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Volkswagen Golf Diesel. Revolution in 1976.

Volkswagen Golf
ER Classics Desktop 2022

In the first half of the 204s, Volkswagen engineers looked closely at the fairly limited diesel supply within the car industry. Also prompted by the first oil crisis, the development of a new generation of compact diesel power units is starting. Peugeot is already building small diesels for the 304 and XNUMX. But VW decides that the Golf concept lends itself perfectly to a much improved diesel engine. The diesel engine should not only be economical and efficient. The new diesel will also have to demonstrate performance values ​​that correspond to engines from comparable petrol cars. The starting points form the prelude to the first VW Golf Diesel.

Volkswagen gets to work and takes the 1471 cc power source as the basis, which in the first production years – in addition to the 1.100 basic engine – also finds its way to the front of the VW Golf. Various parts are made resistant to the heavier loads that diesel technology entails.


Heavier Made Parts

Volkswagen applies, among other things, reinforced valves, rods and pistons, as well as a reinforced crankshaft and a heavier cylinder head. The camshaft will be driven by a reinforced timing belt, which also operates the fuel injection pump. In addition, the battery and starter motor are equipped with a heavier weight. Furthermore, due to the higher compression ratio and higher thermal load, the combustion chambers are arranged differently.

Whirl chamber technology

In addition, the power source is equipped with swirl chamber technology. In short: thanks in part to the design of the vortex chambers, air flow losses are prevented – partly due to the resulting turbulence. It contributes to an optimal mixture between air and the diesel oil (injected at the end of the compression stroke and just before the power stroke), so that the efficiency of the combustion is higher. Volkswagen is also working on improved sound insulation with the VW Golf Diesel. A revolutionary diesel concept is born.

Golf 1.5 gasoline engine as a starting point

The basic principles for the new diesel powerplant – the transversely mounted FH petrol powerplant of the Golf 1.5 – provide scope for easily adapting the power to that of the 1.093cc petrol engine from the Golf one. Volkswagen's first diesel engine is being developed by the engineers tuned to a power of 37KW/50 HP. In combination with a compression ratio of 23,5:1, this ensures surprising performance. A top speed of 140 kilometers per hour, an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 19 seconds, favorable consumption and the far-reaching degree of noiselessness make for a surprised newsreel in the seventies. Almost everything shows that in September 1976 Volkswagen is showing the world a mature variation on the diesel theme. However, the concept is not quite perfect yet.

CAV fuel pump worry baby

Volkswagen installs a pump from CAV to fuel the diesel engine. The pumps are worry children. Over time, they cause a less attractive run, leaks and smoke development. Defective pumps even cause the power source to run on crankcase vapors/oil, often causing irreparable engine damage. “Wolfsburg” also offers the option of factory-installing the much better fuel pump from Bosch. In addition, Bosch has struggled for a long time to produce the pumps at an appropriate pace. Another problem is a rapidly polluting air filter as a result of crankcase fumes. VW solves that problem by providing the air filter hose with a bypass hose, a kind of return line for the polluting vapours.

Basis for new segment

With its self-ignition power source, Volkswagen does not only show what is possible in that area. With the compact diesel, it once again unleashes a whole new segment. It takes several years (sometimes into the eighties, when the first VW diesel engine has already been enlarged and modified) before the competition tries to find an answer to this piece of diesel ingenuity.

19 Comments

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  1. LS
    In 1976 I drove one of the first Diesel Golfs delivered in the Eindhoven region. In those days you were still nicely helped at the gas station (why self-service??). You stood neatly at the pump and were normally helped quickly. However, with that Golf Diesel you had to honk the horn a few times to get the men out of the cubicle… Were they really not used to a Golf like diesel…

  2. Can still remember the introduction in 1976 well. Mainly the speed of 5000 rpm and the heavy diesel load on a reinforced petrol block, made that I had no confidence in the lifespan. But that has worked out.
    37KW/50HP ... kudos for also mentioning the SI unit of power, but units are always written with a lowercase letter unless it is derived from a person. So:
    37 kW / 50 hp

  3. Very clever development of VW, indeed a revolution. Peugeot indeed did that, but this engine was considerably larger and especially heavier (completely cast iron). Therefore, these 1st generation VW diesels could not compete in terms of lifespan with their patriots: Benz, Opel and associates. But in the 1.6 succession, this was also a formidable competitor in the compact class in this area. Buddy of mine built this block in a Scirocco, to avoid high road tax. Until Diesel Gate, I consider VAG to be the leader in this segment

