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Volkswagen Home Country: Germany
Volkswagen is indeed a company founded by the Nazi Labour Front with help of Adolf Hitler. Volkswagen means as much as “people’s car” and the make was started in 1937 to help the German economy (good idea, let's invent and build motorways too) and later to build utility vehicles for the war (well...).
Sorry, I was thinking hard to change this very cheaky entry chapter, but I find it hard to bend history.
Plus the Volkswagen story should show several examples that times do change.
I am absolutely no fan of Hitler and his party, I detest them (and am proud to point out that I come from a region of Germany that in those years was part of France) but one probably has to concede that some of the early ideas of this guy were brilliant, which is part of why he got the folk to follow him like sheep. Let’s take the motorways, in inventing and building motorways unemployment tumbled and something major was done to help quality of life at the same time. And it’s not bad as a car company being invented by the same people that invented motorways? The situation of the 1930s was that central Europe experienced a very bad economy, while German car manufacturers as Horch, Mercedes, Maybach, virtually all served the upper market that hardly any normal citicen could afford. So the government came up with the idea of a people’s car and got, out of all of them, Ferdinand Porsche to design it.
The name of the company also refers to these origins. The name Volkswagen = people’s car, actually was a slogan in the built up to this car and its whole point and therefore more refered to the specific model, that because of its shape is better known as the Beetle. When the factory was built in 1937 in Fallersleben, Hitler named the factory aka car brand KdF = Kraft durch Freude = Strength through Joy. The first KdF Volkswagen went into production in 1938, only one year before the war started. After WW2 we got the VW2 – sorry, just too tempting.... After WW2 KdF continued with the Volkswagen model aka “Beetle”, but renamed it into Volkswagen Typ1 with the KdF bit dropped, while Fallersleben was renamed to Wolfsburg. Their first completely new car in the new era was not surprisingly then the Volkswagen Typ2 in 1950. But interestingly this was a van starting the VW Bus & Transporter range, basically if the Typ1 is the Volkswagen the Typ2 is the Volkstransporter, a good idea to help rebuilding the economy. Typ3 (1600) and Typ4 (411, 412) were passenger cars ranging above the Beetle. Today VW is regarded as one of the front runners in FWD cars, but that trend only came by accident. Although Ferdinand Porsche designed a Beetle replacement that was even more spacey thanks to a clever underfloor midengine layout, this project was rejected. Instead when VW bought Auto Union in the late 1960s, the NSU K70 was renamed VW K70 and so an NSU actually became VW’s first front engine FWD car. The VW K70 had, not surprisingly then, similarities to the early Audi 80 and was later replaced by the Passat range. VW adopted this layout for all other models to come and, to the shock of many VW fans, the days of indestructible, simple, air cooled, rear mounted Boxer engines were over.
In the next years however it seems VW has lost track to it’s actual name. Volkwagen aka people’s car does identify an affordable, basic car for the masses, however VW models became bigger, heavier and posher. I.e. even “GTI”-freaks see a Golf 2 or 3 as a far cry from the nimble, simple Golf 1 GTI. In total contradiction to their name VW sees themselves as a premium brand, and even though most of the time they stayed conservative in technology and design, their cars were always some of the most expensive in their respective classes. I.e. the Golf 7 of 2012, its design is hardly daring and its basic versions still feature a solid rear axle when independent suspension is the norm since decades. On the other hand, times change and I personally have the problem that car manufacturers today try to stand out from the masses with silly things like annoying piep alarms, a coffee machine standard, a bicycle rack standard (no joke, Fiat 500L, Opel Corsa D), all things that I don’t need, don’t want, but cost me money. And I am really getting fed up with silly designs with loads of dents, upright headlights of unidentifiable shape like being designed from 5-year-olds and reaching into the A-pillars.... And this is done so much, that maybe the conservative cars are the ones that stand out from the masses after all? A 2010 decade VW Polo or Passat seem to be your only options these days when you want a car that looks like a car, with normal headlamps and normal front grill, yet still looking modern and smart. I may admit for a time I found VWs boring and scratched my head over their price tag, but as times move on and many car makes lose the plot trying to re-invent the wheel, maybe someone more conservative is not so bad after all. I.e. looking at the inexplicably well selling Hyundai models on our roads, I just do not get how anyone can find cluttered front grills and silly curved lines and dents like that would give the impression of a well designed, clean, quality car!
But let’s get to the rallying side of things. Again in rally history VW is a company that is hard to find emotions for as a fan, but again this may well be a case of times are changing!
