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VW Passat GTI prototype: Wind-Jammer - the hottest factory Passat

Uli Jooß
VW Passat GTI prototype
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D he seventies held many surprises for car drivers Nation ready. For example, Volkswagen products suddenly had front-wheel drive. The 1973 oil crisis was even more unpleasant as a second surprise. After the double shock was digested, Volkswagen cars were even able to run properly: the VW Golf GTI presented in 1976 became a top seller. The injection Golf actually ran so well that the VW Research and Development department was thinking intensively about adding a sporty version to the bourgeois Passat with the revision for the 1978 model year.

Golf GTI becomes a bestseller after the oil crisis

The 85 PS of the Passat TS have so far been the highest of emotions. However, with the GT /E, Audi already had a powerful mid-range sedan on offer. The Passat GTI shown here saw the dim light of a Wolfsburg winter day on December 9, 1976 as a pilot series vehicle of the second series of the Passat B1 series, internally called Type 32.

It was stamped with the chassis number 3272096095 and was nothing more than a simple two-door Passat with a tailgate in polar white and a modest 1.3 liter, 55 hp engine. In the cockpit of the facelift model, the Wolfsburg interior design of the eighties was already announced. The Audi instruments from the first Passat series had disappeared. And similar to the VW Golf, the Passat received a carrier that housed the instruments, radio slot and heating control.

The changes to the Passat's outer skin were more noticeable: the thin chrome bumpers had given way to bulky plastic components. The interplay of the bent bonnet and large plastic bumpers raised next to the headlights gave the redesigned model almost the appearance of a bumper car from the front. The attached taillights, which were no longer flush with the body like the previous Passat, also seemed a little awkward. The Passat facelift was received positively, especially since the lowering of the loading sill also brought tangible advantages.

Look package: transformation from the ordinary to the power Passat

The good polar white of the Passat gave way to a glamorous Bahama blue metallic at the turn of the year, with even the front bumpers partly painted in the body color and were remodeled to spoilers. Fender flaresand sill trims were added, and a red trim at waist level. The simple rectangular headlights of the Passat were replaced by the round double lights of the more expensive Passat variants. A spoiler was enthroned on the rear, which was supposed to reduce lift on the rear axle by 50 percent. And analogous to the matt black frame on the rear window of the Golf GTI, a black area between the taillights rounded off the visual transformation from the ordinary to the power Passat.

But the decisive graft was located under the hood of the Passat: the 1.6-liter engine with 110 hp known from the Audi 80 GT /E and Golf GTI. The chassis was helped by firmer front shock absorbers, all-round harder springs, wider tires, stabilizers and a slight lowering. Lots of operations that any halfway talented tuner could have carried out on the Passat.

Only 59 kilometers run - the Passat becomes a stand-up

The Passat GTI should remain a unique piece despite its promising systems. VW CEO Toni Schmücker did not want a Sport Passat. So the prototype eke out a monotonous existence as a standing tool in the following years. The counter in its cockpit showed a total of 59 kilometers of total mileage. The Passat GTI is a little bit half-strong today - with its spoiler, the flares and the thin red trim. Due to the lowering and the coupé-like, two-door body, it looks a bit like a family Scirocco, especially from the front, which many a coupé friend with attachment may have dreamed of at the time. The Passat front section also won thanks to the partially painted bumper, which significantly softens the clunky appearance of the production version.

The bourgeois ambience of the normal Passat with a better trim level was also sacrificed for sportiness. You take a seat on very comfortable sports seats, the check pattern of which was also used in the Golf and Scirocco GTI. In combination with the dark blue of the outer skin, the choice of color 'Schottenbeigebroun' causes slight irritation, but that doesn't change the homely impression of the Passat interior with its fabric-covered roof lining.

Those behind the scenes in the Passat can look forward to headrests, the driver an exterior mirror that can be adjusted from the inside and a center console with additional instruments. The legendary spittoon steering wheel is not missing either. Back then it was an indispensable insignia for every sporty VW. Incidentally, the purpose of the recess in the center of the steering wheel was assumed in 1976 in a Golf GTI test in sport auto in a function as 'additional storage - for keys and golf balls, for example'. What is really practical, on the other hand, is the so-called 'folding system for the rear bench seat', which is a split-folding rear bench seat on the Passat. In 1977, however, it still cost a surcharge, as did the large tailgate that turned the sporty Passat into a kind of shooting braketransformed.

Comfortable long-distance car

When driving, the Passat prototype is problem-free and suitable for long distances. You feel in good hands, sit comfortably and you can also be amazed how few buttons and levers were needed to operate a fast, sporty sedan. Of course, the injection-molded Passat cannot offer the playful handling of a Golf GTI. But the powerful engine and the streamlined chassis give it that certain liveliness that can rightly be expected from a GTI logo on the tailgate. And the regret arises that the Passat GTI was never built in series.

Nevertheless, the Passat got the 110 hp engine in 1979. However, in the rather subtle and comfort-oriented GLI, which, apart from the rear and front spoiler, appeared very simple. So if you wanted to document your sporting spirit externally, you had to turn to the accessories trade. On the other hand, sporty family fathers could even order the Passat GLI as a variant. This type also had the chassis modifications of the Passat GTI. And also new, internally ventilated floating caliper disc brakes.

The Passat was not lowered. The standard version of the GLI came very close to the Golf GTI in terms of acceleration and even exceeded it by 2 km /h in terms of top speed due to its better aerodynamics. To do this, however, it had to be turned mercilessly. Because the engine fed by the Bosch K-Jetronic only reached its maximum torque of 140 Nm at 5,000 revolutions.

The successor is also available with an Audi five-cylinder and 115 hp

In addition, the Passat weighed significantly more than a Golf GTI. For those interested in youngtimers, the last Passat B1 in the GLI version is still worth considering, if only because of its small number. The most powerful Passat B1 had a total of 1,062 registrations in 1979, and 1,113 were registered in 1980. After the plant holidays in 1980, the successor B2 was already ready. It was even available with the Audi five-cylinder and 115 hp. However, the more spacious new Passat model weighed around 200 kilograms more than the lightweight original model.

The chances of finding a good Passat GLI are of course minimal. The VW classic department will certainly not part with their Passat GTI in Bahama blue. A certain inner size is required anyway to make a car like this a classic in your fleet. Anyone who believes in this size has an alternative: The Jetta was also available as a GLI - in much larger numbers, with full GTI regalia, 110 hp and one or two decorative stripes. Two-door, of course.


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