I bumped into a Citi Golf that had different coloured doors, fenders and front bumper. It looked as though the car had been involved in an accident and the owner was sourcing used parts from salvage yards (I’ve never really liked the term scrapyard).
This reminded me that VW actually made a car like this. Yes a factory-built and VW dealership-sold car with different coloured body panels. Pretty crazy.
The first VW to have these multi-coloured body panels was a VW Beetle from the 60s but this one was not a car that was produced to be sold. It was simply used as a marketing tool.
The idea to make a vehicle that has different coloured body panels which will be available for the public to purchase came about in 1995 when VW created 1000 limited edition Polos. These Polos were available for purchasing in Europe. They were so hugely successful that VW decided to add a couple of thousand more of these and they sold out pretty fast.
Seeing the success of the Polo Harlequin in Europe and in true American spirit of not wanting anything to pass them up Bill Clinton’s people decided to create their own Harlequin VW. The car of choice for them was the bigger VW Golf (1996 MK3 1.6 GL) because in America everything is about size. No wonder African brothers seem to thrive there. We have big dreams and ambitions after all.
While I always complain about us not getting certain cars in South Africa when we are such a big market for these German brands (especially VW) I am actually glad we didn’t get these. They look horrible.
The most obvious question and one that I suspect you may also have is: how did VW go about creating these cars? Surely they did not paint each panel individually on every car. This would be a really expensive, labour intense painstaking task bordering on ridiculous.
This is how VW did it. They created each Golf in a single colour. There were a total of four different colours. It was Pistachio Green, Tornado Red, Ginster Yellow and Chagall blue. When each car was completely done in its monochromatic colour the workers at the VW factory would then manually swap body panels around! Tedious. Economical?
This means that every harlequin Golf has a base colour and you can see this by the parts which are fixed to the car like the C-Pillar which tells you what colour your Golf originally was.This meant that the harlequin Golf actually took a bit more time to make then regular Golfs. They however did not cost significantly more than regular Golfs at the local dealer.
There were a total of 264 Golf Harlequins created, so if you divide this by the 4 colours you will realise that 66 monochrome Golfs were created in each colour then had their body panels swapped. What made the Golf harlequin even more exclusive is that two of the original base colours were not offered in the United States. Pistachio Green and Chagall Blue were not part of the regular US Golf’s colour options.
So if you wanted one of these two colours your only options would be to get a harlequin Golf, but that would also mean you only get it on your bumpers and doors or another panel only. But I guess half a loaf is better than nothing right? Not.
So did the workers just randomly swap body parts? Unfortunately not and I was disappointed to learn that there was actually a formula to mix up the colours. I would have found it cooler to leave the discretion of mixing up the body parts to the factory workers. This way there would have been an artistic element to it and the cars would been more personalized and would have had even more character.
The worker who decided to swap the panels in that particular order could have even signed his name on the car. This would have been helpful to the car’s value later on and would make it more of a collectable today.
There was a formula sheet that they used to swap around the colours, so every base colour that arrived had specific colours for every panel that was supposed to be added. I’ve attached the colour scheme table above and you can tell what colour every panel should be on the different base colours.
Let’s assemble one together now. So let’s say you ordered one with the Pistachio Green base, this is how your car would look like: Your roof and C-Pillar would be green; your front bumper, front doors and side mirrors would be blue; your bonnet, rear bumper and rear doors would be red; the front fenders and front grill would be yellow and finally your hatch lid would be blue.
Every base colour had its specific formula. Besides the VIN, you could by using this colour sheet easily see which Golf harlequin is original and which one is simply “self made”.
What floats your boat may not necessarily float mine. VW US learned this the hard way. While the Harlequin Polos were hugely successful and even led to numbers being increased this was not the case with the Golf in the US. VW dealerships struggled to sell these cars. Most of them ended up being sold at far less than their actual price. Surely repainting them the original base colour would have been more profitable?
Dealership even started swapping back the panels in order to get monochromatic cars. This was a bit of a challenge because you needed four cars all with different basis in order to be able to completely swap them back entirely to their original base colour.
My last task with these harlequin Golfs was finding out if they actually did become collectables and are worth more than the average Golf of the same year and same condition. The answer is yes, there aren’t many original harlequins that are for sale but those that are for sale are actually slightly more expensive than their less colourful stable mates. But is it collectable and a good investment? NO.
I cant help but feel sorry for panel-beaters that have had to repair one of these. Imagine having to mix four different coloured paints just to paint one side of a car. Sorry lads.
For fun: we have attached pictures of all four colours. Try using the color scheme table to figure out which is the base colour for each car and if the correct coloured panels are used.
Ed Mr. Low Benz