This used to be a more common sight back in the day, one of the great advantages of the VW Beetle’s glacial evolution. After I had my nasty accident with my white ’63, I found an old black ’56 sitting in some folk’s field that donated its front end sheet metal. Black and White; not as colorful as this one. Actually, since this is a Super Beetle, it’s front end parts are precisely the ones that won’t fit on a regular Beetle.
VW made the multicolored Beetle famous in a 1960s ad, but then it went a giant step further: in 1996, the built multicolored Harlequin Golfs for sale, in the US, one year after offering a Polo Harlequin in Europe. But they’re mighty rare; I haven’t found one yet in colorful Eugene..
Here’s the inspiration, although undoubtedly folks had been doing this with VWs for some time already.
1,000 1995 Harlequin Polos were planned for production, but demand increased that to 3,800. They are still spotted from time to time on the streets.
Only 264 Golf Harlequins were built and sold in the US. Some 100 are accounted for in a registry. Apparently they sell for a slight premium over a regular Golf, but given how old they are now, that’s probably mostly irrelevant. If anyone sees one, make sure to send us a pic.
These got by me somehow – not only have I never seen one, I never knew that they were a thing. I would think that all of those in the U.S. would have gradually migrated to Eugene by now. 🙂
I remember these, and have seen at least a couple out in the wild, but not for many years.
Another “interesting” car VW offered in this timeframe was the Jetta Trek Edition, which came with a bestickered Trek mountain bike mounted to the roof.
My cousin had a Jetta Trek. He got it used, though, and it did not come with the eponymous bike. Not one of the better cars he’s owned, but an improvement over the previous one (Eagle Premier).
I own a 97 Jetta “Jazz” that VW only made 1000 of as well. It only came in black or red with special interior and sound system with 6 disc changer in the trunk. VW removed all the ‘Jazz’ decals from the decklid prior to dealership delivery from the port. Here is a bulletin that describes the process.
Wut, did they decide to pull the option pack when the cars were already made?
What’s funny is all the Trek editions I see now are missing their roof racks, which beyond the cheap bike was the real bonus to that package as well as the K2.
Some girl at work had one, I always wondered if it came with the bike when she bought it (assuming it didn’t used to belong to her parents) I’m guessing no.
I got one of these Trek bikes for free when a lot attendant tried to drive a Trek out of the showroom not realizing the door wasn’t high enough. All I had to do was readjust the seat and handle bars and touch up a couple of scratches. Still have it, it’s blue and silver and a nice little mountain bike with an aluminum frame. The dealer owner was kind enough to give it to me after insurance replaced the bike, rack, and repaired the body damage on the car.
Also, VW offered a K2 Edition Golf and Jetta… complete with a roof rack and a set of K2 skis.
Volkswagen was doing a lot of special editions, back in the 90’s.
I seem to remember that the Trek was Jetta-only and K2 was Golf-only but I could be wrong.
One of those Harlequins lived in my neighborhood until about five years ago. It was always smile-inducing to see it tooling around.
Name that tune-
One Piece at a Time… and it wouldn’t cost me a dime!
I see what you did there 🙂
Dang Chris, ya beat me to it!
I just recently discovered that tune. A masterpiece!
I remember seeing one of these multi-colored VWs once in New York. It looked so cute! I thought at first it was a restoration project where the fenders, hood, doors, etc. we’re all from different parts donors. It was unforgettable!
I had no idea these were factory jobs! When I lived in Birmingham years ago, I would see one of these on Hwy 280 in the Chelsea area. Although not a fan of water-cooled VWs, I liked the idea and have since toyed with the notion of doing that to my beater ’73 Bonneville Sedan…using only 1973 Pontiac factory colors of course.
I’ve seen these kind of VW ads before highlighting the fact that VW Bugs were changed very little from year to year. They were definitely targeting a particular niche of customer who would appreciate that trait. Usually when a car doesn’t change for a long time, consumers view that as a negative, especially in the late 50s through mid-60s.
Meanwhile, people were deriding the Dodge pickup yesterday because it was very little changed from 1972 through 1993. I see this as a positive attribute for a pickup truck especially, since it’s more likely to be damaged from daily use and thus require replacement body parts.
Hmm, there’s an idea. Harlequin Dodge pickup, done in the same colour scheme as the Harlequin Golfs. Not many people would get the joke though.
