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Little Classics News: 29 March 2014

Volkswagen Golf Celebrates 40th Birthday

Volkswagen Golf Celebrates 40th BirthdayNot many car models can boast having both collectible classics and the latest technology under one badge. The Golf, however, can…

Volkswagen is celebrating the 40th birthday of the most successful European car of all time: the Golf. More than 30 million vehicles of the best-seller have been sold and from the first to the seventh generation, the Golf has been a pioneer of technological progress.

Whether turbocharged engine, direct-injection engine, electric or plug-in hybrid drive system; whether ABS, ESC, XDS or 4MOTION; whether Adaptive Cruise Control, City Emergency Braking, trailer stabilisation or Automatic Post-Collision Braking System; whether automatic air conditioning, Dynaudio sound system, touchscreen with proximity sensor or LED headlights; whether GTI, GTD or GTE – it was always the Golf through which the most important technologies and trends of our time were democratised.

Golf Mk I

VW Golf MK 1The first series production Golf, now very much a classic car, rolled off the assembly line in Wolfsburg on 29 March 1974. Where for decades the Beetle and thus rear-mounted engines and rear-wheel drive had dominated the scene, a new era had now dawned: that of the transversely mounted front engine and front-wheel drive.

As the successor to the legendary Beetle, of which over 21.5 million units were built, the Golf Mk I, designed by Giorgio Giugiaro and Volkswagen Design, had to live up to the immense expectations that it would carry on the success story of what until then was the world’s most successful car. It worked: the modern and reliable drive concept, the excellent spatial economy and ultimately the design as well, won over the market to such an extent that by October 1976 the one-millionth Golf had been produced.

In launching the first Golf GTI (in 1976), Volkswagen heralded the introduction of greater dynamism in this class, while the Golf D (naturally aspirated diesel engine, 1976) and the later Golf GTD (turbodiesel, 1982) marked the breakthrough for diesel cars in the compact segment. With the Golf Cabriolet, introduced in 1979, Volkswagen launched an open-top car that was at times the best-selling cabrio in the world.

Golf Mk II

VW Golf MK2As of August 1983, passengers no longer sat quite so close to each other, as use of space have been improved once more. It was then on the Golf that the regulated catalytic converter was introduced (1984), anti-lock braking system (ABS, 1986) and power-steering to the lower medium class. In 1986, syncro was introduced, opening up the option of all-wheel drive in the Golf class.

Golf Mk III

VW Golk MK 3With the launch of the third generation Golf in August 1991, Volkswagen heralded a new era of safety. This Golf was the first of the series to have front airbags, starting in 1992, while major advances in the area of car body construction also resulted in significantly improved crash safety. In addition, numerous other technological milestones of the model range are linked to the third Golf. Many new features made their debut in this new Golf: the first six cylinder engine (VR6), cruise control, oxidation catalytic converter for diesel engines (1991) and the first direct injection diesel engines (TDI in 1993). Likewise, ABS became a standard feature on all Golf models in 1996. In 1993, Volkswagen had also introduced a new convertible based on the Golf Mk III, a new all-wheel drive model (syncro II) and the first Golf Variant (an estate).

Golf Mk IV

VW Mark MK 4Under the direction of Hartmut Warkuß, then Head of Design at Volkswagen (Group), the Golf Mk IV crystallised the clear, precise design that lived up to the history of the Volkswagen brand more than ever before. With the debut of ESC (in 1998), the car continued to democratise safety. Also in 1998, Volkswagen unveiled the first all-wheel-drive Golf with a Haldex clutch – the Golf 4MOTION.

In 2002, Volkswagen launched the R32, with a top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph). It was this top model of the range that in 2003 was the first to debut with the revolutionary dual-clutch gearbox (DSG).

Golf Mk V

VW Golf MK 5One factor that underlines the stability of the laser-welded bodywork was the 35 per cent increase in torsional rigidity demonstrated when the Golf Mk V made its debut in 2003. On request, the Golf was now also available for the first time with side airbags – together with the six standard airbags. In comfort as well as dynamic performance, the Golf Mk V scored in numerous areas, including: its new four-link rear suspension, seven-speed DSG, bi-xenon headlights, panoramic sliding sunroof, plus the world’s first twincharger (in the 2006 TSI), combining turbo- and supercharger. In 2006, the Golf Plus made its debut; in 2007, the CrossGolf, a new Estate and the extremely fuel-efficient Golf BlueMotion (4.5 l/100 km or 62.8 mpg).

Golf Mk VI

VW MK 6In just four years, a further 2.85 million Golf cars had been produced by the end of July 2012, based on the sixth generation of the car launched in 2008. And once again safety made great advances too: the car body was so rugged that it passed the EuroNCAP crash test with flying colours, gaining the maximum five stars. A top performer here was the second Golf BlueMotion with a combined fuel consumption of just 3.8 l/100 km (74.3 mpg), equivalent to 99 g/km of CO2.

Golf Mk VII

In 2012, Volkswagen celebrated the world premiere of the seventh generation Golf (Top). The weight of the new Golf was reduced by up to 100 kg, thereby reversing the often cited upward weight spiral. Fuel economy was hence also improved by up to 23 per cent. In 2014, Volkswagen electrifies the compact class with the Golf: the all-electric e-Golf with a range of around 190 kilometres is already available to buy.

The Golf is the most successful model ever built by Volkswagen. In the summer of 2013 the 30 millionth Golf was built.

Will we see another 40 years, making even the latest models collectable classic cars?


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