• Germany's news in English

Legendary VW Golf turns 40

DPA/The Local · 8 May 2014, 17:31

Published: 08 May 2014 17:31 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

As the successor to the famous Beetle - the air-cooled rear-wheel-drive workhorse which sold over 21.5 million units since its design as the Nazis' "people's car" in the 1930's - the Golf Mk1 revolutionized small car design with its lightweight construction, water cooling and front-wheel-drive set-up.

Marketed as the VW "Rabbit" in the USA and Canada, the Golf sold over 100,000 units in the States in its first year alone – the most successful European imported car to date, according to VW.

But the Golf really made its name with the Mk1's sport variant, the GTI. Launched in 1975 as one of the first small cars with fuel injection systems, the GTI was also one of the first vehicles to demonstrate that a small, cheap, practical runaround could also be sporty and fun.

UK motoring magazine Top Gear said many praised the original GTI as "the spiritual father of hot hatchery" and said the car was so light and nippy when it came out in the 70's it could outrun a Ferrari 308 sports car – but only on country lanes.

The soft-top cabriolet version of the Golf (or "Rabbit convertible") was also popular in the 1980's, when it became the ride of choice for rich young Californians in many US teen movies.

CLICK HERE to see the VW Golf through the ages

And during its 40-year history the Golf has evolved with each generation changing its design, packing different engines and innards and adding ever more new technologies, from anti-lock brakes to parking assistance.

The seventh generation of Golf, released in Europe in 2012 and on its way across the pond next month, includes a fully electric model (the e-Golf) with a range of 190km. It will soon be joined by a plug-in hybrid variant, the Golf GTE.

The name "Golf" is often assumed to refer to the sport, and VW have never ruled this out, saying at the car's release in 1974 "Golf stands for endurance, dynamism and perfect technology – just like in any 'sport of kings'."

But in fact the inspiration for the car's naming came from the European weather.

Story continues below…

"We actually meant the Gulf Stream, to which Europe owes its good climate," Volkswagen said (Golf being the German word for "Gulf").

Other VW models, such as the Passat saloon car and the Scirocco, are also named after wind currents.

SEE ALSO: BMW and VW celebrate strong sales

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd