There were no two ways about it. When, one fine winter morning in a local car park, I serendipitously cornered the pristine first-gen Golf (in the obligatory period-correct red/orange hue, to boot) that I had been regularly seeing puttering about my neighbourhood for the past year, I just had to snap it up. But would there be anything left to say on the subject? That, my friends and CColleagues, would prove more challenging.
I’ve been very fortunate in occasionally finding CCs that were never caught by anyone yet, chiefly by dint of being located in Asia, I guess. But in the present case, we’re talking about a classic Volkswagen – the global car par excellence. Whether it’s a Beetle, a Transporter, a Golf or a Jetta, you’re just as likely to run into one in Europe, the Americas, or the Asia-Pacific region, really.
It seems CC really loves the Mk 1 Golf. Actually, it’s well beyond love – it’s closer to complete subjugation. The Wolfsburg Syndrome. I found at least 30 separate posts on this specific model (full list at the end of this post), not counting the pickup version. That’s a lot for a European car. Heck, it’s a lot for any car. So what’s one more post going to change? Absolutely nothing. But I can’t keep such a lovely car to myself; that would be selfish. And if nothing else, it will prove the truly global nature of this legendary hatchback.
The American versions of that era were decidedly a bit different from the original, and that was never more blatant than on the Golf. It was so different once it went Stateside that VW changed its name to Rabbit. I never quite understood why Volkswagen felt they needed to do that (nor why they picked that particular name) – they quit this nonsense after the first generation.
Given how golf-obsessed the Japanese are (talking about the sport here, to be clear), it would have been stupid of Volkswagen to use the Rabbit name on Japanese market cars, so they did not do that. A Golf is a Golf here. Rodents be damned.
The car that Jim Klein photographed extensively not long ago was an eye-opener. It was a US-built example – externally pretty similar to this one, but the interior was oh so alien to my eyes, as it was entirely red. No German-made golf ever came out like that. The above is much more like it (the aftermarket steering wheel and gearstick notwithstanding).
What is puzzling is how this interior seems to have been put together sometime in the last couple of months, as opposed to 40-plus years ago. But then you could say that about the whole car, and I’ve learned to accept the existence of the meticulously preserved vehicles here. It’s some sort of national sport.
In Europe, I’m pretty sure a Mk 1 Golf this clean would be noticed. Heads would turn. People my age and older would literally fawn over it, take photos, leave messages of admiration and/or offers to buy tucked under the wipers, stuff like that. I’ve not seen such behaviour here – and I’ve seen this car in motion and parked several times as previously stated. It never seemed like anyone else took a blind bit of notice. Maybe demonstrative displays of admiration are frowned upon here (they’re not).
It’s incredible how influential this car was on automotive design. It also had a huge impact on Japanese cars, even if Japanese people didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I’m not sure how many were sold here back in the ‘70s: I see quite a few second-generation Golfs about the streets here, but this is the only non-convertible Mk1 I’ve encountered so far.
Unfortunately, this one has the bigger wraparound bumpers, which arrived in late 1978. Not as nice as the smaller 1974-78 units, but still preferable to the ludicrous railway sleepers they had to affix on the ends of US-bound Rabbits. I’m not sure when the North American versions got a rear-end restyle, but the Euro versions got bigger rear lights in August 1980. Well, there was one exception: given that the cabriolet joined the range in MY 1979, that version kept the small rear lights until the end of its life in 1993, i.e. well beyond that of the saloon.
I hope this completely superfluous post won’t meet with too much CCondemnation. I couldn’t help but photograph this lovely specimen and share it on this Golf-crazed website of ours. I promise to go back to writing about obscure JDM oddities, unlikely American finds and unusual European exotics as soon as. Just let me have this one round of Golf.
