The Truth About Cars » vw 1600 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:00:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » vw 1600 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Inside The Industry: TTAC Finds The Missing Etymology Of Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/inside-the-industry-ttac-finds-the-missing-etymology-of-passat-golf-scirocco-polo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/inside-the-industry-ttac-finds-the-missing-etymology-of-passat-golf-scirocco-polo/#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 11:01:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489412 Polo-cat

German launch catalog for the Polo

Where did the names of Volkswagen’s Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo come from? What is their meaning? For four decades, it was shrouded in mystery. Forty years later, a famous former Volkswagen CEO, Dr. Carl Hahn, and his illustrious former sales chief, “WP” Schmidt, help TTAC get to the bottom of an unsolved question,

Some of the worst performers in the truth department are the gossip press and the automotive media. A good deal there simply is fantasy. Knowing well that no-one will complain or check, bogus new product plans are being published.  The large-scale availability of cheap 3D rendering software (here is how it’s done) and of WordPress turns this disease into a pandemic.

Most of these lies come and go. Some stay and turn into history. A dark chapter of automotive history falsification is about the names of the new generation of cars that, in the early 1970s, rescued Volkswagen from the brink and that helped turn VW into the powerhouse it is today: Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo.

There is so munch nonsense written about those names, that we had to go to the very top, and ask the people who decided these names 40 years ago.

Passat-cat

German launch catalog for the Passat

Before the Volkswagen Passat came out in 1973, all Volkswagen were sold by the number: VW 1200, VW 1303, VW 1600 and so forth. Then came a car called “Passat.” Although nothing was ever officially published, everybody in Germany was convinced that the car was named after the same named trade wind. It had to be.

A year later came two new cars, the Golf, and the Scirocco. The latter is another famous wind. It is called Qibli in Africa, it changes to Scirocco in Italy, and after it crossed the Alps, it is called Föhn and becomes famous for causing headaches and distracted driving in Munich and surroundings.

In Germany, and especially at Volkswagen, everything supposedly goes according to plan and has a system. There was no system announced, so a system was fabricated. Passat, Scirocco: It had to be winds. But where did the Golf fit in?

Even before the Golf appeared, a German auto magazine wrote that the car, following the supposed wind logic, was originally named “Blizzard.” According to the report, an Austrian ski manufacturer with the same name objected, and instead, the car was named Golf.  Or so the apocryphal history says. That story has been written in many books and magazines, and it is wrong. If you believe the story, you have been snowed.

Golf-cat

German launch catalog for the Golf

A little research in the annals of the German Patent and Markenamt would have shown that, before the Golf arrived, the name “Blizzard” was trademarked for products like floor cleaners, perfume, even for socks. There was no entry for cars. In 1973, there wasn’t even one for skis.

The ski trademark was registered half a year after the introduction of the Golf, on October 31, 1974. Most likely by a now highly alarmed Blizzard ski maker, who had not bothered before, and who had read the stories about them allegedly blocking the name for the Golf.  What’s more, the Blizzard trademark for cars remained up for grabs until 1979, when a company called Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha of Toyota, Aichi, Japan, took the Blizzard trademark in Germany. Yes, that Toyota. The mark was used for a luckless Toyota Blizzard, a small Daihatsu-built pocket Jeep. Toyota abandoned the mark in 2010, if you want Blizzard for a car, you most likely will get it.

After Passat, Golf, and Scirocco came the Polo. Its naming still causes great apprehension: Where is the wind? Future cars by Volkswagen had wind names (Jetta, Santana, Vento, Bora,) therefore, members of the media decided that all Volkswagen cars must have wind names, somehow. This leads to the fact that today, Wikipedia, while citing reliable sources, can claim that “the Golf name is derived from the German word for Gulf Stream and the period in its history when VW named vehicles after prominent winds.”

