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Happy 40th birthday VW’s Golf Mk1

2014-08-18 08:29


40 YEARS YOUNG: The Golf One was to ‘morph’ into the uniquely South African Citi Golf, a locally built Volkswagen with clever model names along the way such as VeloCiti, Blues, .Com, etc. Image: Dave Fall

It seems incredible but not that long ago a German automotive icon was born- Volkswagen’s Golf One. The city car first went into production on March 29, 1974 – that’s 40 years ago. The place: Wolfsburg, Germany.

Meanwhile, sales of the iconic VW Beetle showed no sign of losing popularity after 30 years of production. With global sales surpassing the Ford Model ‘T’ at 15 007 033, the Beetle had become the most produced single model in the history of the car.

Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Italian styling genius, the Golf One was again touted as a car for the people – so the Beetle legend was about to continue. I was surprised to discover that the last locally produced Beetle to come out of the Volkswagen car plant in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, occurred in 1979. It continued to be made in Mexico until 2003.


That’s almost 60 years of Beetle manufacture – surely a world record!

A replacement from Wolfsburg was just around the corner, and in just two-and-a-half years more than a million Golf One’s been built and sold. When launched in South Africa in 1978 the locally-built car went on to achieve immediate success – the timing of this new model had taken South Africa by storm, proving to be a worthy successor to its Beetle sibling along the way.

The hot GTi was a long time coming, arriving in November 1982, finally entering local motorsport in the capable hands of one Sarel van der Merwe, who drove the 82kW GTi to SA Group One victory.

A few months later a team of Golf GTi’s broke the SA 24-hour Endurance record while establishing 17 other records along the way.


While Europe and other parts of the world welcomed Golf Two in 1983, the Uitenhage factory was in something of a quandary: Golf Two was going to cost considerably more than the outgoing model and the local honchos at the VW factory weren’t about to let an entry-level best-seller out of their sight so easily.

The uniquely South African Citi Golf was born.

Cautiously optimistic, a 1984 edition of ‘The VW Times’ when releasing the Citi Golf exclaimed: “This is a bright new city car for the young at heart. And the good news is that it will still be around after the new Golf Two is launched.” Nobody could have foreseen that it would actually outlast five generations of subsequent Golf models and become an icon in its own right (Priced from R7 630, nogaal).

Enter Citi Golf, a model that was to continue its cult status in SA for close on 25 years – until 2009 – albeit in many guises and with different engine outputs (including a diesel version), with iconic model names such as Chico, Sonic, Deco, Storm, Blues, .Com, Rox and VeloCiti – among others, with the final (and fastest) version being the Citi R-Line with its 1.8-litre, 90kW, fuel-injected motor.

• In the course of its quarter-century of local sales, Volkswagen’s Citi Golf spent most of its life in the ‘top five’ Naamsa (National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa) spots in the sales charts – again an amazing achievement.

Happy birthday, one and all!

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Read more on:    volkswagen  |  dave fall  |  south africa  |  classic  |  columnist

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