That same year, 1983, Kalle Grundel took the Group A Golf GTI rally car to victory in the German Rally Championship and, behind the scenes, VW Motorsport were starting work on its replacement as the new Golf was phased in. Up to that point, Group 1 and Group lb GTIs had 148 or 150bhp for the track and the rally cars, in Group A, anything from 170bhp to 200bhp depending on spec. The Bimotor Scirocco was originally devised as a Group B rally weapon, but it w as not until 1985 that the green light was given to incorporate the lessons learnt from this car into an official rally machine. The Twin Golf was not going to enter the fray of international rallying though; its objective was an attempt at the Pikes Peak hill climb record with successful GTI driver Jochi Kleint at the wheel.
Pikes Peak in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado is over 13,000ft high. The view from the startline, over 8,500ft up, is breathtaking and of course the altitude extracts a heavy toll on naturally aspirated engines. The winding, loose surface road up the mountain is 9.4 miles long and has 156 turns.
VW’s challenge to nature had a pair of l,807cc Oettinger engines of 195bhp apiece to power it and, running an 11.0:1 compression ratio, they supplemented the combined 390bhp at 7,500rpm with 3381b/ft of torque at 5,800rpm. Performance was not dissimilar to the Bimotor Sciroccos with a 0-60mph time of 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 162mph depending on final drive. It was quickly established that the altitude was doing the car’s engines no favours and for a really serious assault on the Peak in 1986, a change of tactics was called for. To keep the car in its engine capacity class, and use turbocharging, VW had to resort to the use of much smaller engines. Their choice was the 1,300cc Polo engine, and these small power units were modified to take a KKK turbocharger each, with intercooling. Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection was grafted onto the engines and boost pressure was variable between 1.4 and 2.0 bar. At peak boost, these 8.5:1 compression engines kicked out 250bhp each giving a sum total of 500bhp at 7,000rpm and 3841b/ft of torque at 6,000rpm. Weighing just 2,3101b, 1001b less than a Corrado and about 2501b heavier than a Golf GTI, the 1986 Twin Golf was good for a 3.4 second burst to 60mph and a top speed of 193mph!
That car was still essentially a Golf beneath the sheetmetal work, though, and for the 1987 attempt on the Peak, VW fielded what amounted to a silhouette racer. The centre section of the car was a monocoque cell constructed largely from aluminium in the best racing-car tradition. From this were hung the front and rear tubular space frames to which the engines and suspension components were attached. Although, to onlookers, the front and rear detachable engine covers were perfect replicas of a production Golfs, even with standard looking wheelarches, these were just glassfibre components held in place by quick release fixtures. The car weighed just 2,2441b and had 652bhp to propel it. That is a power-to-weight ratio of 3.431b bhp! Unlike all the previous cars, this one had the engines mounted in-line. Those engines were a pair of 1.8-litre 16-valve Golf engines prepared by Kaimann Racing to full competition spec. An intercooled KKK turbocharger boosted each one to 1.3 bar at full throttle and, with the 8.5:1 compression ratio, output was 652bhp at 6,800rpm and 4281b/ft at 6,400rpm. Two huge fans extracted air through the rearmounted radiators giving the rear of the car the appearance of a James Bond movie car that looked equally capable of aquatic duties. 0-60mph took 4.1 seconds and the car was geared for just 114mph through Formula 2 Hewland gearboxes and running on 225/50VR16 tyres.
The three Pikes Peak Golfs never won their events but they finished in the top ten in the three years they competed. They provided valuable experience with regard to the synchronization of two engines in one chassis and what could be achieved with four-wheel drive. These full-house competition Twin Golfs were also the ultimate expression of an idea that was born over a few drinks in a bar seven years earlier.
In automobile production, economies of scale are all-important. The main Volkswagen plant is geared to produce cars like the Golf in runs extending ultimately to eight-figure numbers.
The few hundred thousand Scirocco, Golf Cabriolet and Corrado models are farmed out to the coachbuilders Karmann. Even smaller runs like the 5,000 Rallye Golfs produced for motorsport homologation are made in the Brussels plant. One-offs or very small runs of really special cars are the speciality of VW Motorsport. For VW Motorsport is more than just the factory’s competition department. Like BMW, VW sees its Motorsport division as playing a rather wider role. In their new premises in Hannover, VW Motorsport personnel are competition, development, limited edition production and customer special wishes rolled into one. They even have a restoration department which can turn rusting hulks into pristine exhibits for the VW AutoMuseum in Wolfsburg – or for customers.