Curbside Classic: 1975 VW Golf Mk1/Rabbit – The Most Influential Modern Global Compact Car, by PN
Curbside Classic: 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI — When Fun Hopped Across The Ocean, by Eric703
Curbside Classic: 1986 Volkswagen Cabriolet – What Women Want, by JPC
Curbside Recycling: 1980 Volkswagen Rabbit C Diesel – Not Hopped Up, But All Hopped Out. by Jim Klein
CC Outtake: VW Rabbit (Golf Mk I) With Ultra-Reclining Seats, by PN
CC Outtake: VW Rabbit GTI Mk1, Four Square Headlight Version, by PN
CC Outtake: VW Rabbit – A Lowered Diesel Rabbit?, by PN
CC Outtake: VW Diesel Rabbit Overlander, by PN
CC Outtake: Concrete Towing 52 hp Diesel Rabbit, by PN
CC Outtake: Red Rabbit; Or Golf To The Rest Of You, by PN
CC Outtake: 1986 VW Golf Cabriolet, by Yohai71
On The Go Outtake: VW Rabbit Diesel L – “L” as in “Long Wheelbase” or The Long Lost Checker Galva 1, by PN
Neighborhood Outtake: VW Rabbits – Slow and Fast, by PN
Hot Springs Outtake: VW Diesel Rabbit – Tough Little Bunny, by PN
Vintage R&T Extended (24,000 Miles) Use Report: 1975 VW Rabbit – Issues, and More to Come, by PN
Vintage R&T Review: 1975 VW Rabbit 36,000 Mile Long-Term Test Update – Serious Teething Pains, by PN
Vintage 48,000 Mile Test: 1976 VW Rabbit – How VW Handed Over The US Import Market to the Japanese, by PN
Vintage Review: VW Rabbit Diesel Extended-Use Report *Post updated with 60K-Miles Report, by Yohai71
R&T 100,000 Mile Long Term Test: 1978 VW Rabbit Diesel – The Downsides of Being An Early Adopter, But Bailed Out By Fuel Economy and High Resale Value, by PN
COAL: 1978 VW Rabbit Diesel – Bunny Tales, by Len Peters
COAL: 1979 VW Rabbit Diesel: You Can’t Get There From Here, by Heath McClure
COAL: 1984 VW Rabbit Diesel: Volkswagen (and Heath) Does It Again!, by Heath McClure
COAL: The Brougham Antidote, Part 3 – Fiat 128 & VW RabbitBy Kevin Martin
COAL: 1978 VW Rabbit – Mine Was a Good One, by Just Plain Joe
Cars Of A Lifetime: 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit – Der Edelkampfwagen, by JunkHarvester
Cars Of A Lifetime – How To Kill Your 1978 Rabbit: A Manual Of Step By Step Procedures For The Compleat Idiot, by JunkHarvester
Cars Of A Lifetime: 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI -The Black Death, by JunkHarvester
Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: MK1 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel – When Alternative Energy Vehicles Were Oil Burners, by Edward Snitkoff
Love it. I think that’s “Mars Red”. We had a later Golf in “Tornado Red” in the early 90’s. I did a little Googling to see if my suspicions were correct and found that VW apparently had more reds in their palette that you could shake a brush at:
Maybe JP Cavanaugh can ID it as the resident CC color analyzer
My 86 GTI and 90 Corrado were Tornado red….The 85 GTI was Mars red…a little more orange, the transition to tornado red happened the following year
That’s in the US for the MkII. The MkI Jetta in ’84 was available in Mars Red over here.
Audi had Mars Red by ’81 at the latest on the UrQ, probably before. It could have been on a Golf in ’79, who knows what all was available back then assuming it was a Japan-market car. Mars Red has also been called different names over the years as well while being the same shade.
It’s exceptional. I wonder if it’s original or a well done restoration. Of course being parked outside seems to rule out originality, but then again who would restore it if forced to park outside….If it were in any other country, originality wouldn’t be considered. The color seems a little too dark to be Mars Red (which had a heavy orange tint) but then again the author’s camera has apparently been playing up a bit. It’d be a good color for it if it is.
I also love that’s the four door, generally less desired than the two door. It is surprising to see just how much attention we’ve slathered on these over the years, its influence is a subtle but brilliant one. It surely would rank high on my list of 1970s cars to own today, and be one of the few that’d likely be used regularly without second thoughts, at least compared to the rest of the list.
Looks like a recent re-upholstery job to me. I’m quite sure the original back seat had some subtle but clear pleats, or vertical lines of stitching that seem to be missing on this one.
It looks like a lot of vintage cars we’ve been seeing here from Tokyo: likely a combination of having been well cared for with various degrees of intervention to restore certain elements. And the care continues, in that typical Japanese way.
It was so different once it went Stateside that VW changed its name to Rabbit. I never quite understood why Volkswagen felt they needed to do that (nor why they picked that particular name) –
They didn’t change the name because it was so different. Actually, the German built Rabbit that was imported in the first years before they started building them in the US was only as different as US regulations required: the bumpers, emission controls, and the other usual details like lights and such. No different than any other import at the time, and all stuff that was easy to remove/undo, as it commonly was.
As I remember it, the name change was instigated by VWoA, who was concerned that Americans would associate the name Golf to the very popular game of golf. VW was using names of Eur-Asian-African winds: Passat, Scirrocco, and Golf was presumably for the Gulf wind that blew up too.
VWoA was concerned that Golf connoted a game that was too upscale, snooty and establishment for the clientele of the Beetle, who were the least likely car owner group to be seen at the golf club (where would you stash the clubs?). So they convinced themselves (and Wolfsburg) to go with something that would be in the same vein as the Beetle. And of course since beetles are slow, they wanted to play up on the quickness of the Golf, which it very much was at the time. Hence the name Rabbit.
By the time the Mk2 came along, the VW’s baby boomer clientele was undoubtedly much more open to the name (and game) of Golf.
And the Rabbit name was actually brought back for the Golf Mk5 in 2003. But then it reverted back to Golf for the Mk6.
And the Passat would be renamed Dasher and then Quantum for the American market….Glad they kept Scirocco….although the English spelling is Sirocco
Right. The Dasher even preceded the Rabbit. VWoA really wanted to emphasize the exceptional lithe and quick aspects of these cars, which they were at the time.
Check that… the MKIV here in the U.S. was never a Rabbit. The MKV was named Rabbit, but only from 06 to 09.
