Could you imagine the world without the Volkswagen Golf GTI? While it’s one of many options for those seeking practicality with a splash of fun, it truly was the nameplate that birthed an entire segment, which many of us like to call the “hot hatch.”
Volkswagen wasn’t too hip on building the Volkswagen Golf GTI, though. Back in the day, it was focused on churning out as many Beetles as it could, and the Beetle simply wouldn’t die. The Golf was originally meant to be a successor to the iconic car, and it was received pretty well. But, Volkswagen really needed something to differentiate the Golf. Enter Anton Konrad, the father of the GTI badge.
He came up with a crazy idea at the time: give common consumers the option of a fun to drive, fast car that was still practical—a high-performance Golf. Volkswagen didn’t like that idea and flat out gave it a big fat “no.” Konrad went ahead and built the car anyway, and dropped a fuel-injected 1.6-liter inline-4 engine under the hood. The engine produced 110 horsepower, no small figure for 1976, especially in a tiny car like the Golf.
To Volkswagen’s surprise, the GTI was a hit. The German brand planned to produce 5,000 GTIs originally, but that production figure quickly swelled to 420,000 units by the end of the original production run. However, this car wasn’t ever actually sold in the United States. Instead, Americans were treated to the Rabbit GTI…which made a grand total of one more horsepower than the base model.
Thankfully, times have changed and we now have the GTI and the Golf R, which is an even more bonkers interpretation of the segment the GTI started decades ago. Next time you see another hot hatchback, be sure to thank Mr. Konrad and the Golf GTI.
All of this history comes by way of the video above by Donut Media. Give it a watch for even more information than we have shared here.