2014 Wörthersee Festival: A Brief History of the GTI

Wörthersee Festival proves GTI not just for Dads.

In 1976, when a small group of Volkswagen engineers hopped-up a Golf in the basement of the main Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, they not only created a new car, but a whole new segment. Their “project” car became the GTI, and though it was not an “official” project, Volkswagen built 5,000 of them that year, and they sold out very quickly.

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The GTI was a breath of fresh air at a very stale time for the automotive industry. It was small, light, very sporty and, perhaps most important, affordable.

Little did these engineers know that in addition to a car, they had also planted the seed for an event that would grow into an international gathering in just a few short years.

Shortly after the car’s introduction, a small group of friends, who each had their own GTI, took their cars on a little “Father’s Day adventure”. Traditionally, Father’s Day in Germany takes place on the last Thursday in May, with festivities stretching through the weekend. These folks decided that a trip to the Wörthersee, an alpine lake in Austria, would be a great opportunity to see what the GTI could do.

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The following year, these friends were joined by a lot more friends.
Fast forward to 2014, and you have the 33rd annual “GTI Meeting” at Wörthersee. This has become the largest Volkswagen show in Europe, and now attracts around 50,000 people per day over the Father’s Day weekend.

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Fans come from all over Europe to display their cars. This year, the finest examples of all seven generations of GTI were on display. As well, the show has grown so much that it’s no longer just a GTI show. It’s become a showcase of the many faces of Volkswagen. And, in fact, even some non-Volkswagen vehicles are starting to show up.

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The factory has even made Wörthersee an “official” stop on their Autoshow tour, and has set up a booth onsite since 2006. Every year, the engineers from Wolfsburg pull out the stops on their latest project…something they know will please GTI fans.

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This year, it was a 500+ hp GTI roadster, a real-life concept plucked right out of the virtual world of the Sony Playstation “Gran Tourismo 6” game.

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Rest assured, fans of the GTI will return to the shores of the lake again next year. By the thousands.

Thomas Tetzlaff

Author: Thomas Tetzlaff is a born-and-bred Volkswagen fanatic. His first car was a ’76 Rabbit and in the 30 years since has had “one of all of ‘em”. Volkswagen makes his favourite cars, and his favourite vacation spot is Wolfsburg, Germany. He respects the air-cooled crowd, but lives in a water-cooled world. Thomas is the Media Relations Manager for Volkswagen Canada and is always happy to talk shop.