In the squeaky-clean main workshops, a visitor would see the mechanics working on existing Rallye Golfs, or knocking new bodyshells into shape for their competition debut, while other specialists may even be building the 130bhp VW LT Van support vehicles that follow the rally cars to events. Turn the corner and you are confronted w ith the area w here the ‘specials’ are built. A oneoff heavily modified G60 Passat was being built for VW Motorsport head, Klaus-Peter Rosorius, during my visit, and in a bay next to it, a customer’s standard looking Polo hatchback was in for servicing and tuning. It had a supercharged G40 engine under the bonnet; GTI performance in a shopping car! Directly opposite this a fivedoor Golf syncro with slightly flared arches and big w heels lay at rest. A turbocharged 200bhp 16valve engine had been installed in this car. The rest of the facility was given over to production of just 70 Limited Edition Golfs.
Built largely by hand, these cars were based on a fivedoor syncro with its viscous-coupled four-wheeldrive system. To this was added ABS, power steering, electric windows, central locking, steel sunroof, heated front seats, a full leather interior and an on-board computer. Tuners in Germany have already begun to exploit the latent potential of the G60 engine, offering conversions ranging from 180bhp to 200bhp for the Corrado and Rallye Golf. VW Motorsport go one better right from the start by applying the G60 supercharger to the 16-valve rather than the eight-valve engine. The result is 21 Obhp (DIN) at 6,500rpm and 1861b/ft of torque at 5,000rpm with an 8.8:1 compression ratio and the supercharger providing 23psi of boost. More than that, this power is developed from an engine 86 with full compliance to US emission regulations via a pair of three-w ay catalytic convenors, a clean engine that runs on super unleaded fuel! Digifant electronic injection is important in achieving such controlled efficiency. The Limited mav look like a standard five-door Golf with 6V2J x 15in BBS alloy w heels and 195 50YR15 Pirellis, but this wolf in sheep’s clothing has the drivetrain from the Rallye Golf including its complete front-end beneath the standard front wings. This means that the inner arches are larger to take wide tyres without fouling the suspension and the new gearbox and large capacity radiator are also grafted in. ‘Thus, various bits of the car are sent from Brussels and Wolfsburg to come together in I lannover. 21 Obhp in a car the size of a Golf is a lot, but the Limited is not a strippedout racer; it is a compact, all-weather luxury express. It tips the scales at 2,8051b at the kerb which makes it some 7001b heavier than a GTI 16Y. ‘That weight eats into the performance, but even so 7.2-second 0-60mph time and a 142mph top speed is not to be scoffed at. ‘The Golf G60 I limited is the fastest production road car to have left any VW plant destined for a private customer. Like most of the projects that emanate from VW Motorsport, it was the brainchild of Klaus-Peter Rosorius. it took a long time to realise this project,’ he explained, ‘but we were fortunate to have the help of many engineers in the design and development department at Wolfsburg. ‘The idea w as to have a nice, elegantlooking production Golf without external modifications but lots of fascination under the bonnet.’ That aim has been achieved by the 70 Limited cars which are restrained in outward appearance even to the point of having simple, single headlamps. One customer who owns No 031 has fitted a four-lamp grille and wider 7J Borbet alloy wheels but all the other Limited cars have left the factor} in their metallic anthracite paintwork with just the blue grille surround and subtle VW Motorsport badges to distinguish them as instant classics. As for the future, Limited Editions of the Corrado and Passat have not been ruled out and when the VW V6 engine is released, who know s what w e might see from VW Motorsport.
No Volkswagen story would be complete without reference to the Osnabruck coachbuilders, Wilhelm Karmann GmbH. Over half a century older than VW itself, Karmann was founded in 1874 and taken over by Wilhelm Karmann on August 1, 1901. The company manufactured its first car bodies, for Diirkopp, Opel and Benz, the following year. The association with Volkswagen began in 1949 with production of the Cabriolet version of the Beetle, Type 15A. Eventually, Karmann made 330,000 of these cars and one of the very first now resides in the VW Auto Museum in Wolfsburg. Karmann continued to produce specialized low-volume cars based on Beetle running gear for many years, introducing the famous VW Karmann Ghia coupe in 1955. That same year, Beetle production passed the magic 1,000,000 figure, an achievement never before recorded in German car-manufacturing history.
The entry of Volkswagen into the Brazilian market with a factory’ producing the Beetle and variants of it prompted Karmann to expand its own facilities and, in 1959, Karmann Ghia do Brazil was set up to meet VW’s needs in that potentially huge market. The links between VW and Porsche helped Karmann gain business from the latter and they began to make some of the bodies for the 356B in 1961, beginning with the short-lived hardtop coupe version and then continuing with the standard coupe shape until the end of the 356 series. The 901 prototype was presented by Porsche at the Frankfurt Show in 1963, and when it went into production as the 911 and 912, Karmann were again able to provide Porsche with much-needed additional capacity, assembling and trimming bodies in parallel with Porsche’s own Stuttgart plant. For the mid-engined 914, the joint VW-Porsche project launched in 1969, the bodyshells were all made by Karmann. In 1974, Karmann employees assembled the first of the new-generation VWs, the Scirocco.
