Become an armchair expert on... the Mk I VW Golf GTI
Alex Goy is a freelance motoring journalist who writes for the likes of Motor1, Carfection, CNET and DriveTribe.
It’s the hot hatch that started it all, so here’s all you need to know about the Mk I VW Golf GTI...
1) It wasn’t the first hot hatch
Hey, guess what? The Mk I Golf GTI wasn’t the first hot hatch.
It may be the golden child associated with the mantle, but the first was 1973’s Simca T1100 Ti. The whole sensibly-sized, fast small car thing owes it roots to that. Or, some would argue, the Mini Cooper…
2) VW didn’t want it
It seems hard to imagine these days, but Volkswagen didn’t want a faster Golf in its line up. Today, a Golf GTI is on most people’s ‘would love to own one day’ lists (even the woeful Mk IV), but back in the 70s there was resistance to it from top brass. Thanks to poor reception of the Beetle GSR a sporty Golf was firmly off the menu. Which meant…
3) It was a skunkworks project
Oh yeah, the hot hatch of legend was an after hours project started by VW’s press man Anton Konrad and engineer Alfons Löwenberg.
The two swiftly gathered a team that allowed the car to be developed in secret, with parts being snuck in to more regular car testing, and experts decreeing whether the chassis needed to be stiffer or not.
Based on a Scirocco initially, the Golf GTI’s early life was lived in secret. Good thing it turned out to be great then, huh?
4) Despite initial hesitance…
When the project was shown to VW top brass in 1975, two years after it began, it was swiftly greenlit, thus beginning something rather large.
Though there were a few key things missing before its debut.
5) It looked just like any ‘ol Golf
While the engineers and the press people had made a stonking car (a marketing man decided to name the ‘Sport Golf’ project ‘GTI’), it didn’t actually look any different to the kind of Golf your mum would be seen in.
This is where Gunhild Liljequist’s magic came to play. Working under the head of design, Liljequist is the brains behind its tartan seats, and golf ball gear knob.
6) March 1975: Lift off
It was revealed at the ’75 Frankfurt Motor Show and it went down rather well… The little 1.6-litre motor turned a lot of heads. Initially it was LHD only, but the UK got its wish for a right hooker in 1979.