By on June 7, 2009

This one has less hilarity. But it is German, I mean germane to The Truth About Cars.

1973, at the tender age of 24, I defected to the enemy. BS, the former muckraking journalist, became a copywriter in a hotshot advertising agency. As the saying went, I didn’t sell out, I cashed in: As a junior copywriter, I was paid twice as much of what I had made before as the editor in chief of a muckraking journal.

Raking muck had paid shit. Advertising was paradise. Work was easy, no more nerve-racking and downright dangerous undercover research, just sit and write. Powered by pilsener. Soon, my salary multiplied. Times were good.

They put me on the Volkswagen account. I didn’t have the vaguest idea about cars. I didn’t even have a driver’s license. This qualified me as an utterly unbiased and unbelievably gullible tool of automotive propaganda.

One of my first jobs was to launch a new Volkswagen with a funny name: “Golf.”

Everybody at Volkswagen hated that car. It had the wrong shape. At the time, a true Volkswagen was round. This thing was boxy with harsh corners. It had the wrong engine. A true Volkswagen was air-cooled, this one was cooled with—ughh—water. The engine was in the wrong spot. A true Volkswagen hat the engine in the rear, this one had it up front. It was designed by the wrong people. A true Volkswagen was designed by Volkswagen engineers. This one was engineered by people from Audi, that strange little Bavarian company Volkswagen had acquired from Mercedes a few years before.

Not that all that mattered to me. Frankly, I didn’t know the difference between air-cooled and water-cooled. Or between double wishbone and a chicken breast. But it had been impressed on me to listen to the client. And the client thought that water-cooled was an act against nature. The mere thought that this contraption would de-bug Volkswagen was regarded as insanity.

Everybody at Volkswagen was deeply convinced that the Golf would be an utter disaster. But they had no other choice. Attempts of their own engineers to make something else than the Bug, with the proper shape and the proper engine, had ended in even bigger disasters, again and again. Anybody remember the VW 411 or VW 412? Nobody? See?

The cupboard was bare, so they had to sell the ugly water-cooled duckling.

In late 1973, the first oil crisis hit. This didn’t instill additional confidence in my first client. The price of a barrel of oil jumped from $3 to the obscene level of $12. Everybody at VW was convinced that this would be the end of the car as we knew it, and that we would all be taking the (steam powered) train, or the bicycle. I began to wonder whether my career choice was sound. I began to suspect that I was put on the Volkswagen account because nobody else wanted it. My colleagues, who pushed cigarettes, hair coloring and Jägermeister, confirmed that suspicion.

There was a positive aspect to all of this: Nobody really cared, and everybody was convinced that the Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft (as VeeDub was named at the time) would soon be gone, along with all other car companies on the planet. This gave us free range, and we could do whatever came to our warped and alcohol-affected minds.

(Later, whenever oil spiked, the notion that cars and car companies would soon be dead returned with regularity. With the same regularity, the auto industry kept puttering along, reminding us of Mark Twain. The news of my demise, and all that . . . )

The campaign we created in late 1973 for the Golf showed the car on a spot of green. We placed a little flag next to it. The headline went: “The new popular sport: Golf.” (“Der neue Volkssport: Golf.”) At the time, golf was something for the super-rich in Germany. We thought it was uproarious. Nobody complained that the Golf wasn’t a sport scar. “Positioning” was something you did on the soccer field, or in corporate politics. It wasn’t part of the marketing arsenal, at least not at Volkswagen. Nobody admonished us that times were dire, and that word games with snooty sports were just wrong. Political correctness was invented later, long after the PC. Frankly, nobody gave a damn.

In March 1974, the first official Golf rolled past Zählpunkt 8 at the VW factory in Wolfsburg, and into the showrooms of doubtful dealers. Yet again, all predictions went out of the window: The Golf became a runaway hit.