Well, because throughout history you have to wonder why a main stream manufacturer competing Opel, Ford, Peugeot and the likes did not do more in rallying. Starting with the Beetle, a good seller, yet the only Beetles to ever be rallied in some sorts of official manner were entered by Porsche Salzburg – neither VW nor German entries! When the Golf came, in its GTI version it was by many regarded as the grand dad of all that GTI and hot hatch hype. Strange in this context to note then that neither was the Golf the first car to use these (actually French) GTI initials, nor was it the first hot hatch, nor was Volkswagen interested to use it in motorsport. First Golf GTI WRC entries were on Monte Carlo with Jean Ragnotti, Jean-Luc Thérier, Per Eklund, French inspired by the Renault R5 Alpine’s successes! For Volkswagen it was not until 1984 until they got involved in a regular program outside Germany. Between 1985 and 1987 we saw a regular 2 car team in the WRC and Kenneth Eriksson won the 1986 group A title with the Golf. Though when VW likes to tell you about this fantastic title, note that this was a drivers championship, so not VW itself but Toyota and Mitsubishi ace Kenneth Eriksson won this title. And he did so beating Rudi Stohl, a privateer who only started 5 events. It might be worth to mention that Jochi Kleint became a surprise winner of the 1987 Rallye Deutschland in a works Golf. But when in 1987 group A became the main category, the opposition started becoming rather strong and at the end of the year the team withdrew again.
For 1990 the team was back with a more front line project, a 4x4 supercharged Rallye Golf G60. Indeed the G-shaped superchargers were an interesting and daring project for a company with an otherwise “boring” image (the VR5 & VR6 engines were also everything else but conservative, however are patented to Lancia). In performance and reliability this project has however been an embarrassment and to the day Volkswagen seems to like ignoring this project ever existed. After that we saw a works supported, SBG prepared Golf F2 Kit Car, a fully in house Polo S1600 with big marketing, only to leave their JWRC drivers stranded in a most unfair way mid season and a René Georges Rally Sport run Polo S2000. The RGRS Polo S2000 probably could have done with more works involvement, but remembering the in house Rallye Golf G60 and Polo JWRC projects some people wondered if more works involvement would actually have helped matters at all.
I actually spent far too many lines on these projects so far. Basically VW has never been involved in motorsport in any big way. Well, in later years their Touareg Dakar program was really big scale, but they went out to beat the likes of Robbie Gordon in his private, RWD Hummer. Sorry, with big budget on only one major event per year against virtually no competition doesn’t really prove much. For all this it was a big surprise when VW announced a big WRC project from 2013 onwards. Although sadly WRCars are not very close to road models any more, at long last we would see this major car manufacturer in major, regular competition with a main stream model!
It seems odd that Volkswagen Motorsport as a team competed for 1 ½ years with a Skoda and not a VW. But the VW Polo R WRC is based to some degree on the Skoda Fabia S2000 and while the team itself had to grow, a lot of staff from Skoda and as well RGRS joined Volkswagen Motorsport Hannover. And except maybe Citroën Xsara & C4 WRC we have never seen a rally car being so long and intensively prepared for its debut. Sure enough – or still surpringly? – the Polo R WRC won its second WRC rally ever.
What is more surprisng, is that VW shows the most fantastic marketing, a marketing that one has never seen since the Peugeot 205 T16 through Jean Todt and Subaru. It is really refreshing. Mind you, what is the bigger surprise? That a company like VW knows a thing or two about marketing, or that all the others have been asleep since two decades? In the past years there have been enough complaints, quite rightly, about the WRC promotor. But if a car manufacturer markets their rallying it is marketing for the sport of rallying as a whole, too! What is it about these other manufacturers? Why do they actually take part? What’s the point of Citroën becoming an 8 times Rally World Champion, and when you go down to the Citroën dealer you will neither find a sporty model in their entire range, nor does the dealer know anything about rallying full stop! Sorry, but what’s the point of doing it then? I mean – sorry for this personal rant by the author: I was a huge Peugeot fan mainly for the legendary 205 T16 and the marketing to go with it, as well as my own experiences with their cars. I own a 1993 Peugeot 405 T16 road car. If I wanted to replace it now, the most powerful, half functional road car I can find at the Peugeot dealers is a 308 GTI which weighs 200kg more and is 80BHP down on my very old 405! If I am lucky I find a 2nd hand 206 “WRC Edition” on his forecourt, which is a 132BHP shopping trolley with some childish “go faster effing stripes”.... Hmm, cars should be fun and wake emotions, especially when you go rallying, thank you very much! OK, the 405 T16 was a limited edition of 1000 and Ford has never sold more than a 4-digit number of the Escort Cosworth, the Lancer Evo was never one of Mitsubishi’s main sellers, but let’s not forget they are excellent image boosters for your entire brand! Sure, Volkswagen would be the last brand to think of when it comes to a 300BHP image booster, but hang on a moment....
