Volkswagen and Pistonheads mark 40 years of the Golf GTI

Golf GTIs in a car park

An eclectic mix of Volkswagen Golf GTIs from across the model’s remarkable 40-year history journeyed to Volkswagen UK’s headquarters in Milton Keynes on Saturday (20 August) to attend a special ‘birthday celebration’ for the iconic hot hatch.

The unique event, organised in association with the UK’s largest online motoring forum – PistonHeads.com – saw the owners of 85 GTIs from across the years set their alarms extra early and ignore typically British ‘summer’ rain to make the pilgrimage to the cars’ spiritual home in Britain – the headquarters of Volkswagen UK in Milton Keynes. 

Branded the first PistonHeads’ Golf GTI Open, the event drew a remarkable mix from across the four decades of the car’s existence – with everything from meticulously restored examples to flamboyantly modified GTIs converging on the brand’s UK HQ.

The honourable award for rarity went to the solo Golf GTI Mk III in attendance, while a plethora of Mk V cars – 24 to be precise – saw that iteration of the charismatic hot hatch become the most numerous on show, just pipping the Mk II of which 23 examples were on display.

Volkswagen UK supported proceedings with a mini GTI showcase of its own including a carefully restored Mk I and, bringing things bang up to date, the very first example of the already sold-out Golf GTI Clubsport S to be seen in the UK; the left-hand drive car having been loaned for the event by Volkswagen’s global headquarters in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony.

James Drake, Head of Community and Marketing at PistonHeads, said: “The PH Sunday Service is a tried, tested and hugely popular format for gathering PHers together at significant motoring-related venues nationwide to admire cars, swap ownership stories and generally bring the online forums into the ‘real world’.

“When Volkswagen suggested we consider creating a PH Sunday Service-style celebration event for the GTI we jumped at the chance and Saturday’s PH Golf GTI Open with its impressive turn-out of superb Golfs from across the years, and across the country, clearly demonstrates both the breadth of PH membership and the appeal of the GTI.”

Mike Orford, Head of Press and PR for Volkswagen in the UK, was at Saturday’s celebrations.  He said: “This inaugural Golf GTI Open has been a resounding success.  I can honestly say I’ve never seen such a varied selection of Golf GTIs in one place, and to gather them together here at our headquarters for this celebration shows the depth of feeling – love, even – British owners of this iconic hot hatch feel for their cars.”

The Golf GTI was launched to a stunned automotive audience in 1976, with the German brand initially targeting sales of around 5,000, globally, for the newly minted performance version of its already well-regarded compact hatchback.

Today, 40 years and more than two million registrations later, the Golf GTI remains a genuine icon of ‘everyday’ sporting excellence. 

The latest chapter in this exciting story, limited to just 400 examples worldwide, is the exceptional Golf GTI Clubsport S of which 150 in right-hand drive form have been earmarked for UK customers.  The 310 PS ‘ultimate GTI’ sold out here within weeks of its announcement, which came as the car claimed the front-wheel drive lap record for the infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife in an incomparable seven minutes and 49 seconds.