Quickly, the Golf outsold all cars in all of Europe, a title which it defended well into the new millennium. In 2002, the Golf dethroned the Volkswagen Bug as the world’s best selling car. It was later ousted by the Ford F series truck, and the Corolla. The F truck’s success is widely repressed from consciousness, as it doesn’t jibe with current politics. The title of the Corolla is disputed as Japanese trickery.

A few years after the launch—a million was still a million—the Golf had turned a loss of 807 million Deutschmarks into a gain of 667 million. At the same time, the head of the ZAF, or the Zentrale Absatzförderung, as the Volkswagen Advertising Dept. was called, and I sat in the dining car of the train from Wolfsburg to Düsseldorf.

He wiped the König’s Pilsener froth off his mustache and announced:

“The Akademie Bad Harzburg asked me to present a case study of the success of the Golf.”

I was in awe. Die Akademie für Führungskräfte der Wirtschaft in Bad Harzburg was at the time THE breeding ground for future leading executives. Asked to give a presentation in Bad Harzburg was a high honor. It was the management equivalent to giving a seminar about rocket science at the Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech. My guy had never been at an institution of higher learning. He had sold carpets, and then went to Ford, then to Volkswagen.

He was nervous.

“Can you help me write the darned thing?”

“Sure,” I said.

“So what are we going to say?”

Time for a beer for me.

“How about something unusual,” I offered.

“Such as?”

“The truth.”

“The TRUTH????”

“That’s right: Truth. We know, but they don’t: Nobody wanted the car. The car was wrong. Everybody hated it. To everybody’s surprise, it became a success.”

My man grunted admission. Then he went into deep thought.

He lit another cigarette and had another drink. One of the many of both he consumed every day.

“That’s a good idea. They really could learn something new,” he announced after thoughts, drink and cigarette were finished.

“A really good idea.”

In my mind, I already started writing. He lit and poured another one, then scratched an itch on his balding head.

“They would learn the most important ingredient of success: Luck, effing luck.”

I nodded furiously.

“But if I do that, I’ll get fired.”

The typewriter in my head made a last cling, and went silent.

And so it happened that, once more, students and faculty at the Akademie für Führungskräfte der Wirtschaft in Bad Harzburg were blatantly lied to.

They were told that after careful analysis of the market, after a study of the changing habits of the target group, with premonition of the rising oil prices, which everybody at VW had long seen coming, and with an enthusiastic cadre of engineers, the right car was made at the right time for the right price.

Due to the combined wisdom of everybody at Volkswagen, and the heroic effort of the Volkswagen workers, the Golf became a success, all according to plan.

For decades, the (official) version of the launch of the Golf was regarded as the textbook case of how to design, build, and market a car. The world was yet again deprived of an essential piece of wisdom:

Most big successes just happen to happen.

I was very sorry he lied, but I was very glad he kept his job. A decade and a half later, he became my partner in my own advertising agency. We continued doing the same old shtick: Advertising for Volkswagen. We made a lot of money.

The world really wasn’t ready for the truth.

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62 Comments on “Autobiography of BS©: How I Lied about the Golf...”


  • avatar
    Brian E

    Keep writing Herr Schmitt. I’m really enjoying this series!

  • avatar
    ruckover

    Does this mean the Volt will be a success?

  • avatar

    No.

  • avatar
    Ken Strumpf

    This is terrific stuff. Keep it up. Reminds me of an interview I saw with a toy company executive. When asked why certain toys become runaway hits while others fail he said “No one has any idea”.

  • avatar
    pleiter

    And the thanks bestowed upon Audi was………….?
    Was Piech involved in the thought experiment that lead to the architecture of the Golf ? Who picked Guigiaro for the sculpture work ? Was this all about giving Audi something to do, at the time ? Perhaps a true case study would still be illustrative. I wold think that, being Germany, a very thorough and detailed case study would have been developed to CYA some executive behind, and then deeply stowed away when it was determined to be not needed.

  • avatar

    Was Piech involved in the thought experiment that lead to the architecture of the Golf ? Who picked Guigiaro for the sculpture work ?

