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VW Golf A59 - The Hottest Of Hot Hatches That Never Was

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

It might sound like an instantly forgettable dual carriageway geographically situated somewhere in the wastelands of East Anglia, yet conversely the A59 conveys an almost mythical aura to those in the Veedub know. Tragically consigned to automotive history as the ultimate 'hot hatch that never was'.

We might have since enjoyed the revered likes of the Golf Rallye, the VR6, the seminal R32 and more recently, the ‘R’ (not to mention a handful of pocket rocket fellow Golfs which live long in the memory to those of a boy/girl racing persuasion - the MKII GTi 16v being right up there for the puritans), yet there’s one example of the genre which is pure unicorn.

And that’s the little-known VW Golf A59.

Looking for all intents and purpose like a seriously roided’ up MK3 Golf, this otherwise unexceptional three-door Volkswagen hatchback is as lesser spotted as Nessie and Big Foot. Not least because there’s only three in existence. Or thereabouts.

Along with the original prototype, Car One is displayed in VW’s dedicated museum located at its Wolfsburg HQ. While elsewhere in captivity, mystery/controversy still surrounds the possibility of two other A59 shells. And numerous bodykits, and even a lost wind tunnel project.

Why are we even bothered about this right now?

Largely because VW took it to the iconic SEMA 2022 show, where it captured the hearts and minds of proper petrolheads in attendance. Demanding significantly more interest than the EV toys that VW had also taken to Las Vegas at the tail end of last year.

Are We Talking Veedub Skunkwerks?....

Not exactly.

More a case of Wolfsburg taking its ‘beef’ to Subaru’s all-conquering Impreza WRX STi and its long term sparring partner, the Mitsubishi Evo (insert various numericals HERE).

Not quite a clandestine skunkwerks project, whereby Veedub’s boffins were moonlighting, yet still a semi-secretive development programme with the directive to construct a bona fide WRC contender as its seeming end game.

What Volkswagen did achieve - arguably by accident rather than design when everything’s tallied up - is the creation of one of the most impressive Golf’s of all time. And a vehicle which ultimately paved the way for the onset of the subsequent R32 autobahn-stormer.

But Where Does The Story Begin?

As where most of these things start.

With either a marketing think tank session or a feasibility study.

So creative bods or statistical bods get their ‘grey matter on’ and conduct some inside and outside the box ruminating. Some blue sky will probably put in an appearance too.

To cut to the chase, VW’s boffins set about working out how they were going to design and construct a Golf which was capable of bringing the 1994 World Rally Championship title back to Wolfsburg.

And there, right at the very epicentre of all this pontification was an otherwise erstwhile Mk3 Golf. Only it wasn’t what anyone would casually refer to as unassuming.

With its game-changing all-aluminium engine mated to a 6-speed transmission which operated in conjunction with electronically-controlled differentials. Overlooking Volkswagen’s previous reliance on its contemporary Syncro four-wheel drive system, as fitted to the Golf Rallye. And which pointed in a future Haldex direction.

Oh, and it had a turbocharger and was all-wheel driven too. This prototype was honed in close collaboration with independent racing outfit, Schmidt Motorsport, and was handed the codename, A59.

Veedub’s newest bedfellows ventured down the path of square bored 1998cc enlightenment, teasing more revs than the tried and tested 1984cc 16v power plant that Volkswagen had hitherto ran with. They also decided to bolt a Garrett T3 turbo to the side of said unit, which in turn generated a squeaky bum-inducing 275bhp.

That Was The Engine Box Ticked. But What About The Exterior And Interior Bits And Bobs?

From the outside the Golf A59 was way more Hulk than Bruce Banner. With subtlety taking a back seat.

If you should squint, then there’s very much an early air of MK4 Golf to the rear elevations.

A unique fusion of carbon and Kevlar were facilitated from the outset for the exterior build, whilst the inner sanctum was characterised by the presence of an integral roll cage, a digital dashboard and figure-hugging Recaro A8 bucket seats.

Here’s Where The Story Ends

So, what went wrong?

Well, money went wrong. Funding. Cash pot. Etc.

It’s difficult to believe that an automotive behemoth like Volkswagen wouldn’t be able to bank-roll a project like the A59, but clearly it couldn’t at the time of asking. Ironically Veedub had been given the green light by the powers that be to push ahead with the 2500 road cars which needed piecing together to legally comply with WRC homologation rules. They also had an order placed for the necessary parts.

However, in the immediate aftermath of building a prototype and (rumour has it) a few early examples, the funding suddenly dried up. Financial restraints resulting in Project A59 being shelved.

Which is all the more galling when you think of what might have been. In a time and place where Ford’s Escort Cosworth, Lancia’s Delta Integrale and the aforementioned and seminal Impreza WRX of Subaru otherwise reigned supreme.

All Roads Lead To WCC. The A59 Notwithstanding

Our experienced technicians work on a variety of Volkswagen Golf’s day in, day out here at WCC. And whilst we’re not expecting to see an A59 rock up any time soon, we do regularly entertain the likes of R32’s and ‘R’s’.

Which have been booked in for a plethora of servicing and repairs work.

Get in touch today should your Volkswagen Golf require absolutely anything.

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