Theme: Special – Golf Mk3 Special Editions

What a year for cars. VW Golf Mk3 replaced the Mk2 in 1991. What made it special?

1994 VW Golf New Orleans: wikipedia.org
1994 VW Golf New Orleans: wikipedia.org

Car magazine in 1994 deemed the Mk3 (as a VR6) sufficiently poorly made to warrant the re-use of their “Lemon” cover, first used in 1973. It’s interesting that Car would make a long-term test the subject of a whole front cover when they also had the opportunity to put an Aston Martin Vantage and Ferrari 456GT up front. That was then.

Perhaps criticism of the Mk3’s quality lay behind VW’s decision to launch a raft of special editions. Part of the promotional push involved sponsoring three stadium-scaled tours. In 1994 Pink Floyd received a subsidy, money which eventually might have ended up preserving David Gilmour’s collection of Ferraris. The Rolling Stones’ subvention came in 1995. And for 1996, Bon Jovi enjoyed the monetary largesse of VW’s PR department. VW designed special vinyl stickers to

VW Golf Bon Jovi edition: source
VW Golf Bon Jovi edition: source

garnish the special editions associated with the tours. A surprising number of these vehicles can still be seen so there must have been a lot of them made. Of the set, I have seen most Bon Jovi versions with the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd a distant second and third. While the graphics of the Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi labels are remarkably artless, the Bon Jovi sticker is in quite serious capital letters with a tiny, tiny extra serif on the “B” to hint at the goth inclinations of heavy rockers.

VW produced a few more special editions, unassociated with stadium filling rock bands. The New Orleans, Movie, Savoy, Avenue and Europe editions celebrate nothing in particular. The “Special” special edition must be where the PR people gave up thinking of harmless-sound names.

VW Golf Mk3 Rolling Stones: source
VW Golf Mk3 Rolling Stones: source

The customary role of special editions is to find a way to label a version with a discounted assembly of options. It’s a notch below the trim designation where there really must be a proper 3D badge made. A trim designation must have some unique aspect beyond a paint colour and upholstery. The Wolfsburg edition nearly meets those criteria. It came with the 2.0 litre engine, a white-tan interior and, crucially here, smoked tail lamps which (I am assuming here furiously) were not available on other Golfs.

Volkswagen-Trek bike. A car came free with this: source
Volkswagen-Trek bike. A car came free with this: source

For 1997 VW nearly went down the American path of fitted, branded luggage. They veered off and linker their name to Trek and K2 sports goods. Customers of the K2 edition got a set of skis or a snowboard. Trek edition customers had a bike rack, and a VW-Trek bike. Naturally these cars had limited edition stickers to commemorate the whole deal. There were unique seating trims and fog lights too.

The big question now is, can you still find all this stuff? What would it cost to collect the entire set?  I went looking in the used car ads to see if a particularly OCD person could gather one of each of these automotive jewels. In the next instalment I will trace a route across Europe in search of the set and try to estimate the cost of the travel and transport too.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

15 thoughts on “Theme: Special – Golf Mk3 Special Editions”

  1. “In 1994 Pink Floyd received a subsidy, money which eventually might have ended up preserving David Gilmour´s collection of Ferraris.”

    I think you mean Nick Mason.

  2. Yes, I believe David Gilmour prefers to spend his money on classic houseboats.

    Our Editor is possibly not terribly good at distinguishing sub-genres in the world of popular music. Perhaps Bon Jovi and Pink Floyd were two of the ‘boy bands’ he was considering in his introduction.

    1. No, Laurent, I was referring to Simon’s theme introduction. Mr Kearne’s hand is still firmly on the DTW tiller, the rest of of just scurry around in his illustrious shadow clearing away the empty bottles.

  3. Re the graphics adorning the VW ‘rock’ specials, I very much doubt VW had any siginficant input there. The logos and typefaces were lifted from the bands’ own artwork in all cases.

  4. It appears as though pretty much all surviving Mk 3 Golfs are either of the formerly dark red/presently matte bright red variety or one of the special editions mentioned above.

    The Europe, by the way – and if memory serves me correct -, was the cheapest entry into the Golf Realm, as it was cheaper than the base model.

    The reason for this mania could very well be that Carl H. Hahn was a closet rock enthusiast and eager to shake Bon Jovi’s hand, but just too shy to admit it in a straightforward manner.

    1. Interesting theory Kris, one which could suggest the ‘Europe’ special edition was in fact a tribute to the popular Swedish rock combo of ‘Final Countdown’ fame.
      Wasn’t there a Polo ‘Genesis’ as well? Perhaps Hahn was also a closet progressive rock fan. How about a Passat ‘Yes’ Rick Wakeman signature edition?

    2. More disconcertingly, there was even a concept car called ‘Scooter’, which may or may not have inspired the German techno ‘musicians’ of the same name to pursue a show biz career. Who’d have guessed by Mr Hahn’s dignified appearance that he was, in fact, paving the way for this particularly lamentable kind of you music?

    3. There really was ‘no limit’ to VW’s patronage of pop acts during the 1990’s. Who can forget the VW Lupo ‘Two Unlimited’ special edition, in honour of the legendary Dutch techno Techno techno act?

      Oh hang on. I think I just imagined that. Sorry…

    4. I believe one of the first things Bernd Pischetsrieder did when taking the reins at Rover was to cancel development of the Mr Blobby Special Edition intended to be released as the pinnacle of the R3 Rover 200 range.

    5. There was indeed a Polo Genesis, using script taken from the Invisible Touch tour. From memory, all these special editions were launched to coincide with global (or, at least, very long) tours by said bands. I wonder if Phil and Co (Tony Banks must hate people writing that – Genesis was his band, really) felt diminished by having their name attached to a smaller vehicle?

    6. Eoin, the Golf III would’ve been a fare more worthy case for a ‘2Untalented’ edition, wouldn’t it? The poor li’l Lupo.

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