This year, everyone is talking about the VW Golf and its 50th anniversary. But people forget that the Golf has a very stylish brother, who was even presented a few weeks earlier. Curtain up on the VW Scirocco!

In 1971, VW management decided to combine a chic coupé with the compact car that would later become known as the Golf. Giorgio Giugiaro designed both models, resulting in an angular but almost timeless design.

Gallery: VW Scirocco I (1974-1981)

A premiere in February 1974

Type 53, the internal name of the future Scirocco, made its debut and arrived on the market before the Golf I. VW was thus able to correct a number of teething problems (the Golf still had enough of them) and test the reception it received. In the end, the successor to the Karmann-Ghia was completely different, despite the fact that the production site was the same: angles instead of curves, an engine at the front instead of the rear, water-cooling instead of air-cooling.

It is said that the name Scirocco was intended for the Golf and the Scirocco, the latter being the Scirocco Coupé. In the end, it didn't come to that. Scirocco actually refers to a hot desert wind that blows from the Sahara towards the Mediterranean.

On 24 February 1974, Volkswagen presented the new model for the first time to a select group of journalists, three months before the presentation of the Golf. At the beginning of March, dealers were able to examine the car. On 14 March 1974, the world premiere took place at the Geneva Motor Show.

One of the first pre-production models of the 1973 VW Scirocco I

One of the first pre-production models of the 1973 VW Scirocco I

A question of headlights

"Scirocco. A sports coupé in top form" was the slogan of the new Volkswagen, which was not obviously based on the future Golf I. The Scirocco was developed at Karmann in Osnabrück, where there was an urgent need for a successor to the Karmann Ghia Type 14. The result was a compact 2+2-seater coupé, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, 3,850 mm long and just 1,310 mm high. Without a driver, the first Scirocco weighed just 800 kilos.

The Scirocco starts out with three power levels. The 1.1-litre, 50 PS engine is the basis for those who prefer to be economical, while the 1.5-litre, 70 PS engine and the Scirocco TS, 85 PS engine are the next best thing. All the engines are of ultra-modern construction: toothed-belt-driven, rev-proof in-line four-cylinders with overhead camshafts.

There are three equipment variants: N as the base model, L with more luxury, S and TS with more powerful engines, and the TS with particularly sporty equipment. On the outside, the models are distinguished by their headlights: rectangular headlights on the N and L models, striking double headlights on the sporty TS version.

VW Scirocco I (1974-1981)

VW Scirocco I (1974-1981)

From January 1975, the Scirocco was available with 1.5-litre engines with automatic transmission. In August, the TS's 1.5-litre engine was replaced by a successor with the same power, 1.6 litres and 85 PS. In addition, all models receive the large single-arm windscreen wiper that now characterises the Scirocco.

The double GTI

Shortly before its introduction in the Golf, the Scirocco was again available in 1976 in a GTI or GLI variant. The 1.6-litre, 110 PS engine features K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection. The increased power meant that the chassis had to be adapted: lowering, front and rear stabiliser bars, ventilated front brake discs, wider rims and higher speed-rated tyres.

On the outside, the GTI and GLI models are best recognised by their front spoilers. Inside, the GTI features a sports steering wheel, rev counter, centre console with time and oil temperature display and, above all, sports seats covered in a chequered fabric. The GLI is the luxury variant: with tinted windows, carpet inlays in the door panels and height-adjustable front seats with special seat covers.

VW Scirocco I (from 1977)

VW Scirocco I (from 1977)

As part of a facelift in 1977, the bumpers were clad in plastic and stretched to the wheel arches, the front indicators were enlarged, and the B-pillars and mirror housings were painted black.

From 1979, the new base engine was a 1.3-litre, 60 PS petrol engine. In 1981, the VW Scirocco II took over: between February 1974 and February 1981, 504,153 Sciroccos from the first series rolled off the Karmann production lines.