We take a look at the history of the Volkswagen Golf, and look at what you might not know too, including a W12 Golf and the Golf Country Synchro.
Volkswagen has long been one of the UK’s best-selling brands, in no small measure due to the VW Beetle. Today, VW is the largest automaker in Europe, one that has a reputation for reliability and a smooth ride.
They remain the only brand with 3 models breaking the top ten best-selling vehicles of all time: the Beetle, the Passat, and the Golf. They cement their reputation with their slogan “Das Auto,” or simply, “The Car.” Indeed, VW has been an automaker for the people for decades.
A Brief History of Volkswagen in the UK
First, let’s explore a bit of history. As a company, VW was formed in 1937, while Germany was under control by the National Socialist (Nazi) Party. Since war broke out, production of their vehicle ceased. In 1945, the Wolfsburg VW factory fell into the hand of the Allies, and the British Army restarted production. In 1946, the British rolled the 1000th Beetle off the production line, and after 3 years, they handed production back to the Germans. VW had been reborn.
Volkswagen became popular in Britain in the early 1950s, as servicemen began to return home with Beetles in tow. Today, the company is a mainstay on British roads.
The Beetle became so popular that it was in production over six decades, and made numerous TV appearances. Though the Beetle (or “Bug,”) will always be a cultural icon, there’s another VW bestseller in the Golf. It was originally built as a front engine version of the Beetle, but is now one of the most popular cars ever. Here are some other things you might not know about the little hatchback:
It’s the Second Best Selling Car of All Time
Between 1974 and 2013, the VW Golf produced 30,000,000 units, which makes it second only to the Toyota Corolla as the most popular car in history. Since the Corolla has already sold 40,000,000, it’s unlikely to catch up and become the best-selling car of all time. On the other hand, it’s worth mentioning that it’s already oversold the popular Beetle by 9,000,000 units – and counting.
The Golf Platform Makes Up Other Cars
It’s not uncommon for cars to share a platform, and the Golf is no exception. The Golf uses a Group A Platform, the same one that creates the Beetle, Jetta, Eos, and Scirocco. It also is responsible for some other cars you might recognise: for example, the Audi A3, Audi TT, SEAT Toledo, and Skoda Yeti. All of these vehicles are manufactured under the VW Group.
It Could Have Had a W12 Engine
The Bugatti Veyron has a W16 engine, which has already broken all speed records for cars in production. One concept version of the Golf GTI had a baby version of the Bugatti, a “W12.” A W12 is essentially two V6 engines bolted together and designed to run as one unit. This engine was capable of producing 531 lb-ft of torque, which is pretty mighty for a little hatchback. It went from 0 to 62 mph in a scant 3.7 seconds, and topped out at 202 mph. Unfortunately, the W12 never made it into production – blame it on the wave of engine downsizing.
The Golf GTI was a Side Project
The Golf GTI, which we refer to as the “hot hatch” version of the original golf, was an after-hours side project for engineers who wanted to make a high-performance version of the vehicle. They worked around their regular hours, weekends and evening to make the ‘Sport Golf.” They showed the concept to management, but the initial reception was lukewarm. They agreed to a limited production of 5000, but because of its popularity, the “hot hatch” became a genre. To date, the Golf GTI has sold 1.9 million units.
There’s a Version You Haven’t Heard of
Have you heard of the Volkswagen Golf Country Syncro? If not, you’re not alone. First produced in 1990, these vehicles were produced as 4-wheel drive crossovers, prior to crossovers even being a thing. Their initial assembly began at the Wolfsburg factory, after they were sent to Graz, Austria for their all-wheel drive fitting and Syncro trimmings. Only 7700 were produced in total, and they were only in production for a year (the last one rolled off in 1991). They never made it to North American shores, but you might be able to see one driving about in the UK countryside or around Europe.
When you consider efficiency, power, reliability, and style, it’s hard to compete with the VW Golf. And the numbers don’t lie – there has to be a reason this is one of the best selling cars in history. From its humble beginnings in a post-war plant in Germany, the Golf has become worthy of its title: das auto, and a car truly for the people.
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