Forgotten Golfs that could be awesome
We've seen MOOG take on Marty's Mighty Not-Quite-But-Kinda-Is-A-Daihatsu three-cylinder all-wheel-drive turbo Yaris IN THE LATEST EPISODE (CLICK HERE). Sure, the new Mk8 Golf R is fast and goes pssh-pssh but let's take a look back to some forgotten Golfs which deserve to be remembered.
VW fans have enjoyed a resurgence of the Golf's performance pedigree in the 21st Century, spearheaded by the Mk4 R32 and Mk5 GTi models. With the Mk1 and Mk2 models rightly considered absolute classics, this has (somewhat unfairly) meant the Mk3 Golf is forgotten as the more refined, but heavier, softer, doughier and more generally under-achieving sibling to the scalpel-sharp Mk1 and Mk2.
Early Golfs are now super-collectable, but you can still score Mk3 Golfs nice and cheap and, with at least 29 different special editions, you can still stand out at your local Maccanats car show!
Imagine rolling past rows of Focus STs, BRZs or Gordon Keeble GTs in your Henri Lloyd Yachting GT? Or chuck on some triple-denim and floss in your Bon Jovi Tour Edition?
No, I'm not making that up. Volkswagen actually sold a Bon Jovi special edition to celebrate the Denim Lord's 1996 European tour. Whoa, we're halfway there, whoa, we're living on a... check engine light.
The Bon Jovi Golf followed a Pink Floyd version in 1994 and Rolling Stones special edition in 1995, all designed to celebrate those rock bands' European tours. But they still weren't the craziest special editions.
In North America the German manufacturer released one of the wildest street car concepts any manufacturer has had the gall to try. While they had plenty of US-only special editions, the "Harlequin" concept took the 90s to 1ty with its mismatched exterior panels compromising Tornado Red, Ginster Yellow, Pistachio Green and Chagall Blue.
The concept had originated in Europe with the launch of the new, smaller Polo model back in 1995 and was a surprise hit leading to over 3000 being sold. The Harlequin Golf didn't land quite such a big hit, though.
Only available in 1996 just 264 Harlequin Golfs were made and less than half are believed to survive.
For those who prefer substance over style, the Golf A59 is the special edition we wished they'd actually put into production. Commissioned as a 1992 feasibility study into winning the 1994 World Rally Championship a prototype was built by Schmidt Motor Sport, and it would put a horn on a jellyfish.
Boasting wide body guards and upgraded suspension, it packs a turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder engine, six-speed manual and all-wheel-drive. Rather than using parts from road-going Golfs of the time, Schmidt designed an over-square 1998cc engine and slapped a T3 Garrett choo-choo box on to make 275hp, which doesn't sound like much today but was 100hp more than the next most powerful Mk3 Golf (the V6, 171hp VR6).
While Volkswagen had their own all-wheel-drive system of the time called SYNCRO, the six-speed manual in the A59 used electronic diffs, while the bodywork was advanced carbon-Kevlar, seats were by Recaro, and it even rocked an integral roll cage.
A handful of prototypes were constructed, and the nod was given by the suits and ties to build 2500 examples. This step is known as homologation and was required for the A59 to be legal to compete in the World Rally Championship. So what happened, and why didn't we see the Ultra-Schnitzelsushikicker duking it out with Mitsubishi Evos, Subaru STis, Ford Escort Cossies, Toyota Celicas, and Lancia Delta Integrales?
A global recession in the early 1990s and other financial pressures VW was going through canned the whole programme, robbing us of what could have been one of the greatest tuner cars of the 1990s. I guess that means we're back to looking for Bon Jovi special editions again...