The Road Show #40 – Duggystone radio – VW Golf part1
Jack Mortimer July 12, 2020
Today Jack covers the VW Golf as well as the usual features of this amazing show
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The Show Notes
In the news this week, the American company Chevrolet have stated that they’ll be dropping the Sonic model from their range. This has been decided due to declining sales figures of the Sonic, a small 5 door city car, but it also allows for Chevrolet to put more focus onto their expanding range of electric cars in the near future. Nevertheless, the Chevrolet Sonic was recently rated as the highest quality vehicle in the JD Power 2020 Initial Quality Study, so it does seem rather strange that the sales of this model are so low. Nevertheless, when production stops in October it will be replaced with the electric Bolt, increasing the production significantly.
In Spain, SEAT and their sporting brand Cupra will be receiving a £4.5 billion investment in 2025. The money will go towards investments in research and development and factory upgrades. This deal comes after SEAT showcased their Cupra el-Born, the first electric hot hatchback made by the whole of the Volkswagen Group (who owns SEAT) and is set to go into production next year. The main aim for the investment will be to electrify the range, much like how Volkswagen themselves are electrifying with the up and coming ID range of vehicles. This goes to show a shift in SEAT, going from a relatively budget brand that utilises others technology to a more independent and certainly up-to-the-minute car company. We don’t quite new what the future has to hold for SEAT, however you’ll hear it as it happens right here on The Road Show.
And also in electric vehicle news, we have more information on London Electric Vehicle’s new van – the VN5. It’s based on the TX, that’s the taxi cab, and will feature a 31kWh battery crossed with a 1.5 litre turbocharged engine from Volvo. It’s said to be capable of 58 miles on the battery alone and carry up to 830kg, which can be admitted to the back either through the split rear doors at the back or the single sliding door on the side. With the VN5 you get autonomous emergency braking, 50kW rapid charging (which allows you to fully charge it in about 30 minutes) and a 9 inch touchscreen as standard. There is also the more expensive City and Ultima models which give you even more such as a heated steering wheel or a reversing camera. LEVC expects to sell 10,000 vans each year when they begin sales, hopefully at the end of the year with prices starting from £46,500 before the government grant of £8,000.
Finally, a recent study has found out that 4 out of 10 parents regularly have arguments about temperate controls when driving. The study, conducted by SEAT (maybe this is what their investments funding) looked at 2000 parents with 39% saying that they do indeed have heated conversations about the heating in their car. Other interesting common driving conflicts include 20% who argue about having a window open, 19% who argue about having the air conditioning on and 44% who dread taking their young child on a journey that’s over an hour long. In fact young children seem to be somewhat of an issue for motorists, or so this study claims, as 41% of the parents surveyed said that they find parking harder when they are with their child. So what do you think? What’s that one thing you always seem to bicker about in the car with your family? Let me know on our social media pages – The Road Show: Duggystone Radio on FaceBook, and DStoneRoadShow on Instagram.
The Volkswagen Golf Story Part 1:
So as I’m sure you’ll already know, recently we concluded our story on the Ford Mustang, weighing in at a whopping four segments long. Well, ever since then I’ve been thinking about what I could do for our next super-sized segment. And I’ve thought of the perfect car. Like the Mustang, it’s still in production to this day and it remains ever popular. Like the Mustang, it’s been continuously revised to stay at the top of the class. Like the Mustang, it’s a household name, known and loved by even those that don’t like cars. But unlike the Mustang, we’re not looking at an all American muscle car, today we’re looking at a small European hatchback that managed to conquer the world – the Volkswagen Golf.
So I think a good place to start would be by taking a look at Volkswagen before the Golf. Obviously their main car was the Beetle – the car that gave them all their fame. It was affordable, had an air-cooled engine at the rear that needed little maintenance and, perhaps most importantly, it had character. It’s a car I really do need to cover at some point, but if I’m honest I want to cover it well. Anyway, the only issue with the Beetle was that it was designed in the 1930s so by the time it became popular in the 50s and 60s, it was already dated. In fact, Volkswagen were already developing what could have been a replacement as early as 1952.
And they were serious too, the first prototype (known internally as the EA41) was designed in collaboration with Pininfarina, perhaps the most highly praised design team there is. Sadly, only two images of that first prototype seem to exist. I’d doubt the car still exists in some collection, but I don’t quite know for sure. Anyway, other than the more up to date styling (that actually still really looks like a Volkswagen) the EA41 wasn’t really something to write home about. Underneath it was just a Beetle – the same platform, the same air-cooled engine, the same suspension setup, everything.
