Eight illustrious generations of GTI-badged Volkswagen hatchbacks have almost made enthusiasts forget that the original Golf wasn’t designed with performance in mind. It was a humble, commuter-friendly economy car. German tuner Rolf Nothelle built the first-known Golf race car in 1975, and it could join your collection in 2020.
Gutting a Golf and tacking a flare over each wheel must have raised quite a few eyebrows in 1975, less than a year after the model made its debut to replace the Beetle. German pilot Bernd Lilier proved the naysayers wrong by driving Nothelle’s Golf to a first-place finish in a 1975 race held on the Hockenheimring’s Grand Prix circuit. The first-generation GTI also made its debut that year, and it later sealed the Golf’s status as a capable racer.
Auction house RM Sotheby’s indicated this Golf was originally homologated with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine tuned to 162 horsepower. It later received a 175-horsepower, 1.8-liter four that slurps fuel through a pair of massive Weber 45 carburetors. The bigger engine is still in the car in 2020. The build also included a long list of suspension, brake, and chassis modifications, while BBS alloy wheels added a finishing touch to the look.
To add context, the original Golf’s entry-level engine was a 1.1-liter four that delivered 50 horsepower, enough for a 17-second sprint from zero to 60 mph. In Europe, the first GTI offered 110 horses from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder.
Volkswagen commissioned Marcus Nothelle, Rolf’s son, to restore the original Golf race car in 2011. It sounds like it hasn’t seen much action since. RM Sotheby’s wrote that it’s in excellent condition and it’s ready for immediate use, so we hope the next owner enters it in historic races around the world. The sale includes numerous spare parts, including an engine and Group 2-specific bits that have become incredibly difficult to find.
This historically significant Golf will cross the auction block in Essen, Germany, on June 24, but a pre-sale estimate hasn’t been published yet. There are two other classic Volkswagen models also looking for a new home, a 1951 split-window Beetle and a 1971 Karmann Ghia convertible, and countless fascinating machines ranging from a 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Turismo to a 1996 Renault Sport Spider are also up for grabs.