It combines Golf Mk 1 and Mk 2 parts, a Fiat Panda's headlights, and AWD.
As the venerable Volkswagen Golf enters its eighth generation this year, it remains one of the most instantly recognizable nameplates in automotive history. But long before today's refined, posh Golf 8, a much more rugged - and exceedingly strange - offshoot of the Golf was built, as shared by Volkswagen in a nostalgic media release. Except, you wouldn't know it was a Golf at all. Called the Biagini Passo, an Italian company built it by combining the revised body shell of a Mk 1 Golf Cabriolet with the chassis taken from the Mk 2 Golf Country.
The Mk 2 Golf Country was already an unusual small car for the time. Sold in Europe, it sported all-wheel-drive and more rugged styling, making it somewhat of a precursor to the crossover segment that we know today. Still, it wasn't as weird as the Biagini Passo.
It really does take a closer look at the Passo to pick up the similarities to the Golf 1, such as the door handles and the glasshouse. But the square headlights are totally different to the Golf 1's circular items, as is the rear design. Like many a modern crossover, the Passo had a raised ride height and black plastic cladding around the wheel arches. The external bull bar is an amusing sight on such a small vehicle.
However, the tough looks weren't just for show, as the Passo featured Syncro all-wheel-drive (as made clear by a badge on the B-pillar) - the Syncro system was also used on the VW Vanagon which was so popular in the US back in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine produced just 98 horsepower, so it wasn't especially nippy.
The Meyers Manx dune buggy is said to also have inspired the Passo. This, together with its styling elements from the likes of the Fiat Panda and Opel Kadett, along with a body/chassis from two different generations of the Golf, make the Passo a truly bizarre automotive hodgepodge. It's no surprise that an Italian company had the vision to put it all together, considering the weird and wonderful creations that have come out of that country.
Production numbers are unclear, with some claiming that up to 300 were built. However, poor corrosion protection means that the Passo wasn't as tough as it appeared. If a classic Volkswagen convertible is what you want, you'd be better off with the Golf Mk 1 Cabriolet. Or if you prefer a more modern twist on your drop-top, the new Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet... if only we can get VW to bring it here.