The Volkswagen Golf turned 50: how the genesis of a phenomenon that sold 2,000 cars a day for half a century was born

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There is no doubt that the Volkswagen Golf It is one of the most important cars in the history of the automotive industry. And exactly 50 years ago, the first generation (Mk1) left the Wolfsburg factory.

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It had the difficult task of having to replace the Beetle, the People’s Car that put Germany on the road after the Second World War, and it far surpassed it.

In half a century, more than 37 million units have already been sold. That is, a relationship of 2,000 cars delivered per day for the last 50 years. Its name Golf comes from the German word for the Gulf Stream (Golfstrom).

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On March 29, 1974, series production of this model began, which is currently in its eighth generation and became the best-selling model in Europe in the entire history of the automobile.

But before that and long before the success that came after, the history of the development of the definitive version shows the evolution that the brand needed to make the leap from one simple model, like the Beetle, to another. that he had on the front line to one of its main attributes.

A sedan central engine

EA 266 prototype, from the late 1960s.

The first known prototype in the project that aimed to replace the Beetle was that it bore the internal name EA 266, in the late 60s. It was a compact model that showed the brand’s intentions on where it wanted to go. Even though it was a nascent idea in many ways.

The first was about his appearance. While it somewhat showcased the proportions that the first production Golf ended up using, some styling cues still looked dated. Furthermore, it looked more like a French car than a German car.

Its trunk had a truly striking feature: it didn’t have a grille or any visible vents, which is common in an electric car today. The EA 266 was a sedan with central engine. Just as you read it, this prototype It mounted the water-cooled engine under the rear seat and power transmitted to the rear axle.

It could reach a maximum speed of over 180 km/h, something more than exceptional for a model of that type and for the time, but the problems generated by the placement of the engine belied any virtue of its performance.

Rear view of the EA 266 next to a Golf Mk1.Rear view of the EA 266 next to a Golf Mk1.

On the one hand, the position of the propeller made maintenance operations, even the most basic ones, extremely difficult. There was also talk that the engine was overheating and things like that combustion gases entered the cabinas well as being very noisy.

The production of this prototype was carried out by Porsche and a total of 50 units were made. But the project was buried in 1971 and only a few units survived the development that were not demolished.

A very old engine

EA 276 prototype, closest to the final model.EA 276 prototype, closest to the final model.

The other prototype in the genesis of the Golf was the EA276, which was created almost simultaneously with the first. It was designed in the Wolfsburg plant and with a more traditional layout: front engine and front axle drive.

Only one prototype was built and it was not fully functional. It carried the air-cooled Beetle boxer engine, while the fuel tank was located under the rear seats.

The project ended up being scrapped even though it looked much better than the EA 266. In terms of technology it still was It was too far away to occupy the global vanguard position the brand intended. for its future compact model.

The EA 276 prototype was not a 100% functional model.The EA 276 prototype was not a 100% functional model.

The EA 276, however, ended up influencing the first generation Gol that appeared in Brazil in 1980 and proved to be a success throughout the region.

With the signature of the greatest

The prototype that ended up giving the Golf its almost definitive shape was the EA 337, created by none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro, founder of the Italdesign studio. considered the designer of the 20th century and responsible for other famous models such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia GT, Fiat Uno, Audi 80, BMWM1, Lancia Delta and Renault 21, among many others. However, Giugiaro himself called the Golf the most important car of his career.

EA 337 prototype (left), next to the Golf Mk1.EA 337 prototype (left), next to the Golf Mk1.

But the initial proposal was not taken as presented by the German brand. The most notable modification was the replacement of the Giugiaro-designed rectangular headlights with round ones, as they were cheaper to produce.

On March 29, 1974, the Golf began series production at the Wolfsburg plant, where it is still produced today. The success was immediate and In 1976 he accumulated his first million of units sold.

To date, more than 20 million Golfs have been built in Wolfsburg alone. The 17 million examples built so far outside the emblematic factory were also produced in other German factories Belgium, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Mexico, Slovakia and South Africa.