Then I turn to Volkswagen, conservative, hardly any motorsport history, responsible for boring cars, like when I got my 405 T16, VW had the Golf 3 GTI Katalysator with 125BHP. It’s not that long ago and I wasn’t alone feeling: OK, you can’t do much wrong with a Golf diesel, but they should leave the rallying to Skoda or give it back to “Vorsprung durch Technik” Audi with their legendary Quattro. But now I can see how people suddenly can become even big fans of Volkswagen. They, out of all of them, tell me about cars should be emotional? And back it up with “Rally the World” slogans, an excellent web site, a 220BHP Polo R WRC road car and more to come? I mean, seeing the rally history and former models, how can Citroën with their 8 titles and Peugeot with their successful 206 WRC get things that wrong to marketing being virtually non-existant after what was with the T16, and conservative, no-nonsense VW plays the emotion card full stop? Their initial Polo R WRC success is even fully deserved. Times do change!
COLOURS & TYRES:
Early tries with the MkI Golf through the French importer and Jean-Luc Thérier and Per Eklund were Hella or Pierburg sponsored, in Germany we saw grass green Rheila (cough sweets) sponsoring. Well, always changing sponsors, always changing colours. Kalle Grundel had for a short time sponsorship of office furnite make Pohlschröder, which was dark blue with rainbow colours over the car. At most other times the cars were in Volkswagen colours white with black letters “Golf” or white & light blue or silver & dark blue or silver & black – often changing, yet often somehow boring, though I quite like the light blue & light grey on white on the Polo R WRC. The SBG cars, although meant to have colours representing Volkswagen, were often completely in an eggshell yellow. In 1996 they tried to promote the Golf GTI “colour concept” special edition, so all cars showed all colour concept colours in stripes, Alister McRae on an eggshell yellow base, Tapio Laukkanen on a blue base and Ashley Blenkhorn on a red base, a fourth car to represent dark green was missing, but nice idea!
For tyres Pirelli throughout.
Although Volkswagen is based in Wolfsburg, where also their biggest factory is situated, Volkswagen Motorsport always was with a much smaller Volkswagen factory in Hannover. Accordingly works Volkswagens could display both, Hannover plates H or Wolfsburg plates WOB. Recently the Polo R WRC are registered on Volkswagen HQ while the Fabia S2000s were registered in the name of the motorsport department. However in the past the Volkswagen Motorsport department was surprisingly small and inactive. In the Beetle days it was usually Austrian's Porsche importer to run the cars, such the most official Beetles display Austrian Salzburg plates. The Golf story actually started off through Volkswagen France, however these cars already often carried German "WOB" plates. Only later Golf 1 and basically all Golf 2 were run through Volkswagen Motorsport themselves. In the days of the Golf 3 we often found a completely private tuner called Sawfish Racing running cars, that however were registered on Volkswagen Motorsport with "H" plates. The Golf 3 and Golf 4 Kit Cars were however developped by SBG in Britain. SBG's own cars displayed a mix of personalised private plates and normal UK plates. The private plates would display "SBG" as the 3-letter-block. SBG was based in Daventry, which in registration terms belongs to Northampton. Such on normal UK plates the 2nd & 3rd letter of the 3-letter-block can be identified by one of these combinations: BD, NH, NV, RP & VV. We further have some rare occasions, when David Sutton prepared some Golf 2 under the name of Audi Sport UK. David Sutton was coincidentally also based in Daventry in those days - funny enough SBG being located in a side road of Drayton Fields, about 500 yards from Audi Sport UK – however like with the Audis the Sutton Golfs often showed Manx or Irish registrations.
|Volkswagen 1303S||Group 2|
|Volkswagen Golf (1)||Group 2|
|Volkswagen Golf (1)||Group A|
|Volkswagen Golf (1)||Group 2|
|Volkswagen Golf (2)||Group A|
|Volkswagen Golf (3)||Formula 2|
|Volkswagen Golf (4)||Formula 2|
|Volkswagen Jetta (2)||Group N|
|Volkswagen Polo (4)||Super 1600|
|Volkswagen Polo (4F)||Super 2000|
|Volkswagen Polo (5)||Super 2000|
|2008 IRC||Super 2000||4th.||Volkswagen (5pts)||10|
|1990 WRC||Group A||10th.||Volkswagen (10pts)||13|
|1989 WRC||Group A||9th.||Volkswagen (14pts)||13|
|1988 WRC||Group A||11th.||Volkswagen (14pts)||13|
|1987 WRC||Group A||4th.||Volkswagen (64pts)||13|
|1986 WRC||Group B||3rd.||Volkswagen (65pts)||13|
|1985 WRC||Group B||7th.||Volkswagen (29pts)||12|
|1984 WRC||Group B||8th.||Volkswagen (34pts)||12|
|1983 WRC||Open||10th.||Volkswagen (11pts)||12|
|1982 WRC||Open||13th.||Volkswagen (14pts)||12|
|1980 WRC||Open||66th.||Volkswagen (14pts)||12|
|1973 WRC||Open||14th.||Volkswagen (15pts)||13|