    Piech had nothing to do with it. Quite the opposite: He was at Porsche at the time, and developed a mid-engined bug-successor internally called EA 266. That was shelved in 1971. 1972, Piech left Porsche, and took a low ranking job as department head for “special projects” at Audi in Ingolstadt.

    The decision to switch from round and air-cooled to boxy and water-cooled was made by a VW CEO that is long forgotten: Kurt Lotz. He didn’t stay long, from 1968 through 1971. Leiding took over, and under him, Giugiaro was hired.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Brilliant. Thank you!

  • avatar
    tsofting

    Great story, and great stories, you are serving, keep that up! I vividly remember that the Golf was a bit of a shocker when it came out, because I had been scrutinizing the pages of auto, motor und sport with their drawings of the Beetle-successor with the engine under its back seat. At the time, ams was very focused on “Mittelmotor” as the savior of both VW and the rest of the autoscape. Alas, that concept fizzled totally!

  • avatar
    bevo

    I love these stories. Please keep them coming.

    And, if you want to present the truth, then please let me know because you can speak at my little university.

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    “This one was engineered by people from Audi, that strange little Bavarian company Volkswagen had acquired from Mercedes a few years before.”

    So… the original Golf was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and engineered by Audi! That is vastly different from the Beetle. How interesting… so that means that … Audi really did save Volkswagen back then. That was money well spent on the Audi acquisition. Consider how many vehicles have the Golf platform now.

    It is a case of supreme irony, then. The car was thought to be alarmingly different, an outsider, a disaster. Then it became one of the best examples of sales success ever.

  • avatar
    Smegley

    Hating that which you’re dependent on, but making it work anyway?

    Sounds like a succesful marriage!

  • avatar
    Matt51

    My understanding is that the Golf, while a technologically more advanced car than the Beetle, cost twice as much to produce. As Germans had a high standard of living, they could afford this at the time. The Beetle was produced in Mexico until very recently. Just as Henry Ford (the Deuce) was afraid emissions and safety regulations would make cars unaffordable for the mass markets.

    The Golf (2x cost of the Beetle) may have been the wrong answer. The collapse of the auto market is very likely a problem of affordability. Look at the Nano in India. Low cost is the future. The Beetle may have been the right answer.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Another wonderful story. I’m sure any other car magazine would kill to be able to publish these.

    The success of the Golf concept within VW is all the more surprising when you look at how the K70 (a boxy, front wheel drive sedan introduced 1970) was a flop.

  • avatar
    pista

    Terrific story but aren’t rich people’s sports “snooty” rather than “snotty” [unless you\'re talking about water polo]?

  • avatar

    Pista: Snooty, you are right. I’m sorry, English as a second language.

  • avatar

    The fuel crisis of 73 caused the Golf to be the right car at the right time or luck as you put it. I had a 76 Rabbit (Golf) I loved it and hated it. It was light and fun and had remarkable build quality in the body, paint and interior and horrible durability glitches. My 2006 Xb reminds me of the original Golf. My Rabbit was 70 HP 1900 pounds versus 2300 pounds and 100 HP for the Xb. Light weight practical and fun to drive only with Toyota durability. If VW had made them with durability they would have ruled even the US market.

    Very cool story Bartel.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I’m sorry, English as a second language.

    Your second language skills are better than the first language skills of many. After all, we’ve been known ’round these parts to elect people who are fluent in no languages.

    (Great series. Don’t apologize.)

  • avatar

    Beautifully written, Bertel. I always look forward to reading your work.

  • avatar
    kaleun

    unfortunately that is how most management works…. the success stories come from bending the management rules, not following them.
    At GM there was a strict concept of following rules… and we now see the cars.

    the GTi is another example how success was made by violating management order. Of course, after the GTi became a success the same story was told about how management thought it all through by polling people etc. ;-)

  • avatar

    Kaleun:

    Ah, you know the GTI Story? It’s short, so I can tell it now. They thought the GTI would only be an oddity for motorsports.

    They wanted to do a limited edition, a “Sondermodell,” 5000 units. If I recall right, 5000 was the minimum for homologation for some rally class.

