Now in its seventh generation, the Volkswagen Golf is one of the most well-known cars in the world.
You don’t spend nearly four decades on the market without leaving a few unusual variants along the way though – and there have been some truly odd Golfs since the first model hit the streets in 1974.
Everything from electric cars to pseudo off-roaders have worn the Golf badge over the years, while others have varied from the insane to the downright scary. We’ve collected together a bunch of them for your amusement – just how many of these unusual Golfs do you recognise?
Possibly the most familiar of the Golf variants here, unless you’re a diehard VW enthusiast. Never technically called a Golf, at least in the UK, the Caddy is nevertheless a Mk1 Golf with a pickup bed welded to the back – and like all old Vee-Dubs, it’s become a darling of the Dubbing scene. Not so much used for work these days, as play.
As the prices of good, original Mk1 Golfs continue to rise, enthusiasts are clamouring to get their hands on good examples. Buyers in South Africa could still buy them brand new until 2009, however – well, to a point. The CitiGolf may look like a Mk1 on the outside, but it’s still easy to spot the updates. It’s a parts-bin mash-up of various generations of VW, (Golf, Polo, and even a dashboard from the first-generation Skoda Fabia) but it’s still not quite the same as owning a mint original.
Box arches are cool: Just see the Lancia Delta Integrale or E30 BMW M3 for proof. One of the coolest Golfs ever made also wore box arches – the Rallye Golf. Based on the GTI’s engine, the Rallye featured a supercharger, bumping power up to 161 bhp. Only 5,000 were made, and each cost twice that of a contemporary GTI.
All-wheel drive Golfs have been a popular addition to the Golf range in recent decades, most commonly under the ‘4MOTION’ tag. But it all started with the Golf Syncro in 1986, which paired a 1.8-litre engine with a four-wheel drive system, directing power between the axles with a viscous coupling. Only 26,000 Syncros were built between 1986 and 1989, so they’re hard to find nowadays.
Want an all-wheel drive Golf, but just a little more serious than the Syncro? You’ll want a Golf Country then, only 3,000 of which were made. In addition to four-wheel drive, each Country also got raised suspension, bullbars, under-body protection, and a spare wheel mounted on the back of the car. If you thought crossovers like the Volkswagen Tiguan were a recent concept, think again!
If you thought electric cars were a new idea, then you’re wrong. Back in the 1980s, Volkswagen experimented with a fleet of electric Mk2 Golfs, known as the CitySTROMer. ‘Stromer’ apparently originates from the German word ‘Strom’, or ‘current’ in electric-speak. Range was only 31 miles, but next to contemporary vehicles the clean electric motor must have been a breath of fresh air.
Around a hundred were made, and only two in right-hand drive – one of which is now being restored at the hands of Volkswagen UK. Even less known is that VW made Mk1 and Mk3 electric Golfs, too.
You might have seen the occasional Polo Harlequin driving around in the UK, but Golfs are much harder to come by. Some may say that’s a good thing – the Harlequin isn’t the most subtle of vehicles, with a mixture of Tornado Red, Ginster Yellow, Pistachio Green and Chagall Blue body panels, with four different variations depending on the car’s base colour. Still, it was a good way of making one of the most numerous vehicles on the roads stand out a little.
European Tour Editions
There’s even less mechanically special with the European Tour Editions than there is with the Harlequin – style over substance is the order of the day here. But we couldn’t resist including them – not with dad-rock legends Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi each getting a special edition Golf Mk3 named after them in the mid-90s…
More than just a road running from Merseyside to Yorkshire, the A59 is also a little-known Golf – and quite a special one, at that. With wide arches, four-wheel drive and 275 horses at its disposal, it’s a precursor to recent hot Golfs like the Golf R – and would have been a worthy rival in the 1990s to cars like the Escort Cosworth and Lancia Delta Integrale – but sadly, it was canned after just two prototypes. Still, that makes it one of the rarest ever Golfs.
Golf GTI W12-650
If you’re VW, you probably have a lot of spare engines knocking about in workshops across the globe. If you’re a VW engineer, it’s probably quite difficult not to look at one such lonely engine and think, “Hmm… I reckon that’d fit in the back of a Golf”. That must have been the thought process for cramming VW’s W12 engine – commonly found in Bentley Continentals – into a widened Golf Mk5 body. And yes, ‘650’ refers to the output (in PS). The results? Absolutely barmy, naturally.
Golf Blue e-Motion
Volkswagen’s most recent attempt at an electric-powered Golf is the Blue e-Motion. Daft name, but this previews a possible future Golf electric car, and test fleets have been running around for a few years now. If you’re keen on the idea of owning an electric family car, but don’t like the limited choice (There’s the Nissan Leaf, and… well… the Nissan Leaf) then a ‘leccy-powered Golf could be right up your street.