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We Found the Rarest Volkswagen Golf GTIs Hidden in Osnabrück, Germany

We Found the Rarest Volkswagen Golf GTIs Hidden in Osnabrück, Germany

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Within the car culture scene, petrolheads have a special place in their hearts for the hot hatch. The category – which encompasses compact 2- and 4/door hatchbacks with sporty engines – is far reaching amongst car brands, but one has been tried and true for nearly half a century: the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

That ‘half a century’ remark isn’t exaggeration either – VW is celebrating 50 years of the Golf hatchback since 1974, which eventually spawned the sports edition trim level of it, the GTI. Since its inception, consumers from your average daily driver and commuter to enthusiasts and even motorsports figures have loved what the Golf GTI has stood for. Its compact size yet highly-practical seating and capacity measurements paired with zippy engines and sport-tuned suspension meant the GTI was an “all things to all man” vehicle, and its success is apparent even to this day as the Golf GTI continues to dominate the market.⁠

We got a very exclusive invite to Osnabrück, Germany at one of Volkswagen’s factories to check out a special exhibit of some of the rarest Golfs, Golf GTIs, and Golf concept vehicles that may or may not have been seen by the public. Naturally we geeked out at a full line up of the original Golf GTIs and a walk down memory lane of the Golf Rs, but the motorsport racers and the ‘Apprentice’ builds were the real show stoppers for us. ⁠Check out each vehicle below.

Golf R Lineage

Most people remember the iconic MKVI R32 as the “beginning” of the Golf R line, but did you know technically it started as early as the MKII? Volkswagen educated us on the G60 Limited, a special edition Golf MKII that received some added horsepower thanks to a VW Corrado-sourced G-Lader supercharger under the hood. Its ‘Designed by Volkswagen Motorsport’ badges gave it away, but only 71 were ever made, so it’ll be ultra rare to notice one for yourself.

The R lineage exhibit also showcased a very special MKVI “V6 Turbo” which technically isn’t the standard Golf R of that generation – those were boosted four-cylinders. Rothe Motorsport GmbH helped develop this experimental car that turbocharged the MKV’s straight six-cylinder, which in the MKVI package made a really-impressive 444 hp. Sadly this didn’t go into production due to fuel and emissions reasons, but it’s definitely cool that VW and Rothe gave it a shot and have something to show for it.

Golf in Motorsport

We were absolutely blown away by the motorsport vehicles VW had on display, and felt honored to be able to witness these extraordinary cars in person and up close.

Some got more publicity during their heyday than others and are instantly recognizable, like the most recent Clubsport 24h car that apparently arrived straight from the prestigious Le Mans race, to the MKVII Clubsport S that lapped the Nürburgring circuit in its record-breaking 7:49:21. But the older-gen motorsport Golfs were truly awesome, like the MKII ‘Pikes Peak’ car driven – and in fact showcased in-person – by Klaus-Joachim “Jochi” Kleint that’s powered by two separate engines, front and rear. Jochi was kind enough to walk us through the car’s highly unique set up, noting not only the intricacies of powering two engines, but the dynamics of how it affected the handling, cooling, transmission and more.

We were also floored by the awesome “Straßenversion” (street version) motorsport cars, like the stylish MKII Rallye G60 16V and the amazing widebodied MKIII Rallye A59, which was so clean and tidy that it looked as if it was a factory-built car we’d find on the road. The latter’s unique hood design, ultra-curvy fenders, massive rear roof spoiler and more made this car our favorite of the exhibit, hands down.

Golf Design Studies

Every year, Volkswagen throws a show in Wörthersee, Austria that’s mainly dedicated to the fans, and each time they unveil a special “study” car. Most of the time they are jaw-dropping displays of technology, advancement and performance, and rarely are they a disappointment.

During the exhibition, we were witness to three of the Wörthersee design study examples, including the awesome MKVII Design Vision GTI. Based on the highly-publicized Golf GTI W12-650 that was shown at the 2007 show, this widebodied MKVII on specially-made 20” wheels housed a 3.0L V6 engine, twin turbocharged to nearly 500 horsepower, and did 0-60 in 3.9 seconds.

Other examples shown were the Golf GTE Sport with its three engines and ultra-sleek widebody design, and the wild MKVII GTI Roadster, a collaborative effort between VW and Sony for Gran Turismo 6 and GT’s 15th anniversary.

Golf by VW Apprentices

Volkswagen’s staff is often made up of young designers and creatives, all of which help a lending hand into the culture behind VW. As such, these “apprentices” spend time to help design VW’s Wörthesee cars in various ways, some of which we were able to explore during our time in Osnabrück. It’s enlightening to see a company like Volkswagen not only acknowledge youth culture’s take on Volkswagen cars, but actually encourage the design and ideas they have. This is evident in the Apprentice builds’ mods shown and honored – a ton of subwoofers and speakers, ultra-low suspensions, vibrant liveries and more.

We iked the ‘Wolfsburg GTI’ a lot, which is an ultra-clean approach to OEM+ modding with a Absolute Red custom paint job that was actually applied by hand. ‘Dark Shine’ had the Golf R’s engine implanted into the GTI body, along with countless suspension and handling dynamic upgrades and a modified DSG gearbox to cope with the new 390 horsepower figure.

Other standouts included the GTI ‘First Decade’ car, which featured a then-innovative petrol-front, 48V electric-rear hybrid drive system; ‘Aurora’ which featured Focal, Bang & Olufsen, and Eton speaker systems simultaneously; and the chopped-top GTI Cabrio ‘Austria’, which also converted the practical four-seater into a two-seater roadster with an 11 speaker, 2,250-watt symphony custom built in the rear.

With the brand new MK8.5 Golf R that was just released, Volkswagen continues the legacy of the Golf in 2024. Here’s to another 50 years of arguably the greatest hatchback ever made.

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