    We told them: “You are nuts. None will reach the customer.”

    “Hey, we build 5000!”

    “You have 4500 dealers in Germany. Each dealer will keep one for his son.”

    And so it was.

    They learned quickly ….

  • avatar
    ragtopman

    Nice story, Bertel.

    I’d like to know what possessed VW to produce The Thing.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Bertel,

    Great series thus far. Keep going!

    -ted

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    So, ultimately, what DID make the Golf a success?

    The Audi engineers had already made the Audi 80/Volkswagen Passat for Audi and Volkswagen in 1973, and the Audi 50/Volkswagen Polo was in the works, launched a year after the Golf, in 1975. If Audi was involved in engineering the Golf, how come there wasn’t any Audi versions on that platform, until generation 4?

    On another note, I’ve always thought the Golf more modern looking than either the Polo or the Passat. It almost looks good enough to have been made in the next generation cycle. How come they have such a difference in appearance, as they were launched in almost the same time frame?

  • avatar
    cnyguy

    Audi, schmaudi. I think it was Setright who noted Volkswagen bought a small fleet of Fiat 128′s as inspiration. The 128 was the first car to use the now-standard ‘offset’ FWD engine-transmission layout. At the time it was considered revolutionary.

  • avatar
    holydonut

    Bertel –

    I guess the question I have is that who was responsible for pushing the Golf design forward regardless of the negative vibe that it was receiving from everyone at the organization. If the car launched just a few months after the fuel crisis – then it had already been mostly developed even before the fuel crisis. Someone had to have the vision to foresee the need for the Golf before anyone else ever realized its importance.

    It sounds like the Audi division was still granted spending authorization for development and investment on a vehicle that you say everyone felt would fail. The engineers at Audi had to be working under the guidance of someone driving the vehicle through in spite of harsh resistance. Do you know who that was? And then someone had to force the marketing group to go ahead and generate demand for a vehicle that apparently deemed unsellable.

  • avatar

    As I said, it was Leiding. The car had been developed by a group of Audi and NSU guys. The design had a little inspiration from the Fiat 127.

    I still remember a Schuco model of the Fiat 127 on the desk of my art director – he used it for the first rough scribbles of the campaign.

    When Leiding came, he stopped that mid engine nonsense, launched the Passat (basically a rebadged Audi 80) and thereafter the Golf, based on what they had in the Audi/NSU skunkworks. It was all done in a big hurry, Leiding came in 71, the Passat came in 73, the Golf in early 74. In these days, normal model cycles were 7 years.

    The “it will fail” notion was amongst the Volkswagen guys. They were indoctrinated with “engine in back, aircooled.” I remembered writing “air cannot freeze.”

    A few years later, it was all forgotten. And we had a lot of fun selling the Bug as special edition models. Dressed in Jeans, dressed up as a Herbie. The 1303 S, a yellow-black hotrod bug, even caused a scandal: It was understood as a suggestion to Baruth-Type driving ….

    The 1303 was called “13 – hole – 3″ because it used too much gas. I had to promise never to tell the internal joke in public:

    Driver of 1303 stops at gas station.

    “Could you please fill ‘er up?”

    “Could you please turn off the engine?”

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      My 1303S story:  First time ever in Germany, Christmas of 1985, rented a 1303S for the drive from Hanover (Hon Overe) to Munich … funny little trip … wipers that wiped with the speed of a glacier … windshield washer bottle with a hole in the bottom … driving on the Autobahn in the middle of the night in heavy snow … fast and stable in the snow … but when passing Ingolstadt, Quatro System test cars flying by me in the left lane made me feel like I was going backwards (this feeling had only ever happened on trains before, or recently when going 240 kph in a Q7 and passed by a Carrera GT going 340) … heat that couldn’t be turned off, or turned down, sweating, but the windscreen being covered in frost … driver’s seat cushion formed as though something immensely dense, like white dwarf star, had previously sat upon it … and of course, the bad fuel economy … almost ran out of gas on the outskirts of Munich because there were so few stations opened the day after Christmas … running into the aunt and uncle of my friend of Hannover on the street in Munich (pure coincidence) and then spending the night in their home in Dachau!