Never mind that a gulf stream is no wind, but an ocean current, the Internet is convinced that the Golf is named after the Gulf Stream. According to Wikipedia, the Polo is named “after Polar Winds.” The latter is said without sources, but by now, the story of Polo and Polar Wind has been copied so many times that it is very easy to find a polar wind source for Wikipedia, even if it is a circular reference – nobody will find out.

I know it differently. I did every launch campaign, I supervised the writing of the catalogs (all pictured here) of the four models, I wrote some myself. All, except those for the Passat. That car was already done when I arrived on my job as Volkswagen copywriter in 1973. No system for the name was ever announced, neither officially nor confidentially. The briefing documents said everything about engine, displacement, they espoused the “Negativer Lenkrollradius”-  but nothing was said about the etymology of the names. Each car had a name, that was it, we were not supposed to ask where it came from, we never knew who created the name, or why. Never ever did anyone think or even joke about the Golf being named after the Gulf Stream, or the Polo after the Polar Wind. Sure, at the agency we joked about “The new  popular sport, Golf.” Sure, the GTI had a golf ball as a shifter knob, and plaid seats. Those were puns, no proof of a meaning.

Scirocco-cat

German launch catalog for the Scirocco

However, who would believe a former copywriter? I decided to go straight to the source.  Volkswagen has a great new and well-funded department, Volkswagen Classic. It is responsible for Volkswagen’s history.  If anyone knows for sure how these names came about, then it’s the people in charge of Volkswagen’s history.

I asked Eberhard Kittler, spokesman of Volkswagen Classics, whether there was a system to this name madness, whether all Volkswagens of that time were named after winds, or the Golf after the Gulf Stream, or the Polo after the Polar Winds.

Kittler had no idea. That allegedly widely known part of history has no presence in Volkswagen’s history department.

Kittler went through the archives, he pulled old internal marketing plans. He found “no conclusive records.”

Herr Kittler continued digging. He reached former, long retired members of Volkswagen’s sales and Marketing departments. They had never heard of a system, or of any official etymology of these names.

Kittler contacted Dr. Carl Hahn, the famous Volkswagen of America Chief who approved the famous Volkswagen ads of the late 50s and early 60, and who was CEO of Volkswagen from 1982 to 1993. Hahn did not know either. “At that time, I was at Continental, doing tires,” Hahn told Kittler. “But if anyone knows, it’s WP Schmidt.”

WP Schmidt was sales chief at Volkswagen when Passat, Golf, Scirocco, and Polo came, and he was so for 27 years. Schmidt is a living legend at Volkswagen. Matters as important as the naming of a car had to cross his table, and had to be approved by “WP.”

Doing research on behalf of TTAC, Hahn contacted Schmidt. “Prof. Hahn asked  Schmidt what was behind the names of Polo, Golf, Scirocco and Passat,” reported Kittler yesterday. “Schmidt did not know about anything behind the names.”

After a thorough review of the documentation, and interviews with prominent witnesses, no support for any of the naming theories was found.

Kittler confirmed that there are many “legends and speculations” about the names, for instance that “Polo could have been a riff on Marco Polo, to hint on Volkswagen’s global vision.” However, as far as the man in charge of Volkswagen’s history is concerned, these explanations came after the fact.

The quest for a meaning is as powerful as nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum. We may have to accept that some things in life are meaningless.

Passat-cat Scirocco-cat Golf-cat Polo-cat ]]>
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Curbside Classic Fastback Week: 1969 Volkswagen 1600 Type 3 Fastback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/curbside-classic-fastback-week-1969-volkswagen-1600-type-3-fastback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/curbside-classic-fastback-week-1969-volkswagen-1600-type-3-fastback/#comments Thu, 25 Nov 2010 17:18:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=374190

Two fastbacks found in one week; now there’s something to be thankful for (not that I don’t have plenty already). The Packard Clipper Super and this Volkswagen Type 3 may not seem to share anything other than their tapering hind ends, but there is one other quality that they both have in common, and it makes the VW worthy to share the podium with it:

Quality. Packard was famous for their passion in perfecting and refining the highest quality cars in the first half of the 20th Century. It’s easy to forget, but taking a good look at this VW reminded me how the workmanship and material quality on these cars is absolutely superb. That alone ignited a little brief flame of lust for it, which I hadn’t ever quite felt before. It also helps explain why folks were willing to pay a premium price at the time for a car which still suffered from many of the Beetle’s shortcomings.

