Imagine the board meeting when the idea of the hot hatch was first mooted. ‘Sir, we’ve done some in-depth market analysis and determined that not everyone has the ability to own both a practical hatchback and a sports car. Let’s build a hatchback that looks tough and is also a hoot to drive’. ‘Jones, well done. Gents – to the production line!’
It’s an idea so plainly obvious today, but back in the day it was a revelation. For decades before there had been practical cars that were fun to drive, such as the original Mini and the Alfasud, but their brio was an almost incidental byproduct. It wasn’t until the 1975 launch of the Volkswagen Golf GTI that a hatchback was specifically engineered and marketed to also be a sports car. The hot hatch category is oversaturated today, but when the GTI was launched the term didn’t even exist. The GTI is one of a very small group of cars that actually created its own market segment.
The white Mk1 you see here is an immaculate example of the first true hot hatch, owned by a local Adelaide enthusiast who campaigns it regularly both in the hills and in club motorsport events. Its 1600cc, Bosch K-Jetronic injected four makes 80kw which is respectable for the day, even more enticing considering it has just 810kg to pull gleefully around. The black fender flares make it look that little bit tougher, and the GTI hallmarks of a red grille surround, tartan seat trim and a golf ball shifter knob are there for the first time.
The Mk7 GTI next to it has just been launched to critical acclaim, and this particular example is the closest in specification we could organize – it’s the same shade of white, a traditional three-pedal manual, and it has the trademark GTI hallmarks of a red grille surround, tartan seat trim and a golf ball shifter knob. Continue reading