Volkswagen Golf Country


I think my problem with Volkswagen is that it never lives up to my expectations of Volkswagen. It's a brand I want to love: it's both a halfway house for members of the Porsche family and pretty much the only carmaker to reshape automotive advertising in the image of its image.

Hell, old Volkswagen ads are still so good I'd buy a 1964 Beetle today on the merits of "Snow Plow" alone, if only it was a matter of walking down to the Volkswagen dealer. 

I would have probably bought an Up! instead of the Abarth, had it been available in Canada. A Golf? A bit too…unenthusiastic. It's nice when a car seems to make an effort, y'know? Anyway, for all the brilliance put out under the VW roundel, few that I've driven have excited or interested me.

One I feel may be right up my alley, however, is the Golf Country, a ruggedized, zombie bug-out express that was first shown in 1989. I'm not sure if the Geneva Motor Show attendees were fully aware of the brilliance before them, as the Country was, essentially, a limited-production off-road special built underneath a compact car.

Steyr-Puch was subcontracted to build the car, by bolting a standard Golf CL Syncro body onto a steel chassis, complete with completely revised suspension. The site has a great overview of the car, but what I'm interested in here is the Country GTI.

The standard engine would have been a 96 horsepower 1.8-litre 4-cylinder, but apparently, 50 examples were fitted with the GTI's motor—an easy enough request to ask a subcontractor to fulfill. With just 11 more horsepower from the GTI's 1.6-litre 4-cylinder, you'd be getting a characterful off-roader…if you can find one. I haven't even been able to locate a photo of one, and it's unlikely it would have received the full press photo treatment as a secret special edition.

Produced from 1990 until 1991, just 7,735 Country models were brought into existence. Owing to a hard life spent taking German, Swiss, and other European hunters through the bush, the number today in great condition is dwindling by the year. Spare parts? Maybe we can start some sort of "Adopt-A-Country" campaign.

One I'd sponsor was the first I'd ever seen, on a backroad in Germany. I almost crashed from surprise, actually, as opposite the Country was a narrow-nose Ssangyong Korando; it was as if my oddball off-road fantasy garage had been willed into existence right before my eyes. I'm sure an Isuzu VehiCROSS, Subaru Impreza WRX Gravel Express, and Bertone Freeclimber were just out of view. 

If you think the Country is cool, wait 'til you learn about the Subaru Impreza WRX Gravel Express.

Want one? Here's a search on that should work well.