Thursday December 20, 2018
Where memories of the first Golf are concerned, the GTI almost inevitably predominates, for in the very late 1970s and early 1980s they were a highly desirable car. However, Dale Smith of Bournemouth owns a Volkswagen that is, in own way, equally exclusive and now even rarer – a 1977 three-door N.
For your £2,487 you gained a vehicle that, to quote the VW sales copy, came with ‘all the basic equipment - by which we mean all the equipment you really need’. A solitary dial dominates the dashboard, there is no need for any “go-faster” decorations, and if any motorist craved luxury in almost any form, they needed to buy an L. Most importantly, this is the type of Golf that most Britons would have first encountered.
Dale is a Volkswagen enthusiast of many years – he has previously owned a Corrado and a T4 – and in 2007 he acquired the N from a friend. There were just 40,000 miles on the clock, and the Golf was given a major restoration, with new panelling and a bare metal respray. The result is a car that was immortalised by Corgi - https://www.corgi.co.uk/volkswagen-golf-mk1-series-1-1-1-miami-blue.html and a vehicle with the ability to turn heads as much as any GTI.
Sales of the Golf officially commenced in May 1974 its name deriving from the German word for Gulfstream: Golfstrom. The new Volkswagen became available in the UK five months later, the original line-up consisting of the three-door 1100 (£1,294), the five-door 1100 (£1,410) and the 1500 (£1,654). Both engines were belt-driven ohc units, although the Golf was not the first FWD VW; that honour goes to the K70.
In the following year Car compared a 1100cc Golf opposite an Allegro and a Fiat 128, concluding that the VW was ‘teetering on the verge of an outstanding car’, despite reservations concerning ‘rattles and gearchange problems’.
To be fair, they also took the time to state that the Austin’s “square” steering wheel ‘contribute nothing’. The test is also a reminder that in the mid-1970s there was no British-built hatchback in the same price bracket as the Volkswagen; the Maxi was both larger and aimed at a different market, of the Allegro range only the estate was fitted with a tailgate while the new Vauxhall Chevette was RWD.
By 27th October 1976, Volkswagen had already sold over one million examples of the Golf and when the Mk. II succeeded the Mk. I in September 1983 sales figures now exceeded the six million mark. The original model continued in production in South Africa as the “CitiGolf” until as recently as 2009 while those early GTIs are now automotive icons.
However, there is always a fascination with any now rare-surviving entry-level car – when did you last see a Ford Cortina Mk. IV “Base” for example – and the Smith Golf is also an opportunity to appreciate that Giorgetto Giugiaro styling. “au naturelle” As Dale puts it, one of the best aspects of owning his blue N is ‘the amount of comments I get from all ages, especially the older generation who would have owned similar VW Golfs when they were first out’.
With Thanks To: Dale Smith