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Iconic Classic Cars: 1976 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Forming part of the Golf 1 model series, The Volkswagen Golf GTI made its debut at the 1975 Frankfurt Motor Show, as a sports-focused version of the Volkswagen Golf before being released to the public in 1976. The implementation of this upgrade was simple, taking an economy car and fitting it with a high performance package that would fuse practicality and speed.

The Golf GTI became a motoring symbol for an era of technological advancements, including computing and space travel. The public’s appetite was for functional, clever devices to take them into the future.

On initial release, the GTI was only sold on the German market, however in 1977 it was introduced to the UK with left-hand drive. It wasn’t until 1979 that Volkswagen produced a right-hand version.

As one of the first smaller cars to adopt a mechanical fuel injection, the 1976 GTI is recognised as the first car to popularise the term ‘hot hatch.’ A hot hatch refers to ‘family cars’ that have been modified to increase speed and performance. Although it wasn’t the first car manufactured to fit this description, to any motoring enthusiast the GTI undoubtedly coined the term.

The interior is a salute to British sports from the dark, high quality upholstery to the iconic golf ball gear knob. Both features were so iconic to the GTI, they have been reintroduced into the newer models to incorporate the timeless style of the GTI with the contemporary body. This sporty infusion, flowed through to the exterior of the model using the Mars red trim on the radiator grille to give it a race car edge.

Established in 1982, the annual GTI Wörthersee meeting in Austria, unites dedicated GTI enthusiasts once a year to admire everything past and present in the GTI community. Any fan of this classic car should make a visit at least once to truly appreciate this iconic motor in all its glory.

The Volkswagen Golf GTI was and still is one of the most popular ‘top hatch’s’ to date. From its unique interior to its power on the roads, this car is an icon for many.


Did you Know?

1. In 2004, Sports Car International crowned the Golf MK1 GTI to be the 3rd best car of the 1980s.

2. Over 1,700,000 versions of the GTI have been sold worldwide since the cars launch in 1976.

3. The first woman to work at Volkswagen Design, Gunhild Liljequist, had a great deal of input into the interior design of the first GTI, using her own experiences to influence the finishing touches- the golf ball gear knob springs to mind!

Car Specification

Car Volkswagen Golf GTI
Production 1963-1965
Top Speed 113mph
Doors 2
Length (mm) 3705
Weight (kg) 810
Engine 1.6L 1588 cc
BHP 108bhp
Torque 103
0-60mph 8.9s


The Best of 1976

1976 has been pinned a great year for the UK for a number of reasons. We experienced extreme weather conditions- amazing to think that the UK actually used to have a summer! The first commercial Concorde flight was launched and other epic events occurred in 1976. In the world of arts and media, this year showcased a range of talent on the big screen, TV screen as well as the radio.


World Events

We experienced our hottest summer for three centuries, enduring 22-days straight of 28C degree temperatures. This caused our worst drought and forced the use of standpipes across the country.

Apple Computer was founded on April Fools’ day in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. This was start of one of the most successful technology empires to date, with the first model priced at $666.66.

Other technological developments this year included the NASA space shuttle, The Enterprise, unveiled the same year as the successful landing of US Spacecraft Viking I and Viking II on Mars.


Film & TV

The first in the ‘Rocky’ boxing series was released this year as well as the gripping adaptation of ‘Carrie’. Both films were given great critical acclaim as ‘Rocky’ won three Oscars that year including Best Picture, while ‘Carrie’ saw two nominations for the performances of Sissy Spacek (Carrie) and Carrie’s mother played by Piper Laurie.

Another cultural staple stemming from 1976 was the midnight showing of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ A tradition still adopted today, film-lovers attend late-night showings fully clad in costumes representing their favourite characters, ready to re-enact their favourite scenes. 

The Muppet Show premiered in September 1976, airing a respectable 120 episodes over five series between 1976-1981.


Like film, music in 1976 was progressive, diverse and embraced individualism. Music was now more than ever allowing people to define their identity and genres such as punk were leading the music revolution. Breaking stereotypes were bands like the Sex Pistols who were attributed to initiating the punk movement and paving the way for alternative rock musicians. However, pop music dominated the charts, and songs like ‘Dancing Queen’ – Abba, ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ - Elton John and Kiki Dee and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – Queen, were played at every school disco.

Despite the musical successes of 1976, this year was significant for musical talents forming behind the scenes. For instance, international band U2 were starting off as 4 teenagers coming together off the back of a notice on their high school bulletin board.



After the affluent flower-power movement in the late 60’s, 1976 included its own staple pieces, drawing much inspiration from film and television, as well as disco.

Men in 1976 looked to male figures like the Fonz from Happy Days, choosing the character’s iconic jacket to add flare to any look. Talking of flare, flared slacks were another poignant piece of men’s fashion in 1976 as well as long hair and more extravagant versions of the three-piece suit.

Women on the other hand, were embracing items such as the jumpsuit, more flares and high cut boots. As the 70’s was the first decade that allowed women to dress however they liked, fashion was another outlet used to express individuality.

In essence, by 1976 everyone was embracing flares and platform shoes. Disco was mainstream and dictated much of the fashion during the mid-late 70’s.

Famous births

  • Brazilian Footballer Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima
  • Actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Farrell
  • The late rock legend Chester Bennington

Birth of the 'Hot Hatch'