the Techno Classica Show in Essen. Created for VW by Schmidt Motorsport (SMS), the same concern behind the all-conquering Audi V8 DTM cars that decimated all opposition in 1990 and 1991, the A59 piles mystery upon mystery when you start to delve into its story.
Originally conceived as a Group A/Group N contender for the World Rally Championship in the early 1990s, the A59 ought to have spawned a production run of 2,500 road cars in order to homologate it for WRC competition. But the project was canned with only two prototypes built. So what happened? Rumour has it that the axe was wielded by none other than Dr Piech himself, but the precise reasons why will perhaps forever remain a mystery.
There were certainly no half measures when it came to the car's specification - possibly one of the reasons the project met its end in the wobbly financial climate of the early 1990s. For example, instead of using VW's existing 1,984cc 16-valve unit (an undersquare engine and thus unsuited to the rev-hungry demands of motorsport), SMS came up with an entirely fresh-from-the-cylinders-up 1,998cc design with a dead-on-square 86mm bore and 86mm stroke. Then there was the four-wheel-drive system that was an entirely different one to the then-current Syncro set-up and more like the Haldex system VW later adopted.
And we haven't yet mentioned the unique carbon-Kevlar bodywork, nor the integral roll cage, nor the expensively crafted bucket seats. For a near-as-dammit unique prototype it is an astonishingly well-finished product in places - a clear indication about how serious VW must have been, at least at one point.
It's at this point that we'd start to tell you what this very special Golf is like to drive. Except we didn't get to go anywhere in the driving seat, as the car popped a left-rear driveshaft during a spirited spot of acceleration (and if you're wondering just how spirited, think 0-60mph in the low fives or possibly even high fours), leaving us with a distinctly ill-sounding museum exhibit.
What might have been
Sadly, of course, it was not to be. Whatever the cause of its death, the axing of the rally programme meant that this particular car spent a little time as a Nurburgring hack (quite for what purpose we're not sure) and then sat in the corner of a museum, pretty much unknown and disregarded for the best part of 15 years.
VOLKSWAGEN 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...