Volkswagen aims to set a new course record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb later this year with the I.D. R race car. VW has some experience there, though. In the 1980s, the German brand's factory team made some runs at the famous event, including with a bizarre twin-engined GTI in 1987. Just in time for the return there, VW has completed a restoration of the old rally machine and presented it at Techno Classica earlier in 2018.
This GTI featured longitudinally mounted turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engines at the front and rear. In total, they produced 644 horsepower (480 kilowatts) and allowed for an all-wheel-drive layout. A complicated setup had each engine route through its own transmission, but the driver managed them through a single gearshift in the cabin. The entire vehicle still weighed just 2,249 pounds (1,020 kilograms) thanks in part to a tubular chassis and plastic bodywork.
The twin-engine GTI performed well in practice but didn't set an official time during the race. A joint in the lubrication system broke near the top of the mountain, and driver Jochi Kleint was able to nurse the stricken car to the finish.
When the time came to restore the car over 30 years after competing at Pikes Peak, VW's team found plenty of challenges. Creating the original drivetrain required some custom pieces, and many of them had to be recreated before the hatchback was able to run again. The crew also detuned the engines for reliability so that they now made 494 hp (368 kW). “The Golf should be reliable and fast, but also durable. That’s why we won’t be pushing the engines to their limit, that would be a crime," Jörg Rauchmaul, leader of the restoration, said in VW's announcement of the work's completion.
Gallery: VW I.D. R Pikes Peak
In comparison, the new I.D. R Pikes Peak (gallery above) race car's 671 hp (500 kW) isn't significantly more powerful than the twin-engine GTI, and it's actually a little heavier at 2,425 pounds (1,100 kg). The electric vehicle's aggressive aerodynamics with a huge front splitter and gargantuan wing should provide far more downforce for sticking the car to the road, though.
Gallery: Volkswagen Golf GTI Twin-Engine Pike's Peak Car
The Pikes Peak legend with two hearts
Volkswagen restores the legendary twin-engined Golf from 1987
Jörg Rauchmaul (left) and his team present the newly restored twin-engined Golf driven at Pikes Peak in 1987.
Volkswagen last took on the world’s most difficult mountain race at Pikes Peak with a Golf II equipped with two engines in 1987. This “Race to the Clouds” demanded exceptional levels of courage, which both driver Jochi Kleint and Volkswagen and design engineer legend Kurt Bergmann were able to demonstrate with the impressive performance of the twin-engined Golf II. Now, after more than 30 years, Volkswagen is presenting this freshly technically restored piece of motorsport history from 1987 just in time for a renewed attack on Pikes Peak.
Despite its two engines, the stripped out Golf II weighed only 1,020 kg, with many other components having been sacrificed. Fresh air, for example, is supplied by a simple pipe.
With the sound of metal on metal, the door of the by now 31-year-old twin-engined Golf II is unlocked. The smell of the car’s interior is reminiscent of model glue, and of a childhood spent gluing model aeroplanes together. But a brief glance at the seat shell and the countless switches and displays is enough to show that this is a different world altogether. Not a model toy, but a tool, built for one specific purpose: being the fastest and first to cross the finish line at the summit of the legendary Pikes Peak.
Inevitably, images from 1987 flit past my mind’s eye, mixed with the unmistakable roar of the two four-cylinder engines being pushed to their limit and the typical hiss of the turbocharger. The day dream brings me out in goosebumps: sitting in the driver’s cab, where Jochi Kleint sat in 1987, and racing the Golf along a gravel track. The voice of head mechanic Jörg Rauchmaul brings me back to reality.
The ill-fated swivel joint: a crack leading from a hole for the lubrication nipple crippled the Golf shortly before the finish line.
The Pikes Peak Bergmann beast
Rauchmaul is responsible for coordinating the restoration of this unique Golf on behalf of Volkswagen, a task which led him to design engineer legend Kurt Bergmann. “Of all of the cars that Bergmann developed, the 1987 Pikes Peak Golf II was easily the most radical upgrade. It’s an absolute miracle that Bergmann and his team were able to develop and build such a beast in only six months,” added Rauchmaul, visibly impressed.