The following year, another prototype was made called the EA47. 15 of these were known to be made over the next few years and, amazingly, a prototype is known to still exist at Volkswagen’s Museum. Anyway, this prototype was more of a conventional looking saloon which had synchromesh on all gears and torsion-bar rear suspension. Now, again, this prototype didn’t go anywhere in succeeding the Beetle but instead a lot of the design went into the bigger Volkswagen Karman Ghia coupe and roadster.
Anyway, we’re going off topic here. But, you get the point, Volkswagen really wanted to replace the Beetle with a car that was just as popular. By 1968 these prototypes were looking a little more like what we’re used to. The EA276 (yes we have just jumped from 47 to 276) was a front wheel drive three door hatchback with its engine in the front. The main difference between the two cars was the styling, which obviously would be worked on closer to the release of the Golf, and the air-cooled engine. Now, I’ve checked numerous sources and I simply can’t find what engine was fitted into this prototype but apparently it could get 44bhp and had a top speed of 130kph (which is about 80mph). It was a capable enough engine, but if you’ve ever heard an air-cooled engine in action you know that they tend to be pretty loud and, dare I say, unrefined.
Now, leaving the world of prototypes for a second, we need to talk about Volkswagen in the late 1960s. Whilst sales of the Beetle were still climbing over in America (423,000 were sold in 1968 alone) over in their native Germany, thanks to the launch of the Opel Kadett and Ford Escort, two more modern competitors, Volkswagen sales were rapidly declining. In 1965 they sold an impressive 600,000 cars in Germany, but just two years later that figure had dropped to 370,000. Come the early 70s and the situation was no better. In 1969 Volkswagen made 330 million DM, but by 1971 only 12 million was made. The Beetle, as loved as it was, was an incredibly dated car and it showed. Matters only got worse for it when President Nixon put a 10% import duty on foreign cars, meaning the Beetle was now notably more expensive state-side. Still, at least it wasn’t a fire hazard like the Pinto.
Anyway, despite Volkswagen’s best efforts to modernise the Beetle, such as the 1303 Super Beetle in 1972 which gave you such luxuries as a curved windscreen and a padded dashboard, people grew concerned about its safety, or lack thereof. By 1974, thanks to slumping sales and high development costs, Volkswagen were now making a loss. However, they did have an ace up their sleeve.
That ace was, of course, the Golf, where all the research money was going. The styling was done by Giugiaro (another genius of a stylist) who gave it what’s often called an ‘origami style’, with clean, flat sides and sharp angles. In fact, Giugiaro considered this the most important car, he’d ever styled, and that’s coming from the bloke who gave you 6 Lancias, 14 Maseratis, 15 Alfa Romeos and of course the Daewoo Matiz. Anyway, one of the final, and perhaps the coolest prototypes for the Golf had sliding doors. Now today cars with sliding doors are common but back then that was a crazy idea that could help to make squeezing out of tight parking spaces much easier.
Sadly, that never saw the light of day, but what did was its two engines. From the start, you could choose from a 1.1 or a 1.5. Now, in my eyes these two engines seem to go from one extreme to the other but they did the job of being relatively powerful and economical. And so the Beetle replacement was finally ready to enter production, but it still lacked a name. Naturally, they chose Golf, that’s very obvious, but did you know that it could have been called the Volkswagen Blizzard or the Volkswagen Caribe? The name Golf was chosen because of its ties not only to the popular sport but because of the German word Golfstrom which means Gulf Stream.
And so the Golf entered production in March of 1974 and was on sale that May. But sadly, that’s where part one comes to an end. That’s right folks, part one of the story of the Volkswagen Golf doesn’t even feature the Golf in production. Well, I think we’ve all learned something about how long it took to replace the Beetle in nothing else, so join me in Part 2 when I talk about the Mk1 and of course the GTi. It’ll be on The Road Show pretty soon!
My Dad Had One of Those: Chrysler/Talbot Alpine:
Back to My Dad Had One of Those, where we look at the sort of car you remember your family or friends owning but you barely ever see them these days. And for today’s episode we’re looking at a brand of car I don’t tend to look at, not for any reason exactly. It was 1976’s Car of the Year but these days it seems all but forgotten with only 23 currently on the roads. Today, we’re looking at the Chrysler and Talbot Alpine.
Alright, so I’m guessing you’re pretty sick and tired of hearing about car development, so I’ll keep it short. What you need to know is during the mid-70s family cars were changing. Fewer people wanted the typical three-box saloon that was rear wheel drive and more wanted the safety and control of a front wheel drive car and the versatility and practicality of a hatchback. Chrysler of Europe were pretty much on the cutting edge of family cars of the time, thanks to the Alpine, which replaced a whole host of different cars.