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    I once worked for a conglomerate which acquired a company making consumer goods. They analyzed the product line and decided to kill one product off. It didn’t fit in. They raised the price by about 100% but made no other changes. The public saw the price and saw quality. Sales shot up- to number one. Product saved. Go figure.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “The world really wasn’t ready for the truth.”

    Still isn’t.

  • avatar

    Ragtopman: I don’t know much about The Thing. There was no Thing advertising in Germany. The German army needed another Jeep-type vehicle, and VW developed the Typ 181 – based on the venerable “Kübelwagen.” Most went to the military. Was too expensive for private use. But it wasn’t a 4×4

    The real Bundeswehr Jeep was the Typ 183, a.k.a. “Iltis” – it was again developed by Audi, and was a 4×4 – basis for the Quattro.

  • avatar
    long126mike

    Still isn’t.

    You know The Truth? Pray tell, what is it?

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Gotta love these insider tales -keep them coming.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Obviously at least one executive at VW knew what the Golf could be, and was powerful enough to see it get to market. He probably bet his career on it too. So kudos to him.

  • avatar

    Herr Schmitt,

    Do you happen to recall the Scirocco introduction? What was the general feeling about that at the time? I was only three years old when the Golf was introduced but the sources I’ve read seem to indicate that the Scirocco hit the market first in most places.

    • 0 avatar
      Baskingshark

      As I understand it from what I’ve read, the Scirocco Mk1 was launched first because it was seen as less of a mass-market car. VW wanted to see if the public would find any kinks they needed to iron out of the design before the Golf (which needed to sell in far higher numbers) was launched.

      For the record, Sciroccos are very reliable. I have a Mk2 at the moment which is an incredibly tough car!

      • 0 avatar

        “As I understand it from what I’ve read, the Scirocco Mk1 was launched first because it was seen as less of a mass-market car. VW wanted to see if the public would find any kinks they needed to iron out of the design before the Golf (which needed to sell in far higher numbers) was launched.”

        Another attempt to force logic into something that defies logic, and, in this case, easily proved as absolute nonsense.

        The Golf was launched in May 1974. The Scirocco was launched at the same time, maybe, if my aging brain recalls right, a few weeks earlier. In a development and production context, they were launched together. Golf and Scirocco shared the same platform and many, many parts.

        Basically, the Scirocco was a rebodied Golf, made as pretty much a skunkwork project at Karman, and launched with very limited support, simply because Volkswagen had its hands full launching Passat, Golf, Polo, and because Volkswagen and Karman wanted something to succeed the Beetle-based Ghia.

        The Golf was already on the market while its kinks allegedly were worked out in the Scirocco. It doesn’t work that way, and that “iron out” story simply is not true. Nobody monitored the Scirocco for mistakes that would then be avoided in a high volume Golf. The car was already on the market. Everybody prayed that these new, unknown cars with – for Volkswagen – new technology could be introduced with as little hassle as possible.

  • avatar
    TireGuy

    I didn`t know Sinamotive was an advertising agency!?

  • avatar
    grog

    A VW with horiblye durability issues? I’m shocked, shocked I say.

    Too bad that GM’s done what VW hasn’t done: built at least a couple of cars that *don’t* have durability problems.

  • avatar
    DrivnEZ

    Excellent prose.

    Such was the vividness of your writing, I felt I was sitting in the train car with you.

  • avatar
    pete

    Bitte Herr Schmitt, mehr BS!

    Danke.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Fine read.
    “Powered by pilsener.”
    What pilsner is recommended?

  • avatar

    Bertel: this is a great read. But now I gotta know, what did the VW Marketing types think of the Diesel Golf? That’s gotta be a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

  • avatar
    lutonmoore

    Great story Bertel. Keep ‘em coming.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Bertel, do you know anything about the last Karmann Ghia ad in 1974? I remember seeing it once, telling my friends, and never seeing it again. Most of my friends never saw it.