Pressure charging: each engine is equipped with a large KKK turbocharger, which pushes cooled charge air into the 4-cylinder, 16-valve engines at a pressure of 1.6 bar.
Thanks to the 1.6 bar of charge pressure provided by the KKK turbocharger fitted in both engines, the two 1.8 litre engines from the 16-valve Golf II GTI are capable of producing a maximum of 480 kW (652 PS) – and all of that at a fighting weight of just 1,020 kilogram. As both engines are also equipped with their own Hewland racing transmission, the Golf can be driven with four-wheel drive, or with solely front-wheel or rear-wheel drive. “This unique vehicle is historically irreplaceable, and getting it back onto its wheels has been real honour,” claimed Rauchmaul proudly. The enormous potential of the twin-engined Golf II was impressively demonstrated by Jochi Kleint at Pikes Peak when he achieved the fourth best training time having driven with only one of the engines.
A larger proportion of magnesium in comparison to the standard wheels reduces not only weight but also durability. The wheel becomes brittle sooner.
A fragile masterpiece
During the race, Kleint and his twin-engined Golf maintained a promising position, and seemed set to achieve the fastest time until just before the finish line. The shock for the Volkswagen team came only a few curves before the finish, when Jochi Klein was forced to stop the by then uncontrollable vehicle. The small hole drilled for the lubrication nipple on the swivel joint was to blame – a crack had formed there, and had led to the breakage of the joint.
Rauchmaul’s team is approaching the restoration of the twin-engined Golf with great respect, as well as the following premise: “We want to retain as much of the vehicle’s original condition as possible – after all, this unique race car is absolutely steeped in history. We’re just refurbishing the technology and making the car roadworthy again,” explained Jörg Rauchmaul.
Detailed work with a big impact: the changed intake manifold optimises the flow of fresh air compressed by the turbocharger.
The upgrade reveals a few peculiarities
Even before work on the restoration had begun, Jörg Rachmaul recognised that he would only be able to receive detailed information from the design engineer: “Even though the Pikes Peak Golf II has a similar build to the series production vehicles, we had to contact Kurt Bergmann directly in Vienna to ask for important information and data relating to the technology,” said Rauchmaul. The extremely high thermal loads involved in racing had badly affected the 30-year-old Golf. Rauchmaul pointed to the rear of the vehicle and explained that “that all had to come out. And since some of the rubber parts were made to measure, we struggled with extremely long delivery times.” The twin-hearted Golf had also set a few traps that were not immediately visible. For example, the safety-relevant foam cladding in the tank had disintegrated, and managed to land in the fuel supply system when attempts were made to start the vehicle. “That would have meant certain death for the specially adapted DIGIFANT fuel injection system,” noted the head mechanic, before going on to add that “for the most part, we’re familiar with the technology from the series production Golf, we just have to refamiliarise ourselves with a few things first. This not only demands our absolute concentration, but also a decent dose of passion and experience.”
Ingeniously simple, simply ingenious: if the radiators are approaching their performance limit, two nozzles spray water on the cooling vanes.
The tamed Golf in sheep’s clothing
The final works carried out on the two engines demanded real finesse. “They have to be tuned to each other in such a way, that they work synchronously to provide power, otherwise the vehicle will be unstable and impossible to control on asphalt,” explained Rauchmaul. He’s aiming for the engines to each be tuned to between 177 and 191 kW (240 to 260 PS) when work is complete, and seems confident that this can be achieved: “The Golf should be reliable and fast, but also durable. That’s why we won’t be pushing the engines to their limit, that would be a crime.” Nevertheless, the radiator sprinkler system designed for extreme situations and the two temperature-controlled fans in the relatively small radiators in the rear will have to function flawlessly.
Test circuit: once the engines have been roughly calibrated, the restoration team are unable to resist a short test drive.