But you might be wondering, who on earth are Chrysler Europe? Surely that’s an American company, right? Well, yes they are but back in 1967 it was formed thanks to a merger of Simca, the Rootes Group (which was another collection of car brands) and Barrieros (a manufacturer of trucks and buses from Spain). The first car to come of this partnership was the Chrysler 180 (known in some markets as the Chrysler 2 Litre) but a lot of the cars in the ranges either hadn’t been updated since the partnership was formed or just didn’t want to use the Chrysler name. And technically the Alpine was another one of those cars.
Whilst it was designed specifically by Chrysler of Europe, and naturally it launched in Britain as a Chrysler but over in Europe it was a Simca. There were more names too but we’ll get onto those later. But from that, we now know that the Alpine had the tough job of replacing the Hillman Hunter and the Simca 1301 – two rather conservative saloons that did incredibly well in their respective markets but not in each other’s. It was decided that the 1.3 and 1.5 engines from the Simca were used over the 1.5 and 1.7 in the Hillman, most likely due to the fact the engines were smaller and were taxed less in the European countries. Both engines had 4 speed manual transmission which was still standard for the time and, rather impressively, electronic ignition for significantly less hassle in the long run.
Anyway, the Simca 1307 and 1308 (names given to reflect the two different engines used) launched in October of 1975 with the Alpine entering the dealerships of Britain the following January. It’s notable that for a little while the new model was sold alongside the old Simca 1301 and Hillman Hunter models in case drivers didn’t like the hatchback or wanted an estate, something the Alpine never had. However, there wasn’t really a need to worry – Chrysler managed to make 32,836 Alpines before the end of ’75, all in their French factory. In fact, it did so well that it was named Car of the Year 1976, and it did so by a considerable amount. And that success kept on going for a while – by the end of 1976, Chrysler were making 110 a day.
The advertising campaign in Britain that accompanied the launch was fronted by Tomorrows World presenter William Woollard and heavily promoted the practicality of its hatchback – calling it ‘The seven-days-a-week car’. But despite all the success, the Alpine wasn’t doing as well in the UK as the Simca was in Europe. So, it August of ’76, Alpine production began in the Ryton-on-Dunsmore factory in Coventry. This meant that it was a true British car which, back then, seemed to mean more than if a car was actually any good.
And it was in the late 70s that the problems began to surface. It seems that no matter where your Alpine was built, it wasn’t built well and already sales were declining. And so in 1978 the PSA group (led by Peugeot) took over Chrysler Europe and turned it into the Talbot Group and the Chrysler Alpine became the Talbot Alpine. There was a facelift in 1979 which gave the car a brand new and much more modern looking front end that could also be found on the Sunbeam and the new Horizon. By this point there was also a slightly more powerful 1.6 engine and also the option for an automatic gearbox.
But I’d say that the change that followed a year later would be the most significant, as the Alpine went full circle and returned family cars back to their conservative ways… well in a way. The Talbot Solara was a slightly longer Alpine with a dedicated boot, rather than a hatchback. It wasn’t particularly liked by road testers of the time, with claims that the Simca pushrod engines were dated in comparison to those found in the Cortina or the Cavalier, but the good styling mixed with competitive pricing meant that the Solara was loved by the company car sector.
So, it seemed that as a Talbot, the Alpine and Solara were back to where they were in the minds of motorists. Also, in order to help simplify the range, the Simca name was dropped and so across all of Europe only the Talbot name was in use.
1982 was an odd year for the Alpine and Solara. It received another facelift but it also received it’s successor from PSA – the Citroen BX. The BX had much better build quality and had a more recent range of engines, and it showed. Sales of the Talbots plummeted in both 1983 and ’84, despite their best efforts to make the Alpine more upmarket with the Executive models. They fitted tinted glass, velour upholstery, alloy wheels and metallic paint all as standard.
By 1986 production had completely ended, not just because the model had been replaced but because the Talbot brand name had too. In an effort to simplify the range, the brand was dropped and any future models in development were branded as Peugeots. And that was the Alpine, a strange story of a car that went from being cutting edge to dated in a few seconds flat. Nevertheless, you can’t ignore the fact that it was a hit, even outside the places you’d think. In Finland the Alpine was made by Valmet Automotive and the widely acclaimed 1.9 XUD diesel engine was fitted (being the only diesel engine the car ever received). But even more impressively, the Alpine was also built as the Dodge Alpine in Columbia and as the Talbot SX in New Zealand.
Sadly these days there aren’t all that many Alpines and Solaras left, in fact there are only three Solaras across Europe on AutoScout24 and no Alpines whatsoever. From these three cars, it’s evident that you can pick a good one up for under 3000 euros.
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