It’s not the obvious choice for someone who suffers from shyness or social anxiety, but this colourful Harlequin tribute has helped Amy Jaine Stanton realise her inner-strength. Here, she tells Charlotte Vowden how ownership of a conspicuous car can help elevate your confidence.
If the rumours are true, it was a group of trainees that came up with the idea for Volkswagen’s four-colour Polo. Its mission was to showcase the car’s modularity and personalisation options and following its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1995, around 3806 Polo Harlequins were made. Today, there are less than 20 brightening the UK’s roads, but this patchwork-panelled Lupo, a homage to the original, is doing its iconic doppelganger justice…
“My multicoloured Lupo looks like a Lego creation, it’s the colours that drew me to it, but for a shy person I bought the wrong car because it gets a lot of attention. Seeing people smile is nice though and no matter what the weather is doing I love that it has the ability to brighten someone’s day – including mine.
When Volkswagen made the Harlequin special edition cars [to advertise their different paint schemes back in the nineties] they didn’t do a Lupo version so mine is a tribute. They used four colours for UK cars – Pistachio Green, Ginster Yellow, Flash Red (but mine is Tornado Red, an American shade) and Chagall Blue – in four different colour combinations, but the pattern would be the same, for example the front doors and front bumper would always match. Would I ever go rogue and get mine re-sprayed? I would yeah but only to turn it from a red-based design to a yellow one.
Harlequins have got a massive cult following so people that know about them know mine’s not real but it still gets respected when I take it to VW shows. I love showing off my car, it’s a good conversation starter and finding people that have the same interest has helped with my anxiety, but what’s good about shows is that if I’m having a really scary day I can park it up and walk away. On days when I’m feeling really anxious I won’t even drive it because I know people will look, but my aim is to get it out there more. I don’t want to be shy.
The Lupo, a rare 1.4 turbo diesel, is my third Harlequin car, which hopefully means it’ll be third time lucky because I wasn’t so lucky with the others. I sold my first car, a yellow Peugeot 107, for an original ‘95 Polo Harlequin because I saw it, I wanted it and I needed it; that’s how the obsession began. It was ropey (full of rust and modified, but not in a good way) but it was my pride and joy until someone drove into me at a roundabout and wrote it off – their excuse was they didn’t see it! I was gutted, it felt like my world had collapsed and I couldn’t watch when it was taken away but I did salvage a few bits to sell, including the bumpers, steering wheel and rear lights. Those parts have helped other cars live on, it’s a silver lining. My next Harlequin was a ’96 Polo. It had all sorts of problems and I became scared to drive it, which was heartbreaking, so I sold it on.
When I found my Lupo online, I took the risk of buying it for £3,000 without seeing it, which could have been a bad decision but it’s worked out quite well, luckily! It’s a real gem. Driving it home from Cornwall to Bracknell was nerve-wracking because I’d never driven a diesel before without kangarooing along the road. It was getting dark and pouring with rain so I went very slowly, it took hours, but it felt like I’d achieved something unbelievable.
Apart from the Harlequin colours (which are much brighter in person) it’s changed completely since I picked it up as a standard Lupo three years ago. Modified cars are 100% my thing. I like seeing what other people have done but I want my car to be different; the Votex grille is apparently one of two in the UK and it’s the first Lupo I’ve seen with colour-coded wind deflectors. Every time I say I’m done, I find something else to do.
The most expensive custom parts were the ABT body kit, which included the spoiler, side skirts, rear lights and bumper for £800, and the replica Ferrari wheels which were about £250. I don’t get my nails or hair done, I don’t buy handbags, my money goes towards the car. I find the rare parts online, like the limited-edition gear knob from We Are Likewise, but I’m always popping into my local scrap yard, A1 Car Spares to see what’s come in.
There’s a lot of gloss black plastic inside the Lupo but the shell of the car is red which brings some colour through. The leather multicoloured MOMO Benetton Harlequin F1 steering wheel helps too! It’s got a pretty basic dash with funny eyebrow-like covers over the speedo and rev counter, so I like adding little details. I’ve changed the heater dials to silver ones and turned the key into a miniature version of the Lupo using a toy model. I’ve upgraded the stereo so I can use CarPlay; I love eighties music, but Proud Mary by Tina Turner is my favourite, it’s a happy song to go with a happy car.
In 2021, the Lupo was on an episode of Wheeler Dealers when Mike was talking about limited-edition Volkswagens. He’s been on our TV at home for years, I’ve always watched his shows, so it was cool to meet him and have a chat. In fact, it felt unreal, but he’s just a normal person and he really liked my car. I’ve learnt a lot from Wheeler Dealers, particularly that you can do stuff on the cheap by rebuilding rather than buying new. The programmes have also given me the confidence to try and do things myself rather than rely on a garage, that’s why I decided to fit a glove box from a Polo 6N2 that I picked up on Instagram for £10. It took a couple of days of hard work but now I’ve got somewhere to put my sunglasses and snacks!
Old cars teach you how to do stuff themselves because they go wrong, and never just the once. My boyfriend, Ashley, and his dad, Nigel, have shown me how to fix things, which I’m so grateful for, because now I can do it myself. It’s important to keep up on the maintenance but I think cars that are special like my Harlequin Lupo deserve a little bit more love. You’ve got to take care of them because once a car is too far gone you’ve ruined the opportunity for another owner to enjoy it.
In the future when I get married I want the Lupo as my wedding car; it’s my ultimate goal. It would 100% keep me calm and I don’t mind at all if it steals the attention, in fact that would probably be better for me! I won’t go for a multicoloured dress though, a traditional white wedding would be nice.”