On March 29, 1974, after a fairly long development phase, the first Volkswagen Golf rolled off the production line. The Golf was, after the Passat and the Scirocco (which went into production two months before the Golf), the third product of the new VW generation. This was necessary after the VW management had held on to the old concept of Beetle & Co. for too long. Although the Beetle was still sold in numbers that many manufacturers enviously looked at, its successor came in handy. The Golf became and still is very successful.
Volkswagen was in the search for a beetle successor with her hands in her hair. Already in 1969 Wolfsburg showed the EA276 project with front-wheel drive and the old boxer engine in the front. It was the prelude to the next development. Volkswagen invited 1970 Giorgetto Giugiaro in January, and he became very important for Project EA339 in terms of design. Although VW boss Leiding had his reservations, EA339 led to the first generation of the Volkswagen Golf. VW, just like the Passat and the Scirocco (the coupé brother of the Golf), got water-cooled engines with an overhead camshaft. The engines were placed at the front transversely and sloping. The first Golf series were supplied with 1.1 (50 PK) and 1.5 engines (70 PK, these were the S and LS versions). The front wheels were hung independently and were suspended thanks to the Mc Pherson system. The rear wheels were indirectly connected by a self-stabilizing rear axle with wheel guide arms.
Nice lines, initially many imperfections
Giorgetto Giugiaro was therefore responsible for the body design. The combination of Italian design refinement and German construction skills was initially not a happy one. In 1974 (after the production start) the Volkswagen Golf was actually not yet ready for series production. During the report, which we made in 2016 with the oldest known production Golf in the world (7-5-1974), owner Michel Gaastra of Wagenfolks from Drachten said the following. “The first Golf came too fast. Partly because of this, the first production series of the Golf was so bad that Volkswagen bought back a whole series of that series. As a result, almost all copies disappeared. The miserable quality of the very first Golfs forced Volkswagen to make various modifications up to three times in a short time. Screws, steel profiles, parafans, insulation materials and other parts were regularly improved until the April 1975 changes. Only then did VW manage things better. "
Diesel, GTI and action models
The German press, or rather auto motor und sport, openly doubted the durability of the newcomer and still called the Beetle an excellent alternative. That, and the hesitant start, did not stand in the way of success. VW hit the bull's-eye with the Golf, and then dosed the model. The dovetail versions gave way from 1975 to versions with a straight panel between the rear lights, and now all versions got disc brakes on the front wheels. Wolfsburg also replaced the 1.5 power source with the 1.6 engine. The 1.1 engine remained unchanged. In 1976 Volkswagen launched the diesel for the Golf, according to many the first self-igniter capable of keeping up in performance with petrol engines of the same power. And earlier VW had brought the Volkswagen Golf GTI, with the power source from the 80 GTE (110 HP, 1.6 engine), an oil cooler and ventilated brake discs. The Golf ball on the lever and the window trim were other features, as were the black accents (such as around the window in the tailgate). The first Golf GTI is still seen by many as the first hot hatch. Meanwhile, VW also added the trim level GL. From that moment on, Volkswagen - until the end of production - also regularly presented action models such as the Sprinter, the M, the MX, the LX and the GX.
Shock-absorbing bumpers and better sheet steel
For 1978 a new 1.5 liter engine returned, now with 1.457 cc. It replaced the 1.6 carburettor engine (the FP) of the S, the LS and the GLS. An important change took place for model year 1978. The Volkswagen Golf got shock-absorbing bumpers and better sheet steel. VW said goodbye to the recycled can, and that was a good move for rust prevention. For 1979, Volkswagen expanded the engine range with a 1.3 power unit. That was a direct derivative of the 1.093 cc engine of the EA 111 engine generation. Furthermore, the Cabriolet was presented, and it had a long career ahead of it. It wasn't just the open version for the Golf one; it was also part of the delivery program of the second Golf generation.
1980: Last facelift
In the fall of 1980 the Golf one got its last upgrade. VW placed a modified dashboard. Furthermore, the facelifted Golf was recognizable by the wide rear light units. The 1.5 diesel retired, the 1.6 diesel replaced it. The GTI versions received the 1982 engine (code DX) from 1.8. It hardly developed any more power than the 1.6, but it did show more flexibility. The Pirelli version was highly sought after. In 1982, VW also introduced the Golf Turbodiesel, which had the same displacement as the regular 1.6 diesel. In the early 1980s, VW also applied the "Formel E" economy program.
Basis for years of success
The first generation of the Golf, which also served as a starting point for the Jetta and the Caddy, was a great success. He laid the foundation for the popularity that the Golf still knows. The first generation of the Golf was built no less than 7 million times, before it was succeeded by the second generation in 1983. He was also sold and built as a rabbit in America. In South Africa, the first Golf was even the basis for the Citi model, up to 2009, while the Cabriolet was built up to 1993. In total, more than 35 million Golfs (all generations) have been sold, and generation eight is coming.