This sophisticated engine cooling system is absolutely necessary, particularly in view of the planned races involving overall output of “only” approximately 368 kW (500 PS). And with temperatures of over 60 degrees Celsius being recorded during racing, it seemed that it wasn’t only in the driver’s cab that all hell had broken loose. The rear of the engine room was also suffering under critical temperatures thanks to the Golf’s dutiful bodywork, which had not been optimised due to reasons associated with aerodynamics. However, design engineer Bergmann was able to tackle the problem of the extreme temperatures with an ingeniously simple trick. As soon as a critical temperature was reached, the radiator sprinkler system would spray water from two little nozzles onto the small radiators. “Yet another example of the ingenious pragmatism of Kurt Bergmann,” laughed Jörg Rauchmal, visibly impressed.
A reunion of legends
Pikes Peak: driver Jochi Kleint and constructor Kurt Bergmann meet for the first time in 31 years
An emotional reunion after 31 years at the Techno Classica: the Pikes Peak Golf, constructor Kurt Bergmann (89, right) and rally driver Jochi Kleint (70, left).
This is the story of the unique rise of two men. The main characters in this thriller revolving around material and milliseconds, gravel and grit, power and precision? Jochi and Kurt. And, of course, the Golf. The two of them hit the heights together in 1987 – in the world’s most spectacular hill climb, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado, USA, which starts at 2,862 metres and has its finishing line at an altitude of 4,302 metres. This is the story of a Golf with two racing engines and its team as peak performers.
Twin turbo Golf: the Golf II Pikes Peak boasting more than 441 kW (600 PS) was constructed for hill climbs.
The lead characters meet again for the first time 31 years later in 2018 at the international Techno Classica fair – Klaus-Joachim ‘Jochi’ Kleint, the rally driver behind the wheel of the more than 441 kW (600 PS) strong twin-engine Pikes Peak Golf, the vehicle’s constructor Kurt Bergmann and the revitalised peak performer itself.
The Pikes Peak team reloaded: Jochi Kleint (left), Kurt Bergmann (right) with the twin turbo Golf.
Reunited after 31 years
‘You don’t look a day older!’, exclaims Kurt Bergmann at the reunion. He’s talking about Jochi, obviously, and not ‘his’ Golf. Kleint can’t help but laugh – and he’s clearly touched too: when there’s mutual affection and you have achieved and experienced something unique together, but 31 years nonetheless pass before you get back together for the first time, there’s no reason to hold back on the hugs and pats on the back. And this is what the two of them are celebrating right here and now. There’s a real sense of closeness here, in spite of the professional spotlights and the flashing of cameras which go with the territory.
An extraordinary construction for a one-off appearance: constructor Bergmann talks to driver Jochi Kleint about the precise balance struck between the front and rear engines of the Pikes Peak Golf.
And now they’re here at the Volkswagen Classic stand, the main characters in the adventure that was the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 1987. Jochi Kleint competed in the event in the power Golf created by constructor Kurt Bergmann. ‘Look at that – its weight is still perfectly distributed,’ says Bergmann, who hails from Austria, as he points alternately at the front and rear engines of the Pikes Peak Golf. ‘Oh yes,’ nods Kleint in acknowledgement, as if the twin-engine vehicle were nothing unusual. After all, the car and these two gentlemen do go back a long way.
Talking shop about the peak performer: Jochi Kleint (in the Pikes Peak Golf) and Kurt Bergmann.
Kurt Bergmann developed his first twin-engine Volkswagen in 1981 as a test vehicle – a Jetta I called the Twin Jet. This was followed by twin-engine prototypes in the form of the Scirocco II and two Golf II models. And the twin-engine Golf models were actually entered into international competitions by Volkswagen Motorsport. From 1985 to 1987, they were driven exclusively by Jochi Kleint. And the venue was Pikes Peak every time.
What driving pleasure is all about – the Pikes Peak Golf 31 years later.
