The Golf Harlequin is one of those strange creatures that ostensibly would look more at home in a art festival than in a car show. Volkswagen’s “Chinese fire drill” of body parts from primary colored Golfs was an interesting exercise, leading to the moniker Harlequin – a reference to the colorful and semi-psychotically eyed ducks, themselves named after a colorfully dressed character in Italian 16th century theater. Now that you’ve learned something, these Golfs have become legendary and desirable in their own right despite effectively being a base model underneath, leading to the replica color scheme not only extending to copies of the originals, but even to replicas utilizing other Volkswagen models. My local Volkswagen dealer, for example, has used the scheme not only on post-Mk.3 delivery Golfs, but even their Chevrolet Express parts vans have the mismatched tones. But today we’ll look at a replica GL which has gone to great lengths to mask itself in the colorful attire. Unlike the originals, though, this one has a serious weapons-grade revision in the drive department:
For a brief amount of time, I drove a Mk3 Volkswagen GTI. While it didn’t have the VR6, I still have fond memories of that car. It wasn’t the sportiest of hot hatches, nor the fastest, but it did everything well and I had nary a problem with it. Midway through the Mk3 production run, Volkswagen went a bit wild with the paint shop and released the Golf Harlequin. This was part of a design series for VW and an attempt to draw more traffic in the showrooms. There were four versions of the Harlequin, each with a different “base” color. This Harlequin for sale in Washington state has a Ginster Yellow base color and seems to have escaped the ravages of rust that plagued many Mk3 Golfs. It is also refreshing to see one that hasn’t been modified and the mileage is reasonable considering its age.
Pretty much everyone knows that Volkswagen enthusiasts are a special breed, but even within Volkswagen enthusiasts there are some really devoted fans of a particular sub-model. One such example of this is the Golf Harlequin, seemingly a joke by Volkswagen dealers to get rid of excess body panels. In truth, it’s one of the really neat exercises by a major that reinforces my belief that Volkswagen just does things differently than most other manufacturers. Seriously, could you imagine Mercedes-Benz shipping a bunch of S-Classes out to dealers in different colors and telling them to swap body panels around? The Harlequin Golf was and remains a neat page in Volkswagen history that generally brings a smile to VW fans. So, it’s no surprise that the Harlequins are very sought after, even if they appear all in one color because the dealer was lazy – no joke! But are they sought after enough to warrant a replica?
Fewer cars looked more wrong leaving the dealership than the Harlequin Golfs. Schemed up as a marketing attempt to make the rather plain-Jane Golf stand out a bit, they kicked it up a notch by shipping several different colored Golfs to dealers and then having them switch body panels. What they created – perhaps somewhat unintentionally – was a whole culture of VW fans who know way, way too much about the Harlequin. Ironically, I doubt many of them know that it’s named after a duck, but then the people that are into Harlequins are hugely ironic. In any event, let’s take a look at this rare duck:
Model: Golf Harlequin
Engine: 2.0 liter inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 134,033 mi
Price: $6,300 Buy It Now
Here is a very rare 1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin. It has 134,033 miles on it and it is the Ginster Yellow base color. It is number 137 out of 200 out of 264 according to rossvw.com. The car is in great condition mechanically and aesthetically and was taken care of by an artist and engineer for 12 years. A lot of effort was put into keeping the paint in pristine condition with regular washing and waxing. Feel free to contact me with any specific questions you may have.
The Harlequin came with several different wheel options – most seemed to have Cabrio/GTi alloys or dealer-installed alloy options, but some had hubcaps. This car, however, has obviously lost it’s originals somewhere along the way. The best solution to wheels on a Harlequin I’ve seen yet was different color-matched BBS RSs on each corner, because why not? They’d certainly look better than the wheels that are currently on this model. A fair amount of Harlequins were automatics, so it’s nice to see a manual and the original “Joker” interior. This particular car was originally Ginster Yellow, meaning none of the other removable panels could be yellow. Properly, I believe that means that the front bumper should not be yellow, so perhaps it’s been redone along the way – not surprising given how easy it would be to repaint just one panel – no matching involved!
Speaking of paintwork, this car has some usual Golf III rust issues, so you’ll probably need to attend to more than just the wheels. Otherwise, the 2.0 ABA is a pretty solid motor and enjoyable to drive. These are light cars that get great mileage; I averaged around 33-34 mpg and put over 200,000 miles with the original motor never apart on mine. If you’d like a unique part of Volkswagen history, this is certainly one way, but it’d make a decent driver too. There were only around 260 of these imported to the U.S., so you’re not likely to see another pass you – ever. Is that exclusivity worth $6,000? That’s strong money for a A3, but the Harlequins do demand a premium. It will be interesting to see if this car gets close to that figure.
