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40th anniversary, Volkswagen

1975 Volkswagen Rabbit (or outside North America). courtesy The .

On March 29, the first production model of the car was to replace the beloved Volkswagen rolled off the assembly line in West Germany. Though no one it at the time, the Volkswagen Golf go on to become the brand’s most model, selling an impressive 30 examples in just over 39 ultimately proving even popular than the Beetle

The Golf was not Volkswagen’s first to replace the Beetle. As Graham recounts in Volkswagen Chronicle . a project car code-named the EA266 and developed between Porsche and was originally seen as the replacement for the Beetle, which traced its roots back to the 1930s. The was to be a unibody two-door sedan, upon the Porsche 914 platform, and with a water-cooled, 1.3-liter, engine. Like the 914, new family car was to be mid-engine and rear-wheel with the engine located the rear seats to maximize within the cabin. Prototypes ready as soon as 1969, and (which was engineering the car for Volkswagen) to great lengths to disguise the car and it from public view.

1976 Volkswagen Rabbit. courtesy The .

By late Volkswagen faced a go-or-no-go on the EA266. The project was supported by Kurt Lotz, but others the company felt the design prove to be too expensive to produce and too to service. As Lotz grew unpopular among Volkswagen it became clear that his within the company was limited, and he stepped down in October of his successor, Rudolf Leiding, canceled the EA266 project. the project had reportedly been most expensive undertaking to everything about the endeavor, drawings through prototypes, was destroyed.

Volkswagen could have facing a major setback, as in 1971 it was clear that the remaining days were Fortunately for Volkswagen, internal were already under and it worked concurrently with development of the EA266 to create a model (or, more model line) for the aging The decision was made to focus on a front-wheel-drive design with cooling, making the platform the opposite of the Beetle and putting the automaker on equal footing its European rivals. Giorgetto and ItalDesign were hired to body designs, and by the summer of the firm had delivered prototypes of the Golf and the Scirocco, a car that replace the aging Karmann

Volkswagen Rabbit

The new Golf (or Rabbit, to North consumers) first rolled off the line on March 29, 1974, and was not met universal praise. Critics quick to point out that the had managed to capture lightning in a hitting the right markets at the right time to see sales The Golf, while stylish, seen as particularly innovative, other European automakers producing front-wheel-drive economy as well.

When compared to the however, the Golf offered interior room (six for front-seat passengers, three for rear-seat passengers) in a smaller while three inches than the Beetle, the Golf was an 14 inches shorter in length. Its shell was far more rigid the Beetle’s, and combined with a rear suspension system and a powerful engine (70 horsepower the 1.5-liter four found in the compared to 50 horsepower from the flat-four found in the Beetle), the was soon seen as a more and engaging choice by consumers on sides of the Atlantic. Had the price between the two been large, the Golf would have for market share, but with a little over $100 separating the Beetle from the in the U.S. sales here 100,000 units by January of

In the years since, through generations, the Volkswagen Golf has everything from fuel-efficient to pickup trucks to all-wheel-drive car variants, and continues to be available in a of models that stretch basic transportation to near in content. In 1976 (1983 on shores), the Golf gave to the GTI. a car that remains among driving enthusiasts on a for its equal blend of performance, and affordability. Volkswagen views the as its platform for “democratizing technology,” and the years has used it to bring like anti-lock brakes, stability control, all-wheel and (in the latest variant) adaptive control to the masses. Had Volkswagen the EA266 project, it’s the car would have demonstrated the affordability and serviceability, bringing question whether or not the manufacturer have survived beyond the demise.

Seven generations of VW Golf. courtesy Volkswagen AG.

The Beetle in production from 1939 2003, stretching (with interruptions) for 65 years. To top this the Golf would need to in production through the 2040 year; given its ongoing and significance within the Volkswagen there’s little doubt congratulate the Golf on achieving milestone, too.

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