The Volkswagen Golf has been around for eight generations spanning 46 years. The company has sold millions of copies and the vehicle has won numerous awards. On average, somebody has bought a Golf every 41 seconds since 1974. But like everything, there was a time when it was new, and its future uncertain.
Late in the Golf’s inaugural year, TV’s “Drive In” show took us around the car, hoping to give us some insight into what the car would become. The presenter has some nice things to say about the rear seat and the luggage area, though his overall tone is either unimpressed or extremely British, I can’t really tell. There are complaints about the gear shift and the choppy ride in the rear seats, and these may be valid. A run of over 35 million sales doesn’t necessarily mean everything was square from the get-go.
The Golf was designed as a front-engine front-drive replacement for the Beetle, though the company did not stop Beetle production once Golf sales began. The styling came from the mind of Giorgetto Giugiaro, a legendary designer responsible for some of the best looking automobiles. He would eventually call the Mk1 Golf the most important design of his career.
The steel unibody has a steep hatchback with a two-box design, allowing for five passengers or plenty of cargo room with the rear seats folded. The engine is an inline four-cylinder, originally offered in 1.1 litres or 1.5 litres making 50 or 68 horsepower respectively. A four-speed manual or optional three-speed automatic sends power to the front wheels. Front brakes are 9.4-inch discs with drums in the rear.
The second-generation Golf arrived in 1983, but production on the Mk1 continued in some parts of the world. In fact, Mk1 production began the following year in South Africa and continued until 2009. In total, over 6.8 million units were produced.