4×4 Hatchback: 1990 Volkswagen Golf Country

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Steyr-Daimler-Puch is not a company name that immediately springs to mind when discussing interesting or classic cars, but this was a company that had quite a history of developing interesting and innovative 4-wheel drive systems. When a company like Volkswagen took the plunge and enlisted them to develop an all-wheel-drive off-roader, the result was certain to be something interesting. Known as the Golf Country Synchro, this was an AWD crossover vehicle that is relatively obscure, but was still groundbreaking. Only around 7,700 of these little cars were built, so they don’t appear on the market very often. This one is located in Cleveland, Georgia, and is listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set a BIN price if $12,900 for the Golf, but there is also the option available to make an offer.

Let’s start with the obvious, that being the fact that the Golf Country has substantially more ground clearance than your average Golf. In this guise, the vehicle has more than 8″ of ground clearance, and that alone is guaranteed to make the car stand out in a crowd. Apart from the tubular bumpers, the external spare wheel carrier, a sump guard, and wheel-arch flares, the rest of the body is standard Golf fare. This one is in quite nice condition, with a small amount of surface corrosion being the only obvious signs of rust. The paint looks good, and even the decals have held up well over the years. The Golf is fitted with a sunroof, while the Borbet alloy wheels are not original.

Under the hood, things are quite deceptive. What lurks there is a standard 1.8-liter 4-cylinder Golf engine, which is hooked to a 5-speed manual transmission. From here things take a pretty decent turn. Power is delivered, as per normal, to the front wheels. However, Steyr-Daimler-Puch fitted the vehicle with a viscous-couple differential, and when this detects wheel slip at the front, it can send up to 50% of the drive to the rear wheels. It’s a very clever system and was quite innovative in a car built in 1990. The Golf has covered 221,000 kilometers, which is around 132,000 miles. This probably shouldn’t be an issue, as the Golf is renowned for its mechanical longevity, while the AWD components should be virtually bullet-proof.

If you’re going to be bouncing around off-road, you really need seats that will hold you firmly in place, and the seats in this Golf would certainly do that. Being heavily bolstered seats of this age, wear was always going to be the enemy. This car has obviously experienced this phenomenon due to the patches that have been fitted to the outer bolsters on both seats. While the rest of the interior looks quite good, the headliner looks to be ready to be replaced. Creature comforts in the Golf extend to an AM/FM radio/cassette player, power windows, power locks, air conditioning, and the previously mentioned sunroof. Looking at the overall picture, the interior looks quite good for a vehicle of this age and mileage. It really seems that if you had new covers fitted to the seats and a new headliner, it would actually be close to faultless inside.

There is no doubt that this is a very different vehicle to your standard Golf. It should combine the usual Golf reliability with some pretty robust 3rd party engineering ability. I have had some personal experience with Steyr-Daimler-Puch engineering via the Haflinger 4-wheel drive, and this not only proved to be a robust vehicle, but it seemed to be capable of climbing everything except the north face of Mount Everest! This Golf will not have those sorts of capabilities, but it should be able to acquit itself quite well in most circumstances. It would be an interesting vehicle to own because it so beautifully combines all of the positive attributes of an off-roader with the attributes of a family hatchback. It would also grab plenty of attention wherever it went.

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  1. Cooter914 Cooter914Member

    I love how VW was the first to use those street rod power window switches that look just like crank handles. 👀

    Like 8
    • JustTheCaptain


      Like 2
  2. Stephen

    It would be great to find one that’s in great mechanical condition but rusted out etc.
    Pull the running gear etc and put it into a convertible golf.

    Like 0
  3. Tim

    There’s no “h” in “Syncro”…

    Like 1
  4. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    Not seen many of these in the flesh over the years, thats for sure.

    Like 1
  5. Gay Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking VW Golf. I remember when the Golf looked like this. For some reason, it was never offered with Syncro 4wd here in the USA. It might have costed more money to buy, but if you can afford a Syncro Vanagon or a Passat (Quantum), you can possibly afford a Syncro Golf.

    Like 0
  6. Danton J A Cardoso

    Funny how most of them are in that Scope mouthwash green.

    Like 0
  7. RITON

    I don’t see a clue to air con in the engine compartment?

    Like 1

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