…if you were in France!
Modern day hot Golfs have awesome power thanks to multi-valve engines and forced induction but back in 1974 it was a very different story. When the Golf launched, it was the flagship replacement for the Beetle, the peoples car. It was intended as affordable, reliable family transport. Available in three or five door hatch with a choice of either 1.1lt (50bhp) or 1.5lt (70bhp) engines. The car was a major departure for Volkswagen, employing a transversely mounted water-cooled inline four. However, this car, along with it’s coupe cousin, the Scirocco, would form the backbone of the companies sales for decades to follow. Dependable, reliable and supremely useful it was, sporty it was not.
Behind closed doors Alfons Löwenberg and his team embarked on the Sport Golf project. In a story that’s been recounted time and again, their endeavours eventually bore fruit in the form of the Golf GTI. Rumour has it that the board at Volkswagen were reluctant to commission the car because they’d had their knuckles wrapped by the German government for producing the GT Beetle. It was apparently irresponsible to make such a powerful car available to the masses. For this reason the 110bhp Golf GTI was subject to a limited production run of just 5,000 examples. With an order book that filled up considerably faster than expected, the limit was removed and the rest is, as they say, history.
In parallel to the Sport Golf project, Germany’s oldest Volkswagen tuning company, Oettinger (Established 1946) had already seen the potential in the lowly Golf. Their initial offering came to market in 1975 with a power hike to 85bhp and then 100bhp in the same year. A year later, when the order books opened for the fabled GTI, Gerhard Oettinger concocted a conversion which saw a power hike to 125bhp. By todays standard a relatively modest output but please conside the Mk1 Golf is such a lightweight and then realise that the Oettinger GTI would do 0-60 in 5.2 seconds. So in 1976, Oettinger were building Golfs that were about to accelerate as quickly is a Mk6 Golf R.
Just one year later, at the 1977 Frankfurt International Automotive Exhibition, Oettinger showed something very special; an early development prototype of a 16 valve EA827 engine. This took the standard GTI power up to 136bhp whilst retaining the standard 1.6lt capacity. 1.5 million Deutsche Marks, four years development and over 3,000 hours on the test bed and the Golf Oettinger 16/E was ready. This car had been refined into a package as user friendly as the GTI upon which it was based. It boasted 136bhp, that’s just 3bhp less than Volkswagens Mk1 Golf GTI 16v that came several years later. Because the engine was so beautifully balanced and meticulously built, the red line was raised to 7,500RPM. This car was an absolute screamer!
By 1981 the heat in the hot hatch race was being turned up with manufacturers building ever more powerful versions of their biggest selling hatchbacks. The prestige of a hot model would create prestige and raise the company profile which would boost sales across the range. One such car was the Renault 5 Gordini Turbo which utilised a Garret T3 turbocharger to shove some fire in it’s belly. To drive, these cars are absolutely seat-of-the-pants electric. They are adrenalin inducing fire-crackers. Unfortunately for Volkswagen of France, they took the shine off the Golf GTI which was a solid dependable car which could cut a dash but didn’t make you feel like you were on the ragged edge like Renaults baby did. France had very strict regulation regarding what could and could not be done to a car so many of the ever popular go-faster goodies that could be bolted to a GTI were outlawed there.
There was only one possible way to solve this problem; create a white hot version of the Golf GTI and add it to the standard Volkswagen model line-up. Each day, eight Golf GTI’s would leave the Oettinger premises bound for France. They’d be wearing a BBS bodykit, ATS Cup alloy wheels, a quad lamp grill fitted with Cibie Oscar driving lamps in the inner position. Under the bonnet was the same 1.6 16V engine that graced the 16/E. Badged as a Golf GTI 16S, the car was sold out of Volkswagen dealers throughout France as a standard model. In all, 1250 examples of this screamer were produced.