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Volkswagen Golf

A1 Golf (Mk1) Series 1

Volkswagen logo1 Mar 1976

By THE GOAUTO TEAM

For 20 years from the mid-‘50s, Volkswagen was a sales force in the Australian car market, manufacturing the Beetle, Passat and Golf from mostly CKD parts here.

The latter car saved VW worldwide from a Beetle sales slump-led bankruptcy in 1974, and is widely regarded as the father of the modern small car hatchback – although Renault with its 1965-vintage 16 hatch may have something to say about that.

On its debut here in early ’76, the Italian Giugiaro-penned Golf was met with a rapturous reception, winning awards and shaking up the conservative rear-drive sedan-derived small car segment with a bigger version of the Mini/Honda Civic-inspired transverse engine/front-wheel drive mechanical layout.

The Golf’s peppy performance came courtesy of a gutsy 55kW 1.6-litre overhead-cam four-cylinder engine mated to either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic gearbox. Handling and steering qualities were also considerably above the class average.

For its day, the Golf LS three and five-door models were well equipped, with carpet, a clock, push-button radio and heated rear window.

But its lightweight build and sloppy workmanship marred VW’s hard-won image for solid reliability, forcing its German overseers to cease local manufacture in early 1977.

The new ADR-27A anti-pollution measures significantly reduced the 1.6-litre engine’s responsiveness from July ’76.

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