The Type 3 is a very polarizing car, and it was so from its very beginning in the summer of 1961. Reaction to it largely depended on one’s relationship to the Beetle: for those that thought of the Beetle as a slow poor man’s Porsche 356 (and many did in the fifties), the Type 3 narrowed the gap substantially: an affordable Porsche sedan. Buyers who bought a Beetle because it was cool or just cheap, but came to hate its many shortcomings and would really rather have had a Mustang or a Cutlass, the Type 3 was totally wasted on them. It was still all Volkswagen under its thick-gauge skin.

The Type 3 VW first appeared in the traditional notchback sedan format. It was  a highly anticipated car in Europe, as the whole continent watched and waited to see how and when Volkswagen would address the obvious shortcomings of the then 25 year old Beetle. Germans were quickly becoming more affluent, and the rest of the industry rightfully targeted their growing purchasing power with mid-level cars like the Borgward Isabella, the BMW 1500/1800, and of course the ever popular mid level Opels and German Fords. VW was late to the party, and everyone was in a high state of anticipation.

The VW 1500, as it was called, was decidedly a mixed bag. One could rightfully say it was nothing more than a Beetle wrapped in a stylish new dress: it rode on the same wheelbase and platform frame mighty similar to the Beetle. Yes, the track was widened at the rear (as was the Beetle’s a few years later), but the front suspension was fundamentally the same, and the engine was classic VW: the same basic case, with bigger bore cylinders, a longer stroke, as well as a re-arranged cooling system where the fan was on the back end of the crankshaft (pancake), allowing a drastic reduction in the engine’s height.

For those that were expecting VW to do something actually new, like FWD, water cooling, a roomy body or a modern high-rpm OHC engine were sorely disappointed, and had to wait over a decade until the Audi-based Passat came along. A whole slew of the Beetle’s biggest shortcomings were not improved, or not enough so: the heater was still inadequate, handling on long fast sweepers invariably induced oversteer, and rear seat egress and leg room was still subpar. How hard would it have been for VW to lengthen the platform by four inches, add rear doors, and make it a legitimate sedan capable of carrying four adults in comfort?

(In Brazil, VW did make a four door version of the Type 3, but still on the same wheelbase, so rear leg room wasn’t any better either.)

The answer is obvious: the Type 3 was initially built right alongside the Type 1 (Beetle) in Wolfsburg, and it was cheaper and more expedient to make it a “Super Beetle” rather than a truly new car, or even just a slightly longer one. It largely solved the problem in Europe where Beetle fatigue set in much sooner than in the US. That also explains why VW didn’t import Type 3s to the US until 1966, even though the rest of the world was worthy of them since 1962.

That’s not to say there wasn’t a busy gray market importing Type 3s from Germany to the US. Even VW dealers were doing it, to keep their loyal customers happy looking for an upgrade, although the price was stiff: about $3,000 ($21k adjusted) in 1964, when a US Beetle was going for $1595. Quite a premium for better visibility, more trunk room and twenty-five horsepower. When the Type 3s where finally imported by VW, that premium dropped substantially: this 1969 listed at $2295, vs. $1799 for a ’69 Beetle.

I happen to have an April 1964 Car and Driver in my lap, which devotes the bulk of the issue analyzing why VW wasn’t importing the Type 3, and the ins and outs of gray imports. Production constraints was one of them, since VW was building a huge new factory in Emden, where Type 3 production was eventually moved to from Wolfsburg. And as long as the Beetle was still red hot in the US, VW didn’t feel any particular need to supplant it. Another theory was that VW at the time was anxious about the huge success of the Beetle, and the impact it had on the US industry and the trade imbalance with Germany. Since gray market imports where technically “used cars”, they didn’t add to the swelling official VW sales numbers, and so VWoA did little to impede them.

