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#TBT - The VW Golf is hardly recognizable 45 years on

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The VW Golf has been around for 45 years, and a lot has happened during this time. Anyone who compares the e-Golf with the first VW Golf will hardly recognize the car. It is hard to believe how our vehicles have changed in recent decades.

The legacy of the Golf was not easy, on the contrary. The car had to replace the iconic VW Beetle with its cuddly curves. The Beetle was designed by engineers, while Volkswagen relied on the expertise of Italdesign for the Golf. The result is an angular car, compact on the outside, spacious on the inside, which can still be seen at first glance today - a break with the Beetle tradition, but a good one.

But even under the bonnet, VW did fundamental things differently with the Golf than with the Beetle. The development went from the air-cooled rear engine to the water-cooled front engine. The interior was functional and modern, most of it was mechanical, the technology was extremely reliable like the Beetle.

So it's no wonder that the Golf quickly gained acceptance: Only two and a half years after the first Golf rolled off the assembly line on 29 March 1974, two and a half million of them were already on the roads. When VW took stock in 2014 after 40 years, more than 30 million Golfs had already been produced. This makes the Golf one of the best-selling cars in the world.

VW has built these Golf models over the years:

  • Golf I (1974 - 1983)
  • Golf II (1983 - 1991)
  • Golf III (1991 - 1997)
  • Golf IV (1997 - 2003)
  • Golf V (2003 - 2008)
  • Golf VI (2008 - 2012)
  • Golf VII (since 2012)

Today one would drive directly to the workshop

It was only with the Golf II that I myself became part of the "Golf Generation". The hand-me-down car from my big sister was built in 1987 and therefore only nine years younger than me. When I think back and compare it with today's cars, it's a difference like day and night. Choke pulling, preheating, no power steering, mechanical window lifters, no air conditioning and a turbocharger that worked so irregularly and rough that nowadays you would drive straight to the garage because you think you are on the brink of engine damage. I loved it, almost 200,000 kilometers on.

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The first Golf was the start of an era / © Volkswagen

Over time more and more models were added - some more successful, some less. The strange Golf Country, for example, had a really specific target group and needed getting used to. Two-door, four-door, later even station wagon, the Golf has become quite variable over the years. But there is a constant, and it has three letters: GTI. For decades, the Golf GTI has been the sports car for masses, and VW emphasized this early and repeatedly in its advertising.

The Golf has been electric for a long time

45 years after the first Golf, times have changed, of course, and quite a bit. The Golf has long since established itself in the middle class, is significantly more expensive and has undergone enormous development. The top of the current development is the e-Golf. Volkswagen has been offering the Golf as a pure electric car and alternatively as a plug-in hybrid vehicle since 2014.

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Golf has grown up. / © Volkswagen

Of course, there is hardly anything left of the first Golf in terms of appearance. There is nothing left of the distinctive angular design, but everything is modern, fluid and perhaps also a little generic. This has many advantages for the manufacturer - in terms of a modular system - and for the customer, too, but has also robbed the Golf of a little of its charm of past years. The classic German car has grown up and thus also become a bit boring.

When is the VW Golf VIII coming?

And what's the next step for golf? Despite all the current problems at VW, there is no end in sight to the success story. The VW Golf VIII should be released next year at the latest, and there are already many rumors about the eighth Golf generation. VW, however, keeps its development under wraps, we don't expect about the car before the actual launch of the Golf VIII.

It is clear that the next Golf will be even more advanced than the Golf VII. Will it only be electric? Is there a hydrogen powered version? And an autopilot like Tesla's? Anything is possible. One thing will remain in any case: the GTI.

The VW Golf is an excellent example of the fact that time has not stood still in cars, nor in other areas of life and technology. Much is changing, the technology of today can hardly be compared with that of the past. But let's be honest: are these really still cars nowadays?

What was your first car? Golf or something? And does the good piece still drive today?

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