This brings back many memories as when I had my Indie VW Shop , we’d buy all the old air cooled Beetles we could from the Police Impound Auctions ~
We’d cherry pick them once back to the shop , the best body was usually a stripped theft recovery then we’d dress it with fenders and so on , send it off to Bud Covey , ” The Whistling Bondo Man ” (he never wore a respirator when he painted , whistled as he painted and never saw a fender so damaged he couldn’t beat and bondo it back into service) for a $250 re spray ,(including the interior) then add the mechanicals as needed , drive it to lunch / parts a couple days as I sorted out the lights , wipers , heater , brakes and so on then off to ‘ Tito’s Upholstery ‘ for a full re trim then sell it off .
Amazingly we made pretty good money at this and rarely got more than $1,200 ~ 1,500 for a completed Beetle . fun times .
I always considered mis matched colors embarrassing and was flabbergasted when VWoA began selling the Harlequin Rabbits .
I love the Harlequin concept, it’s a really good concept. And it looks especially good on the Polo, not that much on the Golf. I just don’t really like the colors they used for the combos, some of them just doesn’t go that good together.
And in this day and age, I can’t really see why anyone couldn’t order their cars in ant color they damn well please. It’s really not that much work for the factory, putting together a car with parts of different colors, it’s really the same to them.
Why anybody hasn’t snatched that concept boggles my mind. They could have a website and just let the people go mad over the combos…
You can order whatever color you want from most of the German manufacturers (and probably others as well). They charge a significant premium for it but your car will stand out (or it will to you at least). Porsche lets you bring in whatever sample you want or you can pick any of their colors from any year etc. Audi, BMW, Mercedes do similar things. I’m not positive if it is available for any car made in any of their factories though, it might be limited to certain locations/models. There is obviously SOME cost involved, i.e. someone has to mix a batch of paint, load it in a machine/robot/whatever, and then clean it back out afterward and dispose of the leftovers rather than just keeping the machine loaded with whatever colors are standard that year.
As for mixing and matching colors on one car, well, that’d be a bit more labor intensive, they are painted with all metal in place already.
I’m not sure how they do it. The body in white is obviously painted as such. And going beyond that makes for much harder work, taping and handlabour and such. But apart from the b-i-w, all other parts must have been painted separately? The doors, hood, trunk, fenders, even part of the outer body. On the Golf, you can see that the roof/sailpanel/sill is one continuous piece of stamping, probably part of the b-i-w. So, the inner structure of that car is probably yellow, and all the other parts could be assembled as needed from different parts of the inventory. The only thing that keeps them from doing it large scale is the just in time delivery of parts. And that was why VW probably limited the Harlequin to the same handful of colors, to keep the inventory down.
I don’t know how they did the Harlequins, but on normal production cars the body of the car is assembled, then it goes through the paint booth for the final colour and clearcoat to be sprayed-on everything at once.
From a TTAC article on the Harlequin:
Here’s how it worked. Each Golf Harlequin went down the production line finished in one of four colors: Chagall Blue, Ginster Yellow, Pistachio Green or Tornado Red. The color swap occurred only once each car was completely assembled. In other words, every bolt-on exterior panel was switched to a different car. This suited the Puebla factory workers, who were probably no stranger to swapping around body panels on finished vehicles.
Interesting. Somtimes a mystery isn’t a mystery, and things are done in a way more simple than one could imagine.
In Europe, the Golf was seen more of as a family car, a one car only household kind of car, while the Polo may have been a second car in the family household. Polos being more cheap and dispensible, Golfs having some sort of resale value. So, I can see why the Harlequin concept would work on the Polo but not on the Golf. I’d guess the part of women drivers was higher for Polo than Golf. It’s the kind of car a husband would buy for his wife, while he himself drove for example an Audi or BMW or Mercedes.
There’s always been a European sub-culture of cheap and “chic” dispensible transportion, the sort the French have always been good at, like the Renault 5 or the Renault Twingo. And those cars could be chic as they were so cheap. What I’m saying is, the Harlequin was mostly a kooky sort of girls car in Europe. The Harlequin was tapping into the same kind of demographic that would buy a New Beetle just a couple of years later. And what could possibly be wrong with that? I like girl cars, always wanted one for myself. The Citroen 2CV is next on my list.
Was there a price premium? Extra hand labour involved…..
I don’t know. But the US Golfs sold somewhat sluggishly, and supposedly, one dealer re-arranged a few harlequins to make them solid-colored again!
