Manufactured by Volkswagon in 1974, the Golf compact car has become their best-selling vehicle with over 24 million built. In 1975 it was featured as Wheels magazine's Car of the Year.
Several versions and variations have been produced over the years, most famously, the 3-door hatchback style, the 5-door hatchback, as a sedan, convertible, and as a station wagon. The Golf is an example of a hot hatch vehicle.
The success of the Golf was paramount to Volkswagen, as it aided the struggling company in the early 1970's (after terminal sales of the Beetle had plunged the company into decline) and turned sales around. Volkswagen has always had a reputation for solid built-quality and reliable engineering, the design and record-breaking sales reinforced this. The public was repeatedly turning away from the Type 3 and Type 4 at this time and showed no interest in Volkswagen's air-cooled, rear-engined models.
The Auto Union GmbH, which owned Audi became the saving grace for the struggling German car giant. Acquiring the Ingolstadt company in the autumn of 1964 from Daimler-Benz in 1964 a huge turn-around occurred in Volkswagen production as they gained access to Audi's expertise in water-colled engines and front-wheel drive which were crucial in producing the new generation of Volkswagens.
The Golf was marketed in the U.S. and Canada as the Rabbit, and in Mexico as the Caribe. In South Africa, a Volkswagon CitiGolf, an entry-level still produced, is a version of the original Golf model.
The Volkswagon Golf was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, Italian automoble architect of ItalDesign design studio.
Deciding to lower costs by producing locally, Volkswagon chose James McLernon, a former Chevrolet executive, to run a factory in Westmoreland County, PA. It was 1978, and Volkswagon became the first European car manufacturer to produce a vehicle in the U.S.
Over the years, McLernon tried to soften the suspension and used cheaper materials for the interior to 'Americanize' the car. Company executives in Germany weren't happy with the changes made and reverted back to stiffer shocks, suspensions, and higher-quality interior trim.
The PA plant continued producing Volkswagons through 1984, GTI for the North American market, and also the first Caddy pick-up, based on the MK1 Golf.
Considered to be the third-best car during the 1980's, the GTI Mk I, also known as the Rabbit GTI.
Launched in Europe in 1976, and in the US in 1983, the GTI version
With a more advanced power output, due to the newly adopted fuel injection, the hot hatch came with a 1588 cc engine with 100 PS (81 kW/108 hp). Eventually, the car became updated with larger bumpers, a new dashboard, square headlights, and larger rear lamp clusters.
In 1985 the GTI became the Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year. As well as being considered to be the 'Best Golf of all time' by VWVortex's
The Cabriolet, the convertible was sold from 1980 for 13 years and had a transverse roll bar and reinforced body.
It wasn't until 1983 that the second-generation Golf was introduced. This vehicle wasn't available in the U.S. until 1985. The main modifications being a larger bodyshell, more engine options, and a supercharged 8v 'G60' with both 2wd and 4wd options.
The second-generation Golfs were produced at the Westmoreland plant before it closed in July of 1988 due to unsatisfactory sales production. The Pennsylvania plant was also where the North American Rabbit was produced until this setback moved all production to Germany and Mexico.
A special edition G60 Limited was released in a very limited capacity with only 72 available, all featuring a unique number and plaque. The Volkswagen Motorsport division designed these all-black models in 1989 produced 212 bhp and were the most powerful VW Golfs to have ever been released.
The G60 Supercharger had a unique blue grille detail, had a two-headlight grille rather than the standard four headlights found on standard GTI's, and came with a 16-valve engine. These limited editions were unrivaled as the most powerful VW's until the release of the MKIV Golf R32 in 2003.
Popular in the mountainous regions of central Europe, an off-roading vehicle that came with four-wheel drive, bullbars, a spare wheel mounted on the rear, the added capacity for more suspension travel, was the Golf Country. Several of these off-roading vehicles came with the 75 hp 1.6 GTD turbo diesel engine and 114 bhp 1.8 8v petrol engine.
In November of 1991, Volkswagon released a third-generation Golf. It wasn't until 1993 when the MK III was released in North America. By 1992, Golf was elected Car of the Year.
As the diesel craze swept through Europe in the late 1900s and early 2000s, Volkswagen released the Golf MK III with a direct-injection system, and the ability to achieve over 50 hp/L it aided in power without loss of fuel efficiency while still retaining massive amounts of low –end torque.
Volkswagen was the sponsor of three very high profile rock bands' European tours and even issues special edition Golf's for each band. Pink Floyd edition in 1994, Rolling Stones 1995, and Bon Jovi edition in 1996 all carried distinctive exterior markings making these exclusive collectibles during the 1990s.
The very limited '20th Anniversary' 1000 special-edition GTI was released in 1996. Sold in only 6 color schemes, this exclusive model was only produced for the European market and not available in the UK. Today it is seen as the rarest MK III model available.
The Golf IV, launched in 1997, eventually became the biggest selling car in Europe at one point. More expensive than other models in its class at the time, the newest Golf came with a much more exclusive interior and sophisticated styling.
This newest model held true to the standard Golf concept, but it did include the new 'arched' styling themes first found on the MK IV Passat making it a more appealing model. With an average chassis, the handling and the ride was considered to be inferior compared to the MK IV Vauxhall and the MK II Astra, and eventually the Ford Focus (released the following year),
Produced in Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, South Africa, Slovakia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, the Golf IV also released a model in Bosnia for the local market only.
A saloon version of the MK IV was created, as the Volkswagen Bora. In North America, it was released as the Jetta. The Bora/Jetta featured a front wing and bonnet as well as unique rear doors. The new model came in either three or five-door hatchbacks, or as a five-door station wagon.
Introduced to the U.S. in 1999, the Golf IV came with a 2.0 L gasoline engine and a 1.9 L turbocharged diesel TGI engine. In 2000 Volkswagen updated the base engine to the fairly new 1.8 L turbocharged gasoline engine. In 2003, a 24-valve version of its VR6 engine was introduced by Volkswagen and the ability to achieve an extra 26 hp. Featuring the first 6-speed manual available to the MK IV, the 1.8T, and VR6 models
It was during the Frankfurt Motor Show in October of 2005 that the fifth-generation Gold was revealed to the public. In Europe, sales were opened a month later, though it wasn't released to the U.S. for three more years. In January of 2006, the GTI form was the only release until the Spring of 2006.
Volkswagen announced on April 12, 2006, that they will change the name of Golf back to Rabbit for the new lineup introduced to the U.S. and Canadian markets, though the name will remain Golf in the rest of the world.By Jessica Donaldson