    The ad showed a K-G racing toward a paper barrier with the VW logo on it, as the announcer compared the K-G to various sports cars (The K-G has rack and pinion steering, just like a BMW, …rear engine, just like a Porsche, etc.) and ended with the K-G unable to break through the paper barrier, and the announcer saying “It just isn’t as powerful”.

    It’s been 35 years and I still remember that ad. Other than ’74 being the last year for the K-G, why was that ad pulled so quickly?

  • avatar

    Jack: The Scirocco came minutes after the Golf. It was fast and furious in those days: Passat 1972, Golf, Scirocco (based on Golf) early 1974, Polo late 1974. We had our hands full. Scirocco was built and financed by Karmann, VW had a full plate also. At introduction, the Scirocco got short shrift.

    The Scirocco always was popular with the ladies: Despite being marketed as a muscle-Golf (bah, with the same engines,) it always had a lot of female buyers. We called it “secretary-Porsche.” Looks like the new one will be a ladies’ car also.

    The Scirocco GTI came a year before the Golf GTI, 76, if I’m not mistaken. There’s another – very sordid – story. Remind me to tell. Two people will have died when the story is over.

    yankinwaoz : Leiding. He bet his career and the house on it. Developing all those cars in a hurry did cost a lot of money. Also, the oil crisis dampened sales. He powered ahead, losses mounted. He had to go in 75, was replaced by cost-cutting Schmücker. He, and later Hahn, reaped what Leiding sowed. Schmücker was lucky again: Months after he took the job, VW was in the green: Leiding’s investments showed returns. There is a moral in there, somewhere.

    Tireguy: Very perceptive! Had a little career change in my old age.

    Lorenzo: Sorry, I don’t. Too busy, too drunk in 1974. Karmann had their own agency.

    • 0 avatar
      Baskingshark

      I can well believe the Scirocco was popular with the ladies. As per my previous comment, I currently have a Mk2 Scirocco. ALL the people who’ve come up to me to say “I used to have one of those!” have been ladies of a certain age and social status who were bought one by rich husbands (or, er, not-husbands) in the 70′s/80′s. (VW really needed to put a bigger, faster engine in the Scirocco to make it a proper sports car – in the UK it cost as much as a Ford Capri 3.0 but offered far less performance.)

  • avatar

    Sayeev: They though the Diesel was a lunacy that had to be done. Supposedly, it was thrifty. But it was also expensive. We had to tread carefully on that issue. Break-even point for the expense was calculated at 80,000 km.

    “And then the engine will fall out of the car” said one battle-hardened VW guy. The Golf (and the other cars) had a little corrosion problem in the 70′s ….

  • avatar

    Awesome Schmitt!!!
    I’ve done some fairly silly things in that car. Including drag-racing a ‘Cuda.

    -Now why is it they made the damn 2005+ Jetta look like a Corolla?

    And why are the people at the Munich Tourist Office, erm, not very friendly???

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    “The Scirocco always was popular with the ladies”

    That explains a lot. I had an effeminant roommate back then. He loved his Scirocco. We made a little hot rod out of it and he took it to Germany when he joined the Army.

    Stuffed it under a cop car in Bad Toltz.

  • avatar

    Great read, Bertel.

    About “Golf:” I read at one point that golf was German for gulf, and that the car’s name derived from that meaning, not the sport. False?

    I wrote a thesis explaining why typical organizations only produce great products when mid-level managers who will never make it to the top break the rules. This seems to be an exception, though, assuming that the Golf was initiated from the top. Or was it picked up from the top, after people lower down started developing it on their own initiative?

    Sorry to hear Leiding got sacked, and others got the credit. Not unusual, of course.

  • avatar
    Sigsworth

    Fascinating. More please. Also, big thanks to Bertel for responding to reader comments. Conversations are so much more interesting than pronouncements.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    The world really wasn’t ready for the truth.

    And still isn’t… the whole political correctness proves it.