A striking design study shown by Giugiaro at the Frankfurt Show in 1973 was a clean-cut coupe called Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades), interesting because it was based on the Audi 80 which shared its floorpan with the first Passat and provided the engine from which the GTI power unit was derived. Had this car been productionized, it would have been ahead of its time – and right in the Scirocco class. The Ace of Spades was built for Giugiaro by Karmann and now rests in the latter’s museum.
Giugiaro and Karmann co-operated again, on officially VW-sanctioned Scirocco Mk2 prototypes in 1977. A wooden study was made first, with no interior, followed by a realistic metal mock-up. Both, had the same overall shape, differing only in details like bumpers and lights. The wheelarch shapes, bumpers, and the crease in the flanks of the car echoed the Maserati Quattroporte prototype that Giugiaro showed at the Turin Motor Show the year before, under-lining how designers tend to use certain aesthetic motifs on more than one prototype before moving on. The wraparound bumpers and front indicator lights from the Scirocco II Study were adopted by VW on the production Mk1 for the 1978 model year showing how a completely different design proposal may influence a current model.
The most significant Volkswagen on the company’s stand at the 1979 Geneva Motor Show was the Golf Convertible. Just as the GTI started a new trend towards hot hatchback cars, the Golf Convertible was the first in a line of drop-top versions of modern front-wheel-drive cars. It was an entirely new species; cars like the Fiat 124 Sport Spyder or the Alfa Romeo Spider no doubt had the same mechanicals as their saloon and coupe brethren and, in the case of the Fiat, the same floorpan and suspension as well, but they were sporting two-seaters with little or no rear-seat accommodation. The Golf featured a modified hatchback bodyshell and thus retained the full four-seat capability of the original car. The prototype was produced by Karmann in 1976. The company was so well entrenched in producing Cabriolet Beetles and Karmann Ghias that it was a natural progression for them to build the first Golf Cabriolet for presentation to VW’s Board, and undertake the subsequent production.
A variation on the same theme rolled out of the Osnabruck prototype shop a year after the Golf Cabriolet production line started rolling. The Jetta Cabriolet in some ways actually looked better proportioned than the Golf which had a high, stubby tail in production form. The Jetta never made it to production; the yellow prototype now sits in the Karmann Museum just sixty feet from the Golf Cabriolet study.
Karmann are coachbuilders rather than manufacturers. They may build prototypes of complete cars for manufacturers and indeed undertake the difficult transition from prototype to production for that manufacturer, but they still rely on their client for all mechanical assemblies. Thus the engine, gearbox, suspension and some interior components come from Volkswagen to be built into the Golf Cabriolets, Sciroccos and Corrados that roll out of the Karmann factories. Small-volume production is their speciality, and to give some idea of why Volkswagen sub-contracts the building of these models to Karmann, a comparison of Golf and Scirocco production figures is interesting. In 1988, VW in Wolfsburg announced that they had produced the 10 millionth Golf, 13 years after the launch of the first car. Between “1974 and 1981, Karmann produced 504,100 Scirocco Mk1s, and up to September 1989, they had made 272,000 Mk2 cars. From 1979 to September 1989, 267,000 Golf Convertibles were built. The first year of Corrado production totalled approximately 17,000 cars.
Coachbuilders like Karmann, however, do not always wait around to take their cue from major manufacturers like VW, Ford or BMW. With major resources at their disposal, it is today possible for them to build one-off prototypes or even just present their ow n interpretations of how they see a particular model evolving. The latter case is more the norm and at major international motor shows, Karmann usually takes a stand not far from Volkswagen. Over the years, they have exhibited show cars with different spoilers, special paintwork, non-standard alloy wheels and invariably custom interiors in leather and fabric. A prime example is the red Scirocco 2 with colour-coded bumpers, Ronal alloy wheels and special half-leather interior that did the 1987 show circuit. The 1988 theme was a two-tone Scirocco and Golf Cabriolet pair, painted silver with metallic anthracite grey applied from bumper level down, extending to the wheelarches. 6J x 14in eight-spoke flat-faced alloy wheels from RII were used. The Scirocco 16V show car also had a colour-coded rear spoiler and wing mirrors, and had its rubber side protection strip removed. A different front grille with just three large horizontal slats was used. Inside, black leather with grey fabric inserts gave the cars a classy but still sporty feel.
The Frankfurt Show in 1989 was the first showing of a Karmann interpretation of the new Corrado, and the silver car that took pride of place on the revolving platform was tastefully and luxuriously appointed. The exterior was standard save for a set of attractive 7J x 15in Centra five-spoke alloy wheels which helped to fill out the arches and give the car a better stance. But the interior was upholstered in light tan and brown hide which complemented each other beautifully both in colour co-ordination and the way the two leathers were used to highlight facets of the car’s interior sculpting. This is the sort of work that a coachbuilder like Karmann excels at and it would be a shame if VW missed the opportunity to commission limited runs of such cars.