cars extended to 3,800 units. Probably because of that modest success, VW of America decided to introduce the Harlequin color schemes on the Mk III Golf for the following model year.

I don’t know how many they planned to make. The Puebla, Mexico factory that assembled them turned out 264 Harlequins. Each car was first assembled in one of four base colors (including Pistachio Green, exclusive to the Harlequins) and then at the end of the line, panels were unbolted and swapped to different vehicles per a color chart prepared in Germany that made sure that no two adjacent panels would be the same color. Even when Germans are silly, they do it with precision.

Full gallery here.

With a total build of just 264 cars, Harlequin Golfs are rare. So rare, in fact, that our previous post on the topic used publicity photos and shots owners have posted online. They’re not cars you come across every day. When I spotted this Harlequin at the 2014 Vintage VW Show in Ypsilanti this summer, I knew it was special enough to photograph, but I had no idea that there were so few of them. A Wolfsburg Edition it’s not. I’m happy that I took the time because we can now show you some views of the car that you may have not seen before.

This car was sold by Jim Ellis VW, in Atlanta, Georgia. Maybe it’s the same Pistachio Green Harlequin that’s second from the right in the photo above. According to the Harlequin Registry, the original owner flew from Michigan to Georgia to buy it.

Full gallery here.

That dealership had somehow been allocated an unusually large number of Harlequins. Perhaps VW thought it was a good idea to use them as promotional and courtesy vehicles during the Summer Olympics that year in Atlanta or perhaps it was a reward for Ellis having recently opened up another VW store, but either way Harlequin Golf didn’t turn out to be as popular in America as the Harlequin Polo was in Europe.

Jim Ellis Volkswagen eventually had trouble moving the rather conspicuous cars and the dealer reportedly swapped around some panels (or, more likely, resprayed them), which explains the existence of at least one monochromatic Pistachio Green Harlequin in the Harlequin Registry.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

Ronnie Schreiber
Ronnie Schreiber

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, the original 3D car site.

More by Ronnie Schreiber

Join the conversation
2 of 20 comments
  • Harlequinowner Harlequinowner on Sep 13, 2014

    Yes, the body color is the color you register. Mine is green, and I know the guy with the one in the photo. I bought mine for my mother, because she kept losing her car in the parking lot, because they all look the same. It was used by an Olympian, but we got it as a "new" car.

  • FormerFF FormerFF on Sep 18, 2014

    I remember seeing these things running around Atlanta. I can't say I miss them. Imagine getting the car fixed after an accident and having to pay for three or four colors being sent through the spray gun.

  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.
  • Aja8888 Someday in the far away future, all cars will look the same, people will be the same color, dogs will be all mixed beyond recognition, and governments will own everything. That car looks like my son's Hyundai Tucson without badges.
  • Tassos Of course, what the hell did you expect? A SERIOUS, BEAUTIFUL car you can ACTUALLY USE AS YOUR DAILY DRIVER???............. NOOOOO, THIS IS TIM WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. SO HE FINDS SOME OBSOLETE POS WHICH IS 22 years old, .............AND HE PURPOSELY MISSES THE BEAUTIFUL MODEL, THE Classical Beauty E39 that ended in 2003. ...........So he uses his column as a WASTEBASKET once again, to throw the first year of BMWs BANGLED 5 series (as in the INFAMOUS CHRIS BANGLE WHO SCREWED UP THE DESIGN ROYALLY). ................................................ As Dr. Evil, Fake Doctor Jill Biden would scream at the top of her voice, so her senile idiot husband could hear her, "Good Job, (Tim)! You answered all the questions and ticked all the boxes!" ..... KEEP UP THE S---Y work, Tim!