Interesting as this colour arrangement wouldnt meet registration standards in some states in Aussie multi coloured cars werent permitted, I thought this was a joke untill a mates ex legion cab Falcon was refused as cabs they were blue with black and red guards several mishaps had resulted in some green and brown and grey primer doors, apparently a main colour is required by NSW law, the whole thing became primer grey and legal easiest and cheapest colour around
There were 4 “base” colors that these cars were produced in, then at the factory there was a prescribed formula for which part from which colored car ended up on which final car. So while there are seemingly endless combinations, there are only 4 actual results prescribed by the factory (for the Golf at least). Note that the minty green color was never sold here but was widely available in Europe on several VW models. The red is the standard Tornado Red, the blue and yellow were both available on GTI versions of the Golf over here.
I also understand that one dealer had a quantity of these left over and reassembled them into complete single-color cars in order to sell them as they were not moving in multi-color guise.
You just hit on what I was thinking: paint multiple cars, then rotate parts. But doesn’t that mean the total production would have to be a multiple of four, in this case?
You just hit on what I was thinking: paint multiple cars, then rotate parts. But doesn’t that mean the total production would have to be a multiple of four, in this case?
Maybe that’s what they did? Or else VW has changed it’s paint process in the last 15 years. This video shows a Passat being completely together when painted. Doors, hood and front fenders are all in place. Kills me to watch an old film where the front clip is painted on a different line, maybe an entirely different plant, than the body from the firewall back. It would be impossible to get the paint to match with today’s metallic clear coat finishes.
That is what they did. The metal parts are all assembled and doors, trunk, and hood are propped open. Painted plastic parts (bumpers, mirrors, trim, etc) are all added after. Modern paint lets matching work well, when I had to replace an exterior mirror on our Odyssey I thought I would have to get it painted (assumed it came in primer black), it turns out that you just order the color of the van (there is a part number for the mirror for each possible color for that year) and lo and behold I got the correct silver painted mirror in the box and attached it to the van. Perfect match in hue and metallic-ness.
Yes it would in this case. Which does match up with the numbers Paul provided, 1000 and 264 and 3800 are all multiples of 4. Although an extra car or two or three would be no big deal to a manufacturer.
I wonder whether those colours were even available on other Golfs, don’t think I saw those on them here in Europe. I think they were actually Polo colours.
I remember seeing the Harlequin Golf…not the ad that inspired it. The VW dealer in Memphis had one and it sat unsold for a few months.
I think one of the reasons why I’m not fond of these is because the colors chosen make the car look like a giant plastic toy….I think I COULD like this concept with metallic colors.
Have seen the factory golf but mostly saw mismatched colors on homemade repairs. Rattle can paint is so cheap that I probably saw as many parking lot paint jobs as homemade harlequins.
I still love the air cooled Beetles and would love to have seen them continue. Drove them for years.
There used to be one right around the corner from me on Buena Vista Ave. near Pine and Cayuga. I haven’t been in that neighborhood lately but it’s still there on Google maps.
Only 264 Golf Harlequins were built and sold in the US. Some 100 are accounted for in a registry…. If anyone sees one, make sure to send us a pic.
Too late. I saw one, once, cruising down I-94 in Michigan, probably in the late 90s. iirc the blurb about them in the VW brochure that year said they had to use a computer to plan out the color pattern so no two neighboring panels would come out the same color.
My version was a ’62 Bug. Pastel Green w/ a red drivers door and engine cover!
What do you suppose the color code tag looks like on one of these?
Actually I believe that I have read that the tag is whatever the “base” car was. (Base car would be the inner structure, roof, and rear quarterpanels, since everything else is relatively removable)
An interesting take on the mismatched colors would be an older Toyota 4Runner owned by someone in my neighborhood. It has red rear fenders and tailgate, and a white door and front fender. In a mirror of this, the roof over the front doors and the hood are red, and the roof over the rear section of the car white. Creates a very interesting effect!
“This used to be a more common sight back in the day, one of the great advantages of the VW Beetle’s glacial evolution. After I had my nasty accident with my white ’63, I found an old black ’56 sitting in some folk’s field that donated its front end sheet metal. Black and White; not as colorful as this one. Actually, since this is a Super Beetle, it’s front end parts are precisely the ones that won’t fit on a regular Beetle.”
I was once told that, due to some transition that took place when the Beetle’s styling was gradually being “modernized” in the mid-to-late ’60s, some of the rear exterior pieces on 1967 models are unique to that one year and will not interchange with earlier or later models. This makes ’67s with rear-end damage a bit less desirable as restoration projects than would otherwise be the case.
