In its more than 40 years of production, the Golf hatchback family tree has branched in numerous ways – from the original Volkswagen Pickup and wagon variants to the Golf GTI and R. In Europe, the second-generation Golf spawned the Golf Country, an all-wheel-drive version with a rugged look that presaged the current crossover era.
But a small Italian company took that evolution a step further – some may say a step too far – by creating a rare model drawn from the Golf family.
Inspired by the Meyers Manx, Volkswagen Thing and other fun-in-the-sun models, the Biagini Passo was essentially the chassis of the Mk 2 Golf Country blended with a reworked body shell of a Mk 1 Golf Cabriolet. With headlights and taillights borrowed from other manufacturers, a raised ride height and an external bull bar, the Passo looked like nothing else. It could hold five people with its top down, although the speed at which they traveled were limited by the 1.8-liter four-cylinder’s 98 hp.
Initially destined for central and eastern Europe, it’s not clear how many Passos were built after its launch in 1990; some sources say 300, others, well less than 100. It’s abundantly clear that today, few Passos remain in drivable condition, as a lack of rustproofing doomed many to the junk heap.
Yet the basic concept of the Passo – top down, go-anywhere fun – may be more popular than ever. In Europe, there’s a spiritual successor of sorts with the Volkswagen T-Roc Convertible, and as the ID. BUGGY concept demonstrates, the electric future has plenty of potential for open-air driving enjoyment.