    I always enjoy the political un-correctness of your articles.

    For the über correct spelling… I forgive, english is my second language too.

    The Golf I’ve always liked is the MKIII. The Jetta/Vento that came with it also looks fine.

  • avatar

    That ‘gulf’ theory was bunk.

    There were two factions. One named cars after winds. Passat, Scirocco … then they ran out of proper winds.

    The other faction favored sports: Golf, Polo, Derby. That was exhausted soon also. Winds had a short comeback: Bora. Sports cam back with the Gol. Then they had to resort to African tribes (Touareg) or cars from the rorarig twenties (Phaeton) Or the wolf of Wolfsburg (Lupo).

    I could never fathom who really named the cars. Rumors had it, it was the wives of the guys on top.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Just confirms that guys will agree to any silly thing when their wives are on top…

      Hi Bertel, Great story as always … I hope you come up with more insider stuff … even if, as you said elsewhere, it is not so sublimely humourous … your characterizations and detail are worth reading … I’m sure there are still some funny stories in your head if even about business cards, or the dress code in WOB…  Please resume, and keep up, the wonderful work!  Regards.

  • avatar

    I doubt the wives are responsible. They’d probably pick better names.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Passat, Scirocco … then they ran out of proper winds.

    Did they think to try Kamikaze? I gues that idea would have just crashed and burned. (bad pun, I’m sorry).

    Great article, Bertel. I’m loving this series.

  • avatar
    autoarcheologist

    Too funny. Success is hard to predict, failure much easier.

  • avatar
    longo

    “Volkswagen guys. They were indoctrinated with “engine in back, aircooled.” I remembered writing “air cannot freeze.”

    I live in Alberta Canada and our winters here would prove the Germans wrong…it gets so cold that the breath from your mouth freezes into a little frosty cloud right in front of your frozen lips!
    But that it not what I want to point out…I had a 1959 VW Bettle in those days (1960) and the little plastic covered seats were like sitting on the edge of an ice berg in the morning.

    When (if) the engine started, the motor would race at top speed until you ran around the back, lifted the lid and kicked the carburator until it stopped scheeking in pain.
    Or was it me shreeking in pain, I can’t remember except there was pain, lots of pain..

    As you started to drive away, the next thing that happened was your frozen breath stuck to the inside of the windshield. Driving with one hand and using an ice scraper until a little small palm sized openeing in the frozen windsheild slowly apeared in the lower corner.

    Now one could kink their neck to one side and peer with one eye for a few more torturaous miles until the engine heat finally got the front window cleared to allow a hole big enough for both eyes to see through.
    But in the meantime, your frozen butt was nowhere near defrosted, as the seats would refuse to warm up any faster than your body could lose heat.

    YOu dared not grab the steering wheel without gloves on as your skin would freeze to the plastic coated steel ring, preventing you from jumping out and kicking the frozen carburator.

    Yes the VW beetle was a rolling lie, “The Peoples CAR”..HAH! still, ‘The People’ bought the hideous things and some of us even lived to tell the tale.

  • avatar
    TireGuy

    Bertel Schmitt :
    June 8th, 2009 at 2:06 am

    “And then the engine will fall out of the car” said one battle-hardened VW guy. The Golf (and the other cars) had a little corrosion problem in the 70’s ….

    true …
    from Audi came also the Polo. It started out as an Audi 50, and was just labeled Polo – the first ones really rusted away completely, you don`t see any anymore. However, when VW did the second generation around 82 they settled the problem – which brought my first car, being a Polo from 82, until 1997 and 230.000 km, without major problems, no rust, and all from a 1.0 liter engine …

  • avatar
    Caraholica

    Excellent story Bertel

    I think it is time for a book about ‘Inside VW’. God knows Detroit has been written about enough, but this is truly fascinating stuff and given its stature today I would be very interested in the culture that drove it to its current, uh, condition.

  • avatar
    skor

    “The world really wasn’t ready for the truth.”

    Still isn’t. I wish someone had told me that when I was 17.


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