How about a Volkswagen Golf with the insane, mindbending power of 235 horses under the hood? Want one? Then better stop reading. Book a flight to Klagenfurt (that’s KLU in airport-speak, your travel agent probably has never heard of it) and go like right now. There will probably be a stopover in Vienna. Then head to Reifnitz, Wörthersee and just follow the noise. From tomorrow, June 1 through June 4th, the bucolic town in Austria will host the world’s biggest Golf GTI Meet.
There will be two anniversaries to be celebrated. The Golf GTI Meet turns 30. And the Golf GTI has just turned 35. To celebrate the double anniversary, Volkswagen lays on the Golf GTI Edition 35, at 235 hp “the most powerful GTI ever,” says Volkswagen.
The 235 hp (25 horsies more than the regulation GTI) propel the car to 247 km/h – that’s pretty scary with such a little car. Volkswagen took the engine out of the all wheel Golf R; and routed all the power to the front wheels. The 235 hp Golf GTI Edition 35 (get it, get it?) can be ordered now at a dealer in Europe at a starting price of 30,425 euros ($43,827, usual disclaimers apply.)
“What a success story,” fawns the Volkswagen press release. “Back in the summer of 1976 – when the very first production GTI was launched – no one ever would have surmised what Volkswagen had just unleashed: that there would still be a Golf GTI 35 years later; that the power would handily exceed 200 PS; and that nearly two million Golf GTI would be sold by today. That is because icons cannot be planned.”
The can say that aloud. The truth about the GTI is that it was a total fluke.
When the Golf GTI was launched 35 years ago, Volkswagen thought the GTI would only be an oddity for motorsports. I did the launch campaign for the thing (red with black accents, obscene 110 hp). When we received the agency brief, they told us it was 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 5,000!”
“You have 4,500 dealers in Germany. Each dealer will keep one for his son.”
And so it was. The first run was sold out before the car had reached the showrooms. But Volkswagen adapted quickly and cranked them out to meet market demand. Remember the black golf ball as the gear shift knob? The Golf GTI started the hot hatch genre, the belated Euro version of the muscle car.
I immediately was in Volkswagen’s ears to bring the car to the U.S.
“Bertel, haven’t you heard, they have that 55 mph speed limit.”
“Sure, but they like their muscle cars.”
“Nein. Forget it. You do the ads, we do the cars. Verstanden?”
It took until the 1983 model year for a Golf/Rabbit GTI to appear stateside. Icons can’t be planned. But they can be delayed if you try hard enough.
Wait a minute, did I say 35 years? OMG. I better call the Social Security Administration and switch from AAA to AARP.