True, since the ’67s had some elements (upright headlights, new engine cover lid) that might not have worked with the ’68s and up because they had the new bigger single-beam bumper whose mounts are higher.
1968, at least for US models, was the beginning of the “modern era” for Beetles.
It was for Australia too. We got all the ’63-68 changes in one fell swoop for ’68 – it amounted to almost an entirely different car!
I used to occasionally see a harlequin Polo, but I havenet see it now for some time.
Of course, BL did it too,on Allegros, Marinas and Princesses, though without such a wide range of colours
I’ve only had two vehicles with mismatched paint. My 1950 International pickup was faded red, but its left rear fender and tailgate were faded medium blue.
I rear-ended a kid in an El Camino with my red 1969 Valiant Signet coupe. Fortunately only the left front fender was damaged, and I found a nice one in a wrecking yard, which ironically was the same yellow color as that El Camino, with a gold stripe someone had painted on. We drove the Valiant to my wife’s office Christmas party in spite of her disdain for the mismatched colors. It didn’t seem to help when I pointed out that yellow and gold were her company’s colors at the time. Iirc the Valiant project had at that time gotten to the point where the car was ready to be painted, so it wasn’t long before it was all deep red again.
Saw one about 3 years ago off State Street in Madison WI. I excitedly told my non-car people friends what it was to which they shrugged but the owner overheard me and said “Thank you for knowing what it is!” had a great conversation with him.
In 96 when I was in the market for a Jetta I saw several of the harlequin Golfs around Atlanta. One at the dealer on Cobb Pkwy and several on the road. So many that it surprised me to read here they are rare, but come to think of it I haven’t really seen one since then.
When my brother had his TR3 we had an old TR2 for a parts car in the back yard. We also had about 8 different colors of spray paint in the tool shed. A couple of rolls of masking tape and a few newspapers later in 1970 I turned the TR2 into a ‘Harlequin’. VW must have been spying on me! My brother was not impressed with my handiwork though I didn’t see the harm, it’s next destination from the back yard was the junk yard. They probably came out during the time I was working for a BMW dealership and was out of the VW loop for a while. I guess only a few dealerships got these cars. I don’t recall ever seeing one on the streets, they are really rare.
“Usually when a car doesn’t change for a long time, consumers view that as a negative, especially in the late 50s through mid-60s.”
In the 60s – early 70s VW marketing emphasized what might normally be considered negatives and was a big part of their schtik. We used to get a little VW publication called ‘Small Talk’ or ‘Small World’ (iirc) which had stories of interest to Beetle owners.
Saw one of the Golfs on I-80 going into Sacramento. I thought it was a DIY job, not factory.
1967 Beetle was the best year; 12 volt electrics so the headlights and starter actually would work in cold weather. Still had the old bumpers so it looked right. First year of the 1500 engine so you got 53 hp. I could cruise at 75 from Detroit to Chicago in my sisters ’67. Screwing around with 8 volt batteries….not for me.
Would have been fun to see the same treatment done to the interior, Different door panels, dash, ashtray, air vents, heater bezel, armrests, upper and lower seat cushions and headrests could be different front and rear, carpet, window winder handles, steering wheel, horn cover, glovebox door, sunvisors, seatbelts, shifter knob, boot, handbrake cover. Thought about doing that with U-Pull parts. Combined with the multicolor paint treatment. Of course, that would probably make the car even more unsellable, but would be fun to see. And would really be fun to have to order replacement interior parts!
I saw a harlequin Golf in my town (Santa Cruz, California) last year; I’ll keep an eye out and try to get a picture. But many Mini’s come close to the concept of custom colors by panel, though they retain bilateral color symmetry.
I used to see a Harlequin Golf around Toronto in the ’90’s close to where I worked. One would hope the owner had a beater to drive in the winter – I’d hate to see it after a few winters worth of driving heavily-salted Ontario roads.
Here is my VW Harlequin Beetle, only 141 made with this one being imported to the UK in 2002
That looks to be a Mexican made beetle ? .I had an ’82 Mexican beetle and I loved it .
The EPA , AQMD and other Govt. Agencies not so much , oops .
I still miss it .
Yes it is a Mexican Beetle it was made in the Puebla Factory where they only made 141 a rare beaut indeed
Hi Stephen, do you still have it? I’m looking to buy one for my daughter.