Typo/dates mix up. I did say “Mk5”. But I got the starting date wrong.
In addition to its inherent “goodness”, I think the Golf was very influential in the acceptance of hatchbacks as alternatives to traditional sedans or more conventional wagons (yes, I know it wasn’t the first). And as such, it fits into a continuum of hatches, wagons, tall wagons (but not minivans, no sliding doors) and CUV’s. Other than a brief pickup and Vanagon period in my late 20’s and early 30’s, I’ve always owned at least one vehicle with a rear liftgate and folding back seat since I bought my Vega in 1976, only two of which were wagons and none CUV’s. And today that role is filled by our own Golf.
That’s an interesting point about this being so loved on this site. I suppose the gm b body takes the crown for america as being the most universally loved and written about american car on this site. Which Japanese car would be the most loved? I was going to say the accord, as all the articles praise it effusively, but I think the corolla gets more electrons assembled to recount its history than does the accord.
The biggest reason there’s so many Rabbit posts here is because there’s still so many hopping around here still. I find new ones all the time. I’d forgotten about some of them. So I’m not sure that represents universal CC love for them.
The Mk 1 Golf is one of the best cars I have ever driven. It was revelation after driving my Toyota Corolla.
This has to be the most immaculate Golf Mk1 I’ve seen! Shame about the poor choice of seat upholstery.
There’s a very rare Golf GTI 16S Oettinger running loose in Munich’s posh neighbourhood once in a while. This one is identifable by body-coloured fender flares, fully integrated front air dam that extends to the fender flares, no lower body side rub stripes, side skirts, and special alloy wheels.
Of 30-plus Golf/Rabbit articles posted in CC, I don’t think Golf with Oettinger-prepared 16-valve engine has been covered here before.
yup…a rebodied Audi…longitudinal FWD…I’m old enough to remember them when new
No, the B1, B2, and B5 generations of both Volkswagen Passat and Audi 80 shared the same platform with longitudinal-mounted engine and transaxle.
The Golf-derived Audi would be A3 released in 1996.
I was referring to the Dasher/Passat as a rebodied Audi 80
Although not a new concept, VW perfected the FWD, transverse engined hatchback. I believe iit was brilliant of them to have the Golf, Rassat and Scirocco designed by Giugiaro whose clean uncluttered lines look good today. His concept lives on 8 generations later. The Golf is still a clean uncluttered car without random creases, slots, floatig roofs and oversized grilles. I have a MK7 Golf Alltrack and I love the design, so reminiscent of the original Golf
Demonstration of all that was wrong about the Austin Allegro, on 4 wheels. And many others too.
A lot of Golf (early ones anyway) love here.
As an aircooled VW Mechanic I wasn’t impressed by the new Rabbit in…. ?1975? .
I truth I imagine in the back of my mind it meant the Beetle as well and truly dead .
In 1995 I bought a 1984 Rabbit convertible salvage – reconstruct, it was a real eye opener as it scooted right along on it’s tiny 1600C.C. engine and 5 speed box .
I ran that poor thing ragged, drove it to Canada and back before my brother killed it and i sold it on cheaply .
I should have tried an MKI GTI, missed a good thing as my son ran one in auto cross for a few years .
This one looks terrific and being right hand drive would make a great U.S.A. hobby car .
My uncle Jack, a longtime VW fan, traded in his ’73 (IIRC) Collector’s Bug for one of these when they first came out. I remember borrowing it once, and was amazed how light and responsive it was to drive, quite a revelation compared to the Falcons and Morris 1100s I was used to, and not even on the same planet as the old Beetle!
Sorry, distracted by your MKI Scirocco..had a ’78 as my first VW, ’86 GTi second, and ’00 Golf as my current car (have only 3 cars no others in 40 years, all watercooled VWs. Your Mk7 is great too; just go goggle eyed with the MKI, alltime favorite of mine.
Before I bought the Scirocco I testdrove a MK1 Golf (back in ’81). Couldn’t quite afford a new one back then, not sure what kept me from the Golf, but likely had to do with my Father, who had bought a new ’80 Dodge Omi coupe the year before. Of course the Scirocco was likely it’s inspiration. Glad I bought it when I was younger, as much as I like the Scirocco, it probably wouldn’t suit me 40 years later, the Golf is more my speed (in fact sometimes thinking the Golf is too low to get in gracefully…my sister has a ’97 Nissan 240SX and I think I’m almost sitting on the ground getting into it)…but I can still dream about it.
Think I got a 16% loan on the Scirocco. My manager at the time was president of the Credit Union (our occupation didn’t have anything to do with finance, but it was kind of a deal back then that people had a volunteer job associated with it). Think he helped fanegle an extra $500 on the loan so I could afford it, as I hadn’t been with them long enough to qualify for the whole amount I wanted to finance.
One of my co-worker got a 24% loan (though not at the credit union) on his used car purchase.
Unfortunately, seems like Golf, like most hatchback, is disappearing. Only one model sold now, probably never a big seller, I see many more Jettas where I live now, but I think Golfs were more popular up north where I started out (back in ’80)