That issue of C/D also tested a 1500 S (65 hp twin carb) Notchback, and put its finger on its pros and cons. It certainly was nippier than the 40 hp Beetle, especially in the first two gears. And it could hit alofty 88 mph, eventually. But 0-60 took still eighteen seconds, glacially slow for today’s standards. They loved the superb visibility instead of sitting in a cave. And the build quality, down to every little piece of heavily chromed interior trim, was absolutely world class. But it still handled like a Beetle, jacking up on its rear swing axles on fast curves. The revised trailing arm rear suspension was still a few years away.

By 1966, the Emden plant was in full swing and Americans were finally worthy of Type 3s, even though they were already looking pretty out of date by then. But the notchback sedan was replaced by this new fastback body style, along with the very versatile Variant wagon (Squareback). Was VW influenced by the resurgence of  fastbacks in the US during the mid-sixties? The Barracuda and Mustang fastback ignited a new fad for the swoopy tails, and soon all of Detroit got in the act. It seems kind of ironic that ultra-conservative VW would fall for such a fad.

But there were some compensations, including a rear trunk somewhat bigger than the notchback. Combined with the front trunk,

the Fastback was a bit of a Swiss Army knife, and made good use of the low and flat pancake motor, as a young Dustin Hoffman points out in this famous “where’s the engine?” ad for the Fastback:

Presumably, he got the job because his short stature makes the Fastback look larger than life; an old Detroit ad trick.

Undoubtedly, the Squareback was even more practical: it offered a front trunk in addition to a tall rear cargo area. It deserves its own CC, so we’ll honor it then. But let’s talk about one of the more remarkable features that both Type 3s came with starting in 1968: electronic fuel injection.

This was a very big deal at the time. Sure, the much more expensive Mercedes could be had with Einspritzer, but these were pricey mechanical units. The Bosch D-Jetronic was the mother of all modern electronic fuel injection systems, employing a vacuum sensor in the intake manifold to measure air mass, as well as several other sensors to determine temperature, engine speed and a few other parameters. An analog ECU made all the requisite calculations. And it worked like a charm: easy starting, no stalling, stumbling or flat spots. The same basic characteristics that were going to make fuel injection the next big thing in Detroit in the late fifties on luxury and performance cars was now standard, on a Volkswagen. And it would take over two more decades before proper port injection finally became common on American cars.

Ironically, Bosch’s Jetronic system was based heavily on the Bendix FI system patents, which was briefly optional on some American cars in the late fifties before teething problems and high prices quickly had Detroit spending the money on taller fins instead.

VW did give the Type 3 a nose job in 1970, pushing it forward and squaring it off to increase the trunk space as well as improve safety a wee bit, presumably. I’ve had one of the later ones in the can for ages (lower in photo above), but I prefer the original, and I’m glad I held out. They’re getting pretty hard to find anymore too.

This particular car, which its brand new owner proudly showed off to me, was a one-owner car that was obviously well kept, including a long period of little use. He was thrilled to find it in a newspaper ad (what’s that?). And it still runs like a sewing machine with its fuel injection intact. Sadly, or foolishly, many Type 3 owners tore out the Bosch and replaced it with a retrograde twin carb set-up, being intimidated by repairing it. In reality, these are quite rugged and fairly simple to fix, at least for someone inducted into the school of Jetronic.

The Fastback was a bit of an oddity: was it supposed to be sporty, or luxurious, or just a high-priced VW? Its appeal and sales were undoubtedly to those upgrading from a Beetle; it’s hard to imagine someone trading in a Cutlass for one. But for some, its familiar qualities, and just the quality of a Volkswagen were a habit hard to break, except with a Mercedes perhaps. And even today, its Germanic charms are seductive, but it would have to be without the automatic, thank you, even if it is spelled out in letters of such obvious high quality.

Click this link to the 200 other Curbside Classics

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