If you're like most car geeks, you know that Volkswagen has a thing for winds when it comes to naming cars. Sirocco is a Mediterranean wind, Passat is a trade wind, Jetta refers to the Jet stream, and Golf is what the Germans call the Gulf Stream. But get this — shocking new revelations suggest the Golf was actually named after a horse!
Okay, let's all just calm down. I know many of you have probably already bolted upright, hyperventilating, wondering just what the hell happened to the world you once knew. Well, let's all just get a grip. We're going to get through this — together.
Okay, so here's what's going on. When VW was assimilating the NSU/Audi folks into their organization, learning and absorbing the ways of water cooling and FWD, they were developing their eventual Beetle replacement, which we now know as the Golf (Rabbit in the US). At first, of course, they didn't have a name.
They had settled on wind and weather-based naming already — they were going to use Passat, for example, and an early name for the Golf was the Blizzard, which is actually a pretty cool name. The reason they eventually settled on Golf hasn't been previously known, but a visit to the Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen by ex-VW Head Purchaser Hans-Joachim Zimmermann provided a new insight to the story, when Herr Purchaser revealed a story about his horse:
Where did the Volkswagen Golf get its name? From the Gulf Stream, which matches the hot winds of the Passat and Scirocco in terms of content? Hans-Joachim Zimmermann, Head Purchaser under the aegis of the Chairmen of the Board Horst Münzner and Ignacio Lopez from 1965 to 1995, revealed the solution to the riddle during a visit to the AutoMuseum: his Hanover gelding, called Golf, which he rode successfully time and again while acting as the long-standing chairman of the Reit- und Fahrverein Wolfsburg (riding and driving club), was expressly praised by Horst Münzer in the summer of 1973. A few days after this conversation on the riding arena, the chairman showed his colleague one of the brand new compact prototypes – with the letter combination of GOLF at the rear. Up to then, names such as Blizzard and Caribe had been discussed. Hans-Joachim Zimmermann, 79 years old now, brought an oil painting of the horse to the AutoMuseum and was delighted: "My horse was the namesake of the Golf – it stands for top-class, elegance, reliability. May the Golf have a long history of success – my horse got to be 27 years old, and in human terms, that meant it reached the ripe old age of 95. That is a pretty good omen!"
So... wait. The chairman of the board of VW saw Zimmerman's horse, Golf, was impressed with the horse's politeness or taut, firm haunches or whatever, and then a few days later when the prototype was shown, it was badged GOLF instead of Blizzard or Caribe? I think that's what he's getting at, which, while not 100% conclusive, does suggest that the horse at least influenced the name.
Also interesting in this saga are the pictures of that early Golf prototype, the Blizzard. The body design looks remarkably close to what became the production Golf, but look how strange that front end looks. The headlights are a few inches closer together, and for some reason that completely messes with my brain's interpretation of the car's face, which makes it look just bizarre.
I thought it was important for you to be aware of any horse names in your cars. This is the first car I can think of named after a specific horse, not a type of horse. Unless you count the Daihatsu Seabiscuit, which I don't.