Golf GTI Mk1
In development since 1974. In 1974, half a dozen staff members at Volkswagen, including Anton Konrad, Volkswagen’s then chief press officer, concocted a secret plan to develop a sporty version of the Golf. There was no official mandate to develop the Sport Golf, but Hermann Hablitzel, Board Member for Technology, made sure the project kept going. Initial prototypes emerged, including a vehicle with a carburettor engine generating 100 PS. In early March 1975, Hablitzel officially presented the Sport Golf project to Toni Schmücker, Chairman of the Board of Management, who gave it the green light. As a result, the clandestine Sport Golf officially became development order EA195. Now there was a schedule ‒ and an ambitious one at that! The vehicle was to celebrate its world premiere at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt in September and so the project picked up speed. EA195 took a crucial step forward once it was finally paired with the right power unit – an injection engine generating 110 PS. However, the Super Golf didn’t even have a name yet. Suggestions that were discussed included TS and GTS. But then GTI won the race. At the same time, chief designer Herbert Schäfer – a keen golfer – reinvented the gear knob by simply attaching a golf ball to the GTI’s selector rod.
World premiere in 1975, launch in 1976. Then came IAA. Volkswagen showcased the Golf GTI and received an enthusiastic media response – everyone wanted one! And they got what they asked for. In June 1976 the Golf GTI Mk1, priced at 13,850 German marks, was launched in Germany before going on to enjoy global success. The initial plan was to manufacture 5,000 units of this special product line to at least recoup the cost of development and the investment in production equipment. However, things turned out rather differently as neither Konrad, Hablitzel nor Schmücker had anticipated the level of popularity of this Golf GTI with a top speed of 182 km/h and black wheel arch extensions, a black frame around the rear window, red edge around the radiator grille, tartan sports seats, the golf ball gear knob and a sports steering wheel with a special design feature. The 5,000 units of the Golf GTI Mk1 eventually ended up as 461,690 units – and the ultimate crowning glory of the product line was the Pirelli-GTI, a special edition generating 112 PS. This marked the first chapter in what remains the world’s most successful compact sports car.