40 years ago: Golf Durability test from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego

It was said that the Beetle runs and runs and runs. Surely its successor, the Golf, had to also master this discipline with flying colors. That’s why the legendary motoring journalist Fritz B. Busch went along with four companions in two identical 70 HP 1.5 liter Golfs on a very big tour – from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.  Amazingly, the two Golfs are probably the oldest surviving examples of the class today, with one of them exhibited in the Volkswagen Foundation Auto Museum.

When the new Golf was launched in June 1974, hardly anyone knew what a huge success it would be.  Traveling over 30,514 km (18,960mi) from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, the qualities that the cars exhibited in the summer of that same year during spectacular hardness tests were extremely impressive.  The two vehicles used standard 70 horsepower engines and are likely the only surviving 1974 model year Golf I vehicles.

Painted in Brilliant Yellow with Pine Green Breitcord front seats, the cars stayed almost unchanged apart from added protection for the engine, oil pan and transmission, as well as fog lights and halogen auxiliary lamps.  Special equipment also included an Emden radio, a tachometer and a VDO oil pressure gauge.  The rear seats had been removed, in their place came a loading space with a green tarp.  The cars were running 155 SR 13 Cinturato P3 summer tires provided by sponsor Pirelli on 5J x 13 aluminum Sports wheels.

Fritz B. Busch, who was at the time the best known motoring journalist in Germany, was the “test driver” for the adventure through the Americas.  The group completed the rigorous 94 day tour without external support.  They departed from Fairbanks, Alaska in October 1974 headed south across the Americas – passing through Yellowstone Park , the Great Salt Lake, Death Valley, nearly all countries of Central America and on to the Andes and the Abra Anticona where they were 4,843 m (15,890 ft) above sea level at the highest point.  The group finished in January 1975, at the Chilean Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego.

Busch, then a journalist at STAR, flew back with the worn but still intact steel belted tires in carry-on luggage after the “big test” – the title of his subsequent bestselling book.  He later wrote for Auto Motor und Sport.  The theme of Volkswagen never left him, setting world records with an aerodynamically-enhanced diesel vehicle on the legendary test track Ehra-Lessien .

The two test Golfs came through largely unscathed and returned to Germany in the spring of 1975.  Some dents, torn trim and destroyed headlights were lasting testimonies of the tour; torn-up on the gravel roads of the Andes where the fuel tank of the Busch Golf had been repaired. Both Golfs have been preserved,  one – once traveling as a WOB- V 587 for tire sponsor Pirelli – is in the private “Auto Museum Fritz B. Busch” in 88364 Wolfegg in Allgäu.  The other car with chassis number 175 3022653 ( WOB V 645 ) is part of the collection of the Volkswagen Foundation Auto Museum. They are important historical examples for the 40th anniversary of Golf and Scirocco in 2014.

Source: DPP- AutoReporter, Translation by VWvortex