If you were to open the September 1991 issue of Popular Mechanics and turn to page 12, you'd see at the very bottom of the page a cheeky-looking yellow Volkswagen. The Vario I, with its mad-patterned upholstery, was the one the editors chose to illustrate a caption for both Vario I and II. They said:
"Designed by German art students and built under a Volkswagen-funded "Fun Car" project, the Vario I and its sister concept car Vario II will feature four-wheel drive, offer a variety of engine options, and rest on the already-proven VW Golf Syncro chassis. VW could offer the bare platform for sale to specialist body makers for building low-volume niche cars."
Oh—oh, I see. Volkswagen would be lending its chassis to specialist body makers? Ok. Like that would ever happen. Actually, with the company's new MQB platforms, it's a trend they're sort of following…at least internally.
What students came up with in 1991, though, were more extreme: one beach car and, in the case of the Vario II, a convertible-coupe with retractable hard top and rumble seat. Hard to imagine now in the days of everything-is-the-same Volkswagen, isn't it? (And hard to imagine having a hard surface for the rear passengers to whack their heads off of during hard braking…)
I still can't figure out how the top works exactly—I think the second opening for the rumble seat is throwing me off. Anyway, if this had the standard Golf Syncro drivetrain: 97 horsepower, all-wheel-drive, and a top speed of 170 km/h (105 mph). I think it'd be a pretty entertaining car, sort of like a lower and better-handling Suzuki X90.
It seems as though these sorts of wild vehicles are few and far between these days, and that's a shame. I'm sure someone out there would want to have this in their driveway…right?