In Argentina, the Golf was sold until the appearance of the eighth generation, in 2020. Therefore, the decision was made to no longer produce the model in Mexico and thereby signed its sentence in our market. The current Golf will continue to live, mainly in Europe, until the appearance of the ninth generation, which will feature a 100% electric architecture.

Golf II

Volkswagen Golf I.Volkswagen Golf I.

The first generation reflected the latest technical advances and current automotive trends. It had a large internal and built-in space a diagnostic system to speed up and make maintenance services more efficient.

Furthermore, the first Golf GTI (1976), the Golf D (1976) and the subsequent Golf GTD (1982) appeared, expanding the diesel offering in the compact segment. In 1979, Volkswagen launched the Golf Cabriolet, which for a time was the best-selling convertible in the world.

Until 1983, a total of 6.9 million units of the first generation of the Golf were sold on all continents, including all its variants, proving that the Golf I was a worthy successor to the Beetle.

Golf II

Volkswagen Golf II.Volkswagen Golf II.

The appearance of the Golf II in 1983 is considered by the current Volkswagen designer, Andreas Mindt, to be the most important moment in the model’s history: “The second Golf was modernized but the DNA of the first generation was retained. This bridge is extremely important to the history of the vehicle. The Golf has always been an evolution of the original model. This is what makes Golf special and the credit goes to Herbert Schäfer.” Technologies like the catalytic converter, the ABS and the all-wheel drive They made their debut in this second generation. A total of 6.3 million units were produced between 1983 and 1991.

Golf III

Volkswagen Golf III.Volkswagen Golf III.

The Golf III (1991) was the first model in the product line available with front airbags starting in 1992. It featured design advances that brought significant improvements in occupant protection in the event of a collision. 4.8 million of the Golf III were produced until 1997. Furthermore, the first six-cylinder engine (VR6) appeared., the cruise control system and the first side airbags. For the first time this Golf was available in an estate version.

Golf IV

Volkswagen Golf IV.Volkswagen Golf IV.

With the Golf IV, presented in 1997, Volkswagen achieved a new quality standard in the segment. Parallel, the debut of stability control contributed even more so to put safety within the reach of the masses. In 2002, Volkswagen also presented the sportiest Golf to date based on the fourth generation: the R32, which reached a top speed of 250 km/h. In 2003 it was the first Volkswagen to have a dual-clutch automatic transmission (DSG). It contributed 4.9 million units.

Golf V

Volkswagen Golf V.Volkswagen Golf V.

With the Golf V, launched in 2003, Volkswagen continued to set the pace in the segment in terms of comfort and quality. Incorporated a laser welding system for its structure which increases torsional rigidity by 35%. For the first time, up to eight protective airbags were fitted on board. 3.4 million units were produced until 2008, featuring a new four-link rear suspension, bi-xenon headlights and the first 7-speed DSG gearbox.


Volkswagen Golf VI.Volkswagen Golf VI.

As of the end of July 2012, a further 3.6 million Golfs had been produced in just four years based on the sixth generation introduced in 2008. And safety had taken a big step forward: the new laser-welded body was so stable that it achieved successfully achieved the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test. That was the generation has started to incorporate some driving aids.


Volkswagen Golf VII.Volkswagen Golf VII.

In September 2012 Volkswagen celebrated the world premiere of the seventh Golf. Its weight has been reduced by up to 100kg compared to the previous model, which means that fuel consumption has also been reduced by up to 23%. New technologies such as the automatic post-collision braking system, the adaptive cruise control and emergency braking In the city they have completed the range of assistance systems. A total of 6.3 million examples of this Golf VII were produced up to 2019.


Volkswagen Golf VIII.Volkswagen Golf VIII.

Volkswagen presented the Golf VIII in October 2019. With its new hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, electrifies the compact class. It has added further driver assistance elements and expanded them to all versions of the range. More than one million units have been sold so far.

Source: Clarin

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