I love odd cars. Everything from the Citroën XM to the NSU Ro80 gets me going. So anytime one of these wildly colored Volkswagen Golf Harlequins come up for sale, I take note. I loved and miss my MkIII GTI 2.0 to this day. A much better drive than the subsequent MkIV I owned and chuckable in a similar manner that my Cooper S is (albeit with less sharp steering and suspension reactions). Here is what could possibly be the only VR6 equipped Harlequin for sale up in Massachusetts over on VW Vortex.
The seller states:
Hi Everyone, after a lot of debating with myself I am selling my harlequin. I have owned it for 5 years and during that time i have basically gone through and done everything (including many upgrades) that ever needs to be replaced or breaks. Everything was done the right way, no shortcuts, I had planned on keeping this car for the long haul but i don’t have the time to enjoy it like it should be. The Car has been put away for the past 8 winters in dry storage, oil changed every 3k or yearly whichever comes first (I have hardly put 2k on the car for the past 2 summers.)
The car is an absolute blast to drive and turns more heads then a ferarri (no lie). Car is very reliable and ready to go!
Here are the specs:
1996 Golf Harlequin #19/264
Pistachio Green Base
o VR6 Swap with ~138K
o Recent Timing Chain Service with All Hardware, Water Pump, Thermostat <10K
o Mk4 Metal Head Gasket
o Gruvenparts Crack Pipe
o Yarrowsport Billet Belt Tensioner
o Autotech 10lb Steel Flywheel
o Black Forest Industries Stage 1 Poly Motor Mounts
o 02A Rebuilt with New 1st, 2nd, and Reverse Syncros. <10K
o TDI 5th gear (for highway cruising)
o Clutchnet Stage 2 Clutch (375 ft-lb)
o Peloquins Differential
o New Empi Driveshafts <10K
o Black Forest Industries Stage 1 Poly Trans Mount
o Complete VR6 Suspension Swap
o Koni Yellow Adjustable Shocks and Struts
o H&R Race Springs
o R32 Front Control Arm Bushings
o All Suspension Bushings Replaced <15K
o Euro Bumpers
o Hella Dual Round Headlights
o OEM Fog Lights
o New OEM Front Fenders
o New OEM Hatch
o Mintex Red Box Pads <10K
o New OEM Rotors <10K
o GAP Braided Stainless Brake Hose
o ATE Super Blue Brake Fluid
o VW Monte Carlo 17” rims
o 205/35/17 Falken Azenis RT615 Tires (less than half worm)
Im sure there are more things i have forgotten.
The seller is pretty honest and lengthy in his description and the car does look to be in good shape for the mileage covered and the fact that it is a Northeastern vehicle. $10,500 is steep for a MkIII Golf of any sort. If it was more around the $7,500 to $8,000 mark, I’d be tempted. The market for these outside of the Volkswagen community seems to be thin from what I can gather, but I’m sure there are folks out there who are eager to get their hands on what was an interesting marketing stunt by one of the world’s largest automakers.
Created for the Volkswagen Design series for International auto shows, the Volkswagen Golf Harlequin was never supposed to catch on. However, Volkswagen decided to create a limited run of these interesting Golfs in 1996, dubbed the Harlequin. There were four different types of Harlequins, each having their own base color, which included Tornado Red, Ginster Yellow, Pistachio Green and Chagall Blue. In addition, special interior cloth, silver faced gauges and a few different wheel options were added extras.
The seller states:
Rare and unique 1996 Chagall Blue Harlequin Golf Special Edition (264 made – only available in U.S. and Canada) – for more information check out www.rossvw.com
2 litre engine, manual transmission, air conditioning, 6 CD changer, original owner (female elementary school teacher), 260,000 km (primarily highway between Langley and Chilliwack), driver and passenger air bags, all-season Michelin tires (2 years old), 15″ alloy rims, regular gas, regular maintenance
I would REALLY like this car to go to someone who will love it as much as I did. If it calls to you, please make me an offer. Let’s talk!
accessories also available:
roof rack – $150.00
luggage platform – $100.00
bike holder – $100.00
4 new BFG (made by Michelin) Winter Slalom KSI tires (purchased for $656.46 Nov. 09) on 15″ alloy rims – $500.00
Having owned a MkIII GTI, I understand the appeal of the Golfs from this generation. I wish I had my 1998 Anniversary edition GTI back, as it was all the car I ever needed. The Harlequin isn’t for everyone, but when was the last time you witnessed what could be mistaken as an assembly line mix-up turned into something cool?