MYTH BUSTER

De­bunk­ing the most com­mon old wives’ tales

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Giles Chap­man

NO 1: VOLK­SWA­GEN GOLF GTI MkI

1 THE GTI WAS THE FIRST HOT HATCH­BACK

Not on your nelly. The ti­tle of the very first ‘hot hatch­back’ is steeped in con­tro­versy. Be­fore the Golf GTIs reached their im­pa­tient cus­tomers, Re­nault had the 96bhp 5 Alpine in 1975 and Simca, the 85bhp 1100-based 1204TI in 1974. But even be­fore these hot Frenchies had hit the mar­ket, we had the pi­o­neer­ing Au­to­bianchi A112 Abarth. This 70bhp ver­sion of the ad­vanced su­per­mini weighed 700kg and packed 70bhp for some se­ri­ously gi­ant-killing per­for­mance. They’re in demand in main­land Europe, but prac­ti­cally un­known in the UK – shame, be­cause they’re great to drive.

2 IT WAS THE FIRST COM­PACT PER­FOR­MANCE CAR WITH FUEL IN­JEC­TION

It cer­tainly was among hatch­backs, but the in­jected 1588cc four-cylin­der power unit used in the Golf ac­tu­ally came from the short­lived and lit­tle­known Audi 80 GTE – a 110bhp car that, for its time, was more pow­er­ful than many 2.0-litre mod­els. The main dif­fer­ence was that the en­gine was mounted trans­versely in the Golf and lon­gi­tu­di­nally in the Audi.

3 IT WAS A TREND­SET­TER

Yes, in terms of bring­ing to­gether a pack­age of win­ning fea­tures that cre­ated a car with un­ri­valled capability – per­for­mance, han­dling, prac­ti­cal­ity and qual­ity. Yet be­cause of the GTI’s im­mense im­pact, it’s easy to for­get the car that blazed a trail for it – the Alfa Romeo Al­fa­sud Ti. For two years be­fore the iconic VW ar­rived, this bril­liant car set world stan­dards for han­dling and re­spon­sive­ness in a com­pact, front-wheel drive fam­ily car (there was a two-box shape but no hatch­back un­til 1980) with Gi­u­giaro styling, a fivespeed gear­box, and racy-look­ing liv­ery.

What the MkI GTI does have in its favour is beau­ti­fully clean styling.

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