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VW Golf I

VW Golf 1
EngineIn-line-four cylinder
Displacement1093/1457 cm³ (petrol)
Bore * stroke69,5*72/79,5*74,3 mm
Compression8,0/8,2 : 1
Engine controlOHC (toothed belt)
Valves2 per cylinder (bucket tappet)
Mixture preparationSingle-/downdraft carburetor
Tank capacity40 liter
Torque79/110 Nm at 3000/2500 rpm
Max. power37/51 kW (50/70 HP)
Rated speed6000/5600 rpm
PowertrainTransverse engine, front drive
TransmissionFour speed, three speed-automatic (51kW)
SteeringSteering rack with/without dampers
Front suspensionMcPherson strut suspension
Rear suspensionTwist-beam axle
Brakes f/rDiscs with floating-caliper/drums, diagonal-dual circuit, brake booster (optional), brake force regulator (optional)
Offset radiusNegativ
Tyres145 SR 13 (4,5")/ 155 SR 13 (5")
Wheelbase2398 mm
Length3815 mm
Width1610 mm
Height1410 mm
Trunk345/1145 liter
Basic weight750 - 805 kg + driver
Top speedApprox. 140/155 km/h
Manufactured1974 - 1982
Battery12V / 36 Ah
Generator35 A

Beetle succession with difficulty

comparing the origin of the Golf I with a forceps delivery is still understating the actual process. History obviously is repetitive, even for world champions of the car production. After Ford had sold in 1927 its 15 millionth Tin Lizzy, the factory was completely closed down for 7 months because Ford had failed to develop a succession model in time. This is comparable to the succession of the Beetle, produced in even more copies. The originally intended model with rear engine under the back bench has been stopped in a relatively late phase by the new chairperson Rudolf Leidig. His strategy is to switch to Audi technology.

Front wheel drive is state-of-the-art

A successor for the outdated Beetle is urgently needed. Especially English and French competitors produce successfully cars with compact front-wheel drives, transversely mounted engines and large tailgates. Audi introduces the Audi 50 in 1974. Technically, the Golf 1 is featuring just few new developments. Thus, e.g., the rear axle is brilliantly easy and, nevertheless, astonishingly effective. Interesting is also the diagonal division of the brake in combination with the negative steering offset. Otherwise the technology is standard to a large extent.

The Golf 1 as a work of art

The body, however, is like a work of art; it becomes more beautiful over the years. If it had been developed approx. 50 years earlier, it could have been assigned to the famous Bauhaus style. The form is simple, straight-lined and without flourish, only the most necessary of geometrical tricks. Such a body is most often developed during difficult times. Once the company is back on track, courage and creativity are gone.

Light construction

Further elements of this car are its favorable ratio of outside to inside measurements and its low weight. The first copies are just on the market, when first considerations for tuning are started. Every single kW of engine power makes its contribution to gain a speedy acceleration. Unfortunately, because the aerodynamics of the car is not optimal, this does not hold true for the maximum speed. The fuel consumption is moderate, though, thanks to the lightweight construction, reducing the weight even more by just having a maximum of 40 litres in the tank. A big disadvantage of the first models, however, is their rust friendliness. This is due to the hurried development and the limited use of car body metal sheets. Today, therefore, models from before 1976 are extremely rare.

How to recognise the less powerful engine

In spite of compact outside measurements the Golf comprises of a relatively large engine compartment. This space is needed, because the Golf can be ordered with two clearly different engines, one bent towards the back and the other bent forwards. The latter is of course lighter and should load the front axle in such a way that with quick initial drive the wheels do not spin too quickly. This engine is later on enlarged to 1.6 litres of cubic capacity. However, for now it has a capacity of 1.1 litres. It is definitely the more modern one of the two possible engines, which needs no additional shaft besides the crankshaft and camshaft for the drive of the oil pump or distributor. The coolant pump is driven directly by the timing belt. Because it also works as a belt tension adjuster, leakages are common when adjusting the timing belt, unfortunately.

The powerful engine

The backwards inclined engine has more capacity, originally a development from Audi from the time when the factory still belonged to Daimler-Benz. It disposes of a third, longitudinally arranged shaft by which the oil pump and the distributor and for the diesel engine the vacuum pump for the brake booster are driven. The coolant pump has its own belt drive. In spite of its age the engine will be used in various variations throughout the company.

Petrol engine derived diesel

The first Golf diesel is sensational. To date diesel engines in this performance range have approx. 2 litres of cubic capacity, their own, stable engine casing with a corresponding weight. The Golf diesel on the other hand is almost identical in design with the petrol-driven Golf, just the cylinder head is different, and there are several amplifications and the starting torqueses of the fixing bolts are different, too. With this engine the Golf is way ahead of its somewhat phlegmatic diesel competitors in terms of acceleration, in spite that they are most often equipped with much more cubic capacity. The engine is not particularly soundproof, though. The mileage standard for diesel passenger cars is around 10 litres / 100 km, but this Golf Diesel may even fall below 5-litre.

Displacement1471 cm³ (diesel)
Bore * stroke76,5 * 80 mm
Compression23,5 : 1
SystemSwirl chamber
Mixture preparationVE-pump
Torque82 Nm at 3000 rpm
Max. power37 kW (50 HP)
Rated speed5000 rpm
Top speedApprox. 140 km/h
Basic weight805 - 830 kg + driver
Manufactured1976 - 1982
Battery12V / 63 Ah

Successor: Golf II               Top of page               Index
2001-2015 Copyright programs, texts, animations, pictures: H. Huppertz - E-Mail
Translator: Don Leslie - Email:

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