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Models and Technology

An Icon: Fans Celebrate the GTI

16,000 visitors come to the second GTI Homecoming in Wolfsburg.

Two passionate GTI fans: Ralf Brandstätter, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Volkswagen brand and Head of Procurement (left), and Head of Marketing Jochen Sengpiehl with an airbrushed GTI logo on their forearms.

The sky is blue, and the late summer sun is shining. The space around the Volkswagen Arena is filling up with thousands of GTI fans. By evening, there would be more than 16,000 who have made the trip to Wolfsburg with more than 4,000 Golf GTIs1. At the beginning of September, Volkswagen invited fans of the brand icon to the company's headquarters for the second time – lessening the wait until the next GTI meeting at Wörthersee.

Soon enough, the parking lots near the arena are populated with private GTI models from the last 42 years. True to the motto, "The early bird catches the worm," Philipp Kustos’ fourth-generation Golf GTI took pride of place in the first row. The Wolfsburg-born local is an apprentice material tester at the plant. His GTI: the anniversary model that was released for the GTI’s 25th birthday in 2001. Only 3,000 models were built. The 22-year-old was able to snag his in 2015. That’s why, to this day, he has only replaced the exhaust system and installed the tail lights from the US version. With Recaro racing seats and 179 original horsepower, the "Anniversary GTI" never gets boring. Kustos uses it as his everyday vehicle, at least in the summer.

Many GTI fans also stop to look at Rodrigo Vivanco’s "Pirelli GTI." "The car found me," says the 41-year-old employee, who works in quality assurance and product safety at the Wolfsburg plant, with a grin. He is only the third owner of this special model from 1983. For many years, it sat in a garage in Braunschweig. Four colleagues helped him source original parts, so that the 112-bhp classic sparkles like new – including what remains of the original protective wax in the engine compartment. Thanks to a stroke of luck, the Mexican, who now lives in Gifhorn, made it to the festival site and found a parking spot for his classic Sunday drive directly in the shadow of the Volkswagen Arena.

Led by the legendary 1987 Golf II Pikes Peak Twin Engine, which delivers 652 bhp to its wheels with two engines, a procession of around 250 exclusive GTIs rumbles through the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg. The procession passes through the eastern gate, travels along the Mittelstrasse and Südstrasse past the brand tower and the old power plant, and then makes its way back to the festival site at the Volkswagen Arena. A suitably grand finale for the 2018 GTI Homecoming. Rodrigo Vivanco, who also attended last year’s GTI meeting in the hometown of the Golf, was impressed: "This year, there were many more GTI models, including more classic cars," said the employee from Mexico. "Simply a wonderful day."

A very special day: employee Rodrigo Vivanco with his 35-year-old GTI in front of the Volkswagen Arena.

Front row seats: Philipp Kustos and his 2001 "Anniversary GTI."

The highpoint of the day: 250 GTIs parade down the Südstrasse at the Wolfsburg plant.