If it had pushed ahead with production of its steroid pumping Mk3 Rallye Golf A59, VW could have become a key player on the motorsport scene in the early nineties. Not only that, but the Mk3 Golf as a whole could have enjoyed a far rosier fate. Here’s the story of what might have been Wolfsburg’s take on the Mitsubishi Evo.
Although VW had officially dropped out of involvement in rallying in the late 1980s, that didn’t mean it wasn’t keeping a beady eye on what other manufacturers were doing. Or indeed secretively developing its own rally car contender and arguably one of the most impressive Golfs of all time…
And this is how it almost happened. In 1992, VW embarked on a feasibility study with the objective of designing a Golf that was capable of winning the 1994 World Rally Championship. At the heart of the build was a Mk3 Golf with four-wheel drive and a turbocharger. Schmidt Motorsport (SMS) was roped in to develop a prototype, and the car was given the codename A59.
Instead of using the VW’s existing 1984cc 16v unit, Schmidt developed a more revvy square bore 1998cc design of its own, bolting on a Garrett T3 turbo to produce a buttock clenching 275bhp. In a quest for motorsport dominance the firm also overlooked VW’s contemporary Syncro four-wheel drive fitted to the Rallye in favour of a bespoke electronic affair which ended up more like the Haldex system VW adopted later on. The bodywork itself was equally innovative with some panels made of a unique blend of carbon and Kevlar, while other features included an integral rollcage, hip hugging Recaro A8 bucket seats and a digital dashboard.
There’s no doubt the A59 could have been a gamechanger for VW, and if a production model had been made available it would have offset the disappointment felt by Golf fans at the time who were critical of the Mk3’s less sporty character.
As an enigmatic reminder of what might have been, the A59 could have indeed been the Escort Cosworth, Lancia Delta Integrale or the Subaru Impreza WRX of its time. We had the Mk3 VR6 of course, but that was never really meant for serious competition. As for A59 survivors, journalist Chris Eyre has only recently explored a number of long held myths. It turns out SMS still has the original prototype, car One is displayed in Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg museum and there are thought to be two other cars/shells still in existance along with a number of bodykits and a lost wind tunnel prototype…
VOLKSWAGEN Rallye Golf A59 PROTOTYPE/
Engine: 1,998cc four-cylinder, turbocharged/
Power: 275hp @ 6,000rpm/
Torque: 273lb ft @ 3,500rpm/
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds (est)/
Top speed: na/
Price: …and another na…/