1976 Volkswagen Golf GTI
It may not have been the first of its kind but the Golf GTI defined the hot hatch genre and is the only one on our list to still be going strong today, now in its eighth generation. The Golf itself did help create the family hatchback as a category, thanks to its sharp Giugiaro styling, dependability and immense practicality. It was something truly different when it launched in 1974 and it wasn’t long before a skunkworks team inside Wolfsburg was working on a ‘Sport Golf’ performance model. This used a Scirocco as a development mule and a dual carburetted version of the 1.6-litre engine.
However, when it was presented to VW’s research head, Ernst Fiala, he declared it too unrefined and noisy. So the carbs were replaced with fuel injection and the ‘I’ was added to Gran Turismo, creating a legend. Presented in March 1975 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the family Golf had gained flared wheel arches covering fat alloy wheels, a chin spoiler and a red stripe round the grille. Inside was the now famous golf ball gear knob and tartan seats while underneath was 15mm lower suspension, vented front discs and anti-roll bars. VW intended to make just 5,000 to homologate the GTI for Group 1 Touring Cars but it went on to sell nearly 100 times as many.