  4. Well, the Germans are not averse to a bit of (healthy) breast-beating from a marketing point of view. All brands are guilty of this, because many of the innovations they claim have often been successfully used by other brands years ago. ABS, floppy bags, four-wheel drive for accessible passenger cars, diesel in C-segment cars, peppery compact cars, use of aluminum as a load-bearing part of the body, clear glass headlights… no “leading edge through technology” at all, but “marketing through creative stealing”. The fact that it suddenly took off after the "innovation" of the Germans, you can put that on their account (only when the Germans apply it will it become big). But the real innovation often stems from (much) earlier.
    Furthermore, I know the Golf Diesel very well as my lesson car. The driving school had a Golf II and I thought it was already downright slow at the time (1989-1990). You learned to look ahead, that's an advantage, but merging on the highway I found very exciting. I always called him “Golf Crisis”…. something with Iraq and Kuwait. My parents' Renault Express (simplest diesel) felt slightly faster.

  5. 'VW also worked on improved sound insulation'. huh? In my memory, that thing made an incredible amount of noise. The neighbors were awake if you had to go to work early!

  6. Have experienced everything from the first Golf diesels
    They were as fast (or slow) as a Mercedes five-cylinder 300 D
    A great achievement at the time!
    They came out with the Bosch fuel pump, but they were so popular with the public that Bosch couldn't keep up with VW's demand And became CAV second supplier
    Later the CAV pumps were exchanged again with Bosch pumps
    But now they are sought after by collectors
    My son collects Golf's from the first hour, also has a swallow tail petrol
    And some diesels
    In the beginning there was a lot of mistrust from the public, such a fast-running diesel could not last long.
    But along the way, VW built confidence despite the runaway
    My father-in-law also drove a five-door Golf 1 GLD for years, my son got it later and built a Golf 2 turbo diesel in it.
    Boost the turbo pressure and the fuel pump more output and yes, he pulled everyone out at the traffic lights.
    Warm memories

    • “But along the way, VW built confidence, despite the runaway.”
      that's pretty ashamed, isn't it?! But it is probable that the youth will fall for the hypocritical marketing strategy of this concern. However, people with a common sense do not! Good luck with your son's collection

      • Haha, exactly. This 'hypocritical marketing strategy' has been used from the beginning to this day. And I mean the very beginning.

  7. Have driven a 1471cc CK diesel myself for many years. I managed to tune it to almost 70hp without a turbo. A hydraulic modification of the injection pump formed the basis for this. The story that faulty injection pumps led to the 'candy' of crankcase vapors is a myth. It was a combination of other factors. The 1,5D had an unhappily designed air box. As a result, the air filter slammed shut by the crankcase fumes. When the engine is very hot, the blockage created by the filter caused extra suction to the crankcase, which was already boiling out from volatile contamination of the oil. As a result, large-scale combustible mixture suddenly came to the inlet and the diesel took off uncontrollably. The only remedy was to hit the brakes until everything came to a standstill. Depressing the clutch in shock and trying to turn off the ignition caused the engine to accelerate to self-destruction. The 'Nachrüstung' of an oil cooler and the special hose set for crankcase ventilation helped a lot. However, the right simple modification to the air filter housing helped much more!
    My 78er survived the runaway through adequate handling.
    Bosch pumps were fine. CAV pumps ran those engines raw. Fuel filters and tank filters clogged by anaerobic algae growth (of which the VW dealers often did not even know the existence) brought the fuel pumps out of their 'hum'. Where the service to those engines often suffered greatly, was the unfamiliarity that the dealers still had with them at the time. I can now maintain and repair those CK diesels as well as the 1600cc successor. I did the timing of fuel pumps very easily myself with the right tools and the original VW garage book listed all the specs very neatly. Kids could do the laundry. People who were frustrated that the garage could not solve the problems with their diesels always found their way to me. We are writing the early 80s.

  8. Indeed, the XUD Diesels provided a huge step forward in self-burning, smooth running, wide powerband and masterfully economical. VW and companions continued to lag behind for a while until the direct-injection Diesels made their appearance (FIAT leading the way). In the light Mk1 Golf, that amount of horsepower was more than enough and there were still plenty of slower cars for sale at the time.

  9. Enjoyed 2 rounds of golf. The first with 20.000 km on it for 12.500 guilders. Brought with 120.000 km still 10.000 guilders on trade-in. Then a pair of Passat D and Audi 80 D, all with the same engine. Look back on it with pleasure.

    • Exactly, the Golf D was not that revolutionary. The Peugeot 204/304 mentioned were there 10 years earlier and, except for a somewhat stiff gearbox, those things were problem-free. And available in different body shapes. Those were revolutionary!

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