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Some People Have Seriously Weird Automotive Obsessions

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There's no accounting for taste when it comes to the Volkswagen Golf Harlequin.

The Germans are known for making solid cars, but they're also known for a zany character that often seems at odds with their typically Teutonic seriousness. In few instances have those two come together as symbiotically as in the Volkswagen Golf Harlequin, and it's bred some rather dedicated fans – like Ross Cupples.

The story of the Harlequin project stems back to a print ad that VW ran in 1964. To showcase how interchangeable its body panels were, the advertisement depicted a Beetle in a patchwork mosaic of different colors.

The ad proved so memorable that, in 1995, the automaker did up a special run of Polo hatchbacks with mixed-color bodywork. The Polo Harlekin proved so popular that VW ended up making some 3,100 of them – and it didn't leave the Americans out of the oddball action, either. Following the European version, Volkswagen offered a limited number of Golf Harlequins based on the third-generation model. Like the Polo, each stemmed from one of four "base colors" that you can still identify from the roof, C-pillars, and rocker panels, swapping in the doors, hood, bumpers, front fenders, grille, mirror caps, and tailgate from the others.

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All told, 264 examples were originally made, and Cupples – a used-car dealer in New Hampshire – has collected five of them: one each in Ginster Yellow, Tornado Red and Chagall Blue, and two in Pistachio Green. And in the process of researching then, he's tracked down over a hundred more, recording them in an online registry.

"I think a lot of people who are into them really like the head-turning aspect of them. It takes a certain kind of person to own one," said Cupples. "When you drive a Harlequin, nobody doesn't look at you and smile. You're driving something that makes people really happy."

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