There’s ‘Marmite’ cars and then there’s MARMITE cars. Some of its detractors probably dismiss the VW Polo Harlequin as the Jared Leto of the car world. While others view it with the same rose-tinted spectacles that some look upon BMW’s iconic ‘Art Cars’. Some have even received the full tuning treatment. Either way, there’s no denying that the VW Polo Harlequin makes for a visually arresting sight.
25 years ago few of us had heard of Google. Yet everyone recognised the Gallagher brothers. Here in the UK Britpop was riding a crest of a wave. But over in Germany something equally as colourful in terms of design language was making its own style statement. The VW Polo Harlequin.
For rarity value alone, the Polo Harlequin (spelt, ‘Harlekin’ for its German audience) is up there. Even at launch there were just 3,800 ever manufactured. Which was an increase over the originally slated run out of a mere 1,000 examples of the eclectically-coloured genre. Colours which are technically listed as Flash Red, Ginster Yellow, Pistachio Green and Chagall Blue.
Whilst in 2021 there are just 22 surviving VW Polo Harlequins in use on UK roads.
Once You See a VW Polo Harlequin You Can’t ‘Unsee’ It
Released in Europe in 1995, a year later some 2,500 of the techni-coated Veedubs turned up on our shores in right-hand drive form. Arguably – and shockingly – a quarter of a century ago now. And we continued accepting them until 1998. When the production run came to an abrupt end.
Featuring multi-coloured exterior body panels, the ‘acquired taste’ Harlequin also benefited from a contrasting interior. Consisting of ‘Joker’ patterned seat fabric and a bespoke gear knob and steering wheel combo. Meanwhile the Harlequin was made available in the singular engine choice. VW’s erstwhile 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine.
Where Did the Inspiration Come From?
This is slightly controversial. Well, contested at least.
With some camps believing that the original car launched over two decades ago was brought to fruition purely as a marketing ploy. To promote the (then) imminent arrival of the third generation VW Polo in 1994.
Although another story also regularly does the rounds offering a different slant on things. Advocates confidently suggesting that this was inspired by that other iconic Volkswagen. The old VW Beetle.
Apparently there was a printed magazine ad back in the day which depicted a Beetle in various different coloured body panels.
This was ‘a thing’ which VW did to flag up the Beetle’s peerless levels of design continuity. The PR spin being that the separate coloured panels were alleged to have been sourced from numerous different Beetle’s collated from different model years. Emphasising the perfectly seamless fit of the Beetle’s enduringly timeless design over the years.
Sorry. You Want To Know What The Original Base Colour Was?
You could be forgiven for not being aware of exactly ‘what’ colour a Polo Harlequin was when it started life. Given the degree of shared exterior panels. However, there is a sure-fire way of determining what the base colour was when it first came off Volkswagen’s assembly line in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Experts in Harlequin hacks tell us that you can establish the precise base colour by checking out the door sills and the engine compartment. Which never lies.
So there you have it.
Any Other Interesting Facts I Should Be Made Aware Of?
Not so much interesting. More a case of ‘really?’
That being the general response on learning that fast food giant, McDonald’s gave away some 500 Polo Harlequins to burger fans during their production run. And to this very day, in Germany the cars are forever associated with Maccie D’s.
Apparently, all you had to do was match 6 individual photos of the Polo to create a complete Harlequin. Photos which diners would receive in with their McDonald’s orders throughout the official promotion. These competition winners’ names would subsequently be entered into a lottery.
After which some 500 people were handed the keys to a brand new Harlequin.
Interesting Fact 2
The VW Polo Harlequin has the ever happy, relentlessly mischievous, acrobatic and, of course, colourfully dressed figure from the Italian Commedia Dell’Arte to thank for its name.
A bit like a court jester from back in yon day. For those who didn’t receive the memo.
Interesting Fact 3
Although we never say never.
And never actually know if and when one of the 22 Harlequin’s left on UK roads might pop in for an MOT or service. Or to have diagnostics run on it or to undergo specific repairs. Either way, it would be a pleasure to see one in the (variously coloured) metal on our ramps.
What we are no stranger to whatsoever though, is YOUR car. By which we mean the entire VW & Audi Group family of makes and models. Including anything and everything with a Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, Seat, Bentley or Porsche badge on the boot and grille.
On which note, please don’t hesitate to get in touch today. Should your VAG vehicle requires ANY work carried out on it.