Ready for the ‘Race to the Clouds’: peak performer with the power of two engines
‘The idea was simple: you get twice the power and four-wheel drive on top,’ says Bergmann, explaining the reasons behind development of the vehicle back then. And these absolutely make sense – 30 years ago, much of the private road up to Pikes Peak consisted of gravel, so what you needed was ‘traction, traction, traction’. Audi was competing with the Sport quattro S1, with Kleint’s friend Walter Röhrl behind the wheel. ‘With Walter, you had to really be on the ball,’ laughs Jochi Kleint knowingly. Kurt Bergmann just shrugs his shoulders and casually sums it up: ‘If you managed to cling on to Walter in his slipstream, things couldn’t be all that bad …’
Kurt Bergmann constructed the Pikes Peak Golf with two 16V engines in 1987. That same year, European rally champion Jochi Kleint entered the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with more than 441 kW (600 PS).
The two four-cylinder in-line engines adopted from the Golf GTI 16V back then deliver maximum power output of 240 kW (326 PS) each. They were modified, however, to each be powered by a turbo and supplied by Digifant injection technology. Because of the special racing transmission, Kurt Bergmann changed the engine mounting direction from transverse to longitudinal and ‘sunk’ both of the engines to achieve an optimally low centre of gravity and that perfect 50:50 weight distribution.
The twin-engine Pikes Peak Golf pulls in the crowds: visitors flock to the Volkswagen Classic stand at the Techno Classica historic car fair as Jochi Kleint and Kurt Bergmann rub shoulders with ‘their’ Golf.
‘This all made for a lot of weight in the Golf, of course,’ explains Jochi Kleint as they inspect the restored Pikes Peak Golf on show here at the Techno Classica fair. ‘Yes, that’s true. But this was successfully balanced out by the lightweight tubular frame and the front and rear masks made of plastic,’ counters the 89-year-old constructor Bergmann in front of the interested crowd which has gathered at the Volkswagen Classic stand.
After an impressive demonstration of the Pikes Peak Golf, ‘Master Bergmann’ signs autographs for the enthusiastic onlookers in Essen.
The fans literally turn their backs on Jochi Kleint so that he, too, can generously distribute autographs.
A trio with four wheels – and goosebumps
After a fair amount of talking shop and having circled the peak-performing Golf a number of times, Kurt Bergmann begins to gesticulate quite clearly: ‘Come on, Jochi, in you get!’ Kleint doesn’t hesitate – the former European rally champion nimbly slides into the narrow sport seat, which still fits him like a glove even at the age of 70. He flicks some switches, examines the displays on the sparse racing dashboard and turns the ignition key. ‘Brrrbabappabada braaaahhh!,’ the exposed front engine of the Pikes Peak Golf growls.
The seconds before the storm: rally ace Jochi Kleint presses the ignition button in the Pikes Peak Golf, just like he did in Colorado Springs in 1987.
Being at a fair, only one of the vehicle’s two hearts is fired up, but this is impressive enough in itself and the spectators respectfully give it some space. And those present can’t help but get goosebumps. The Golf roars, Jochi presses the accelerator and Kurt stands over the engine making minor adjustments here and there. They’re highly concentrated and highly professional, and everything works just like it did more than 30 years ago – all without a word being spoken.
The race in 1987 was a close-run thing: ‘Do you remember that crack in the grease nipple thread just 200 metres from the finishing line?’ Jochi Kleint looks serious – he evidently remembers it well.
The roaring of the engine dies down, Jochi Kleint gets out of the car with a big grin on his face and Kurt Bergmann simply nods in acknowledgement – and the crowd breaks into applause and cheers. And while the trio missed out on first place just 200 metres from the finishing line on Pikes Peak back in 1987 due to a technical problem, they have definitely won something today, and that’s the unreserved warmth given by the audience. ‘Revenge would have been sweet,’ Kleint shouts over the thunderous applause, ‘but perhaps Volkswagen will manage it this year!’ On 24 June 2018, Kleint’s ‘colleague’ Romain Dumas will compete in Colorado Springs with the wholly electric I.D. R Pikes Peak1 racing car. The aim is to test cutting-edge technology for series production. And to finally win the ‘Race to the Clouds’.
Friends for life who have soared to great heights together: Kurt Bergmann and Jochi Kleint.