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Golf becomes an automotive icon


It must have been a responsible task to construct the successor to the VW type 1. It became the VW Golf (model type 17), which was to carry on the legacy of the most successful car model ever. The Golf 1 saw the light of day in 1974 and was a diametrical opposite for type 1. Water-cooled in-line engine with single overhead camshaft, also with the engine lying transversely in the engine compartment and front-wheel drive. Everything was different and modern. A quantum leap in automotive technology. The Golf was initially equipped with these engines in 1.1 and 1.5 liter form, but many more engine configurations were later to find their way into the Golf I engine compartment, not least the diesel variant and the tuned 1.6 liter 110 HP GTI (later upgraded for 1.8 liter GTI and 112 hp). From 1974 to 1983, no less than 6.8 million of the first edition of Volkswagen's new people's car were produced. A new legend was born.

An Italian design team was put in charge of the design of the new public car, and it was Giorgetto Giugiaro who was given the honor of solving the important design task. It was a masterpiece that was to prove to be even extremely durable, a design that could be built upon indefinitely.

Semi-bad start

However, the start was not the best, - the first vintages of Golfen rusted. In fact, the problem was so severe that some buyers of the first generation Golf were awarded a new car from the factory because rust attacks were so severe that the car had to be considered dangerous to drive. But VW fixed these early problems and more , the model was expanded and refined at great speed.

A new era

The oil crisis of 1973 marked a turning point for all car manufacturers. In the 60s, fuel consumption did not matter much. Now it was suddenly important, and stricter laws to limit pollution were in the making in several places around the world. There was a need for new and more modern engine designs. VW initially had bad cards in hand with its antiquated stern engine models. In 1972, Volkswagen also lost its place as Germany's most popular car brand to Opel. Various prototypes for a modern VW had been made since the 50s, but it took until 1974 before the replacement was ready, it was at the last minute. Maybe we should say the replacements. Both Polo and Passat saw the light of day in those years.

But the Golf was Volkswagen's most important car model and still is to this day. Therefore, the model came in many variants such as 3- and 5-door and Cabriolet, and in 1979 as a sedan named Jetta. You would be sure to hit all potential buyer groups.

The fast GTI and the slow diesel

It soon became clear that the model had the potential to be far more than just a cheap people's car. Tuning companies had seen the potential and started building special editions of the model with more engine power. In 1976, VW was ready with its own powerful special version of the Golf GTI. There was a small group of employees at VW who on their own initiative set about making a fast Golf, and the management realized that the idea was so good that they decided to adapt it to mass production. It was expected to be able to sell 5000 of the model. It got K-Jetronic petrol injection, instead of the prototype's twin carburettors, disc brakes all round and tuned lowered chassis. No one who bought an original GTI was disappointed. It was a great car. The special rims and discreet screen extensions, the special GTI seats and the golf ball gear knob were wonderful style elements. But also the idea of making a small usable diesel engine on the bottom of the petrol engine was a brilliant idea. The idea was so good that it had a turbocharger fitted and the GTD was born. No other car at the time had such a technical breadth built into one and the same car model.

Thanks to the close-ratio gearbox (5 GEAR FROM 1979) combined with the low curb weight of just 810 kg, it was quick in the pull-up, from 0-100 km/h in 9 seconds. And with a top speed of just over 180 km/h, it was one of the fastest small cars of the time, it was not at all commonplace to have so much speed in such a small car. I clearly remember how impressive it was to see this little car in the fast lane on the German highways back in the late 70s.

The classless car

In short, there was a Golf for every taste and every driving need. Therefore, the model became partially classless. You could show off in fine circles with your Golf and get out in a suit, or in the parking lot at the factory in your blue work clothes, and in both places signal good style and confident taste.

Golf II

Golf II, which came in 1984, was a brilliant further development of the model. Not everyone loved the angular Golf I design; on version II, car, design and build quality went into a higher unity. Today, almost 30 years later, this design still holds up. Volkswagen initially continued the engines from version I, but development continued to move forward, the GTI engine got 16V and even a small belt-driven charge pump (G60), and the more common small engines eventually got petrol injection and a catalytic converter. The equipment on a VW was still sparse, and things like power steering and 5th gear were not standard, but only something reserved for certain versions. A/C was only for the very few top models, which in this country became far too expensive.

Golf becomes a car icon

The Golf II was a very robust car, and it was a common sight on our roads until a few years ago, and used daily as a commuter car for a long time after the model should have been phased out. The car was elegantly protected from rust from the factory and the technology almost inexhaustible. The Golf II was an eminent car, which was also safe on the wheels and therefore also popular as a track and rally car. The model even came in a 4X4 rally version G60 Syncro Rallye with extended fenders and G loaded GTI engine. The 4-wheel drive system "Syncro" saw the light of day in those years on this model and also the high-leg Country version. Here in Denmark, a Golf II was a rock-solid investment that held its resale price, and the various equipment variants came in an almost endless stream of limited editions, e.g. Memphis, Madison, Pasadena and Manhattan were very popular in this country, and with 75 hp 1 ,6 or 90 hp 1.8 engine, regardless of equipment version, they were really good cars. 6.3 million copies were made in the almost 9 years that the Golf II model was in production. The fastest model was the GTI G60 16V with 210 hp, which went as much as 230 km/h.

At the time of writing, the Golf 8 has just been introduced in this country, and it has received excellent coverage in the motoring press. I have no doubt that it is an excellent car, which also has a size that suits many without the need for an MPV or SUV. There are engines and transmissions for every taste and every need (and wallet). The Golf is still the car all other cars of that size are measured against.

The best Golf

Which version was the best Golf? It depends a lot on what you emphasize. The Golf II was the most dynamic compared to other cars of its time. The Golf III was solid, but a bit too heavy, and it rusted and used more fuel per litre. km. than its predecessor. Golf IV (1997-2003) was not built with the same heavy quality as before, perhaps the worst Golf of them all in terms of build and component quality. The Golf V (2003-2008) was a really good mix of performance and driving characteristics, and the torquey TDI engines were now a common choice for many, and they suited the car perfectly. Over time, VW has become more and more careful with what it exposes the Golf Guldfugel to when it comes to shape and design. I wouldn't go so far as to call the last 3 versions boring. But Golfen is no longer the only one to build superb cars in the Golf class. The Golf platform and design are carefully renewed, and the conservative shape helps set a limit to how exciting a Golf can be.

My Golf favorites are the Golf II and V in the 3-door version. My favorite engine is the 8-valve GTI engine that was in the GOLF II (without catalytic converter).

Golf of the future

Irrespective of which generation of Volkswagen Golf you get into, you feel comfortable behind the wheel, and you don't doubt for a moment that it is a car that has been designed with great care and attention to even the smallest details . This makes the car feel "real" to many. I myself was close to buying a Golf GTE a few months ago. So I'm not finished with this car model, and probably never will be.

The beauty of today's Golf is that, as in those days, you can put your Golf together according to what suits your driving needs and temperament. The unique driving pleasure of a Golf is still present in all Golf models, and it's not just a few individual elements that do it, it's a combination of many small things. I hope that Volkswagen will continue to remember the joy of driving when the future models are put together.

I hope that VW will continue to use this model to set new standards and develop new technology that sets the tone for the entire automotive industry. Because thanks to the Golf, all other car manufacturers had to raise the standard to be in the "Golf class", and every time a new Golf comes out, the competitors usually have to go back to the drawing board.

My story

In 1988 I bought a new Golf II 1.6. It wasn't a car I had high expectations for, I just needed a practical work tool. However, it was an extremely positive surprise, and it was used extensively for 4 years and 200,000 km. My sales district was the whole of Norway, and in that car I drove across the long country. A replacement tooth bar and a couple of pulldown vacuum cans for the choke function was all that broke. Otherwise it was just regular service parts.

Good for most things

The car proved to be a good travel companion both in summer and winter. Car workshops were my customers, and it was important to be able to get around - even when there was snow and slippery roads. I became very good friends with that Golf. The road standard in Norway is nothing to brag about. When you are out in the country and away from the big cities, the roads are often narrow and with surfaces of varying quality. I was never really happy with my BMW on those roads. The roads were more suitable for front wheel drive cars with predictable handling. A Golf II was secure on the wheels, a little stiff over bumps, but unfailingly secure in critical situations. However, the car completely self-steered when driving on roads where snow chains had been used. But it was to live with.

E134 in Golf II

In those years, I got some favorite roads. One of them is the main road E134 over Haukelifjell, which connects Drammen and Haugesund. The road goes over Haukelifjell, i.e. over the Norwegian ridge, so part of the road is high, and driving there equals winter roads and slippery roads for a large part of the year. I have driven that road many times in several different cars over the years. It is a road with many bends, tunnels, steep climbs and descents. To that extent, that road exhibits a car's driving characteristics, or the lack thereof. You can't sit and daydream behind the wheel here! Not only is it almost always smooth, there are also plenty of treacherous turns. That is why the road reminds in some places of the most challenging roads in the Alps. I enjoyed my Golf on those types of challenging roads, and believe me - there are many of them in Norway.

E134 in Golf VI

In the winter of 2013, I had the opportunity to drive the E134 at night in 20 degree frost and 5 cm of fresh snow in a Golf VI, and it was almost funny how much it reminded me of the trips in the Golf II. The biggest difference was that all driver assistance systems such as ESP kicked in all the time. When coming through a corner with a little more slip than VW cared for, the car itself turned on the hazard warning lights. Actually quite annoyed and completely unnecessary. I resigned myself to the fact that I was probably no ordinary driver, and this is far from an ordinary road. They can't think of everything down in Wolfsburg either.

Golf II again

In 2004, it was occasionally the kids who needed a car, and since I don't mind lending out my own, I thought like this: "It could be a bit nice with an old Golf." So I started looking for a Golf II, and got a hold of a car dealer in Germany. It was in the Harz, and we drove down after it and drove it home. Many cars were imported from Germany in those years, because there the selection was larger, and that was also why I picked this one up there.

It got the big service, was inspected and tax was paid, as you have to in this tax-plagued small country. It was a 4-door Golf GT from 1990 (one owner), which had driven just under 100,000 km. It remained in the family's possession for 13 years and many enjoyed it.

This "special" edition had everything from a GTI apart from the engine: GTI chassis, 5 gears, power steering, sunroof and ABS. But only a 90 hp 1.8 injected engine. In 2015, it had another engine installed. It had then driven just under 200,000 km. The unusual thing had happened, that there was a rusted hole in the engine block. But it was worth saving, and it was sold on in 2017 to a young boy who just wanted one.

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