Polo Register Volkswagen Polo History 1975 - 81

Series 1 Polo and Derby

The Polo was initially introduced to the UK market in February 1976 (Autumn 1975 on the continent) in two trim levels. The N was the 'no frills' base model and featured rubber matting, a single speed fan and wipers and a lack of external brightwork. The more luxurious L range-topper boasted full carpeting, dual speed fan and wipers, grab handles, reversing lights, anti-dazzle rear view mirror and chrome bumpers, rather than the painted steel versions of the N. The car also had external chrome brightwork on the waistline, door handles and window rubbers. Both cars had 135SR 13 tyres on 4.5J x 13" rims, front disc brakes, folding rear seat, luggage compartment cover and electric screen washers. Prices started at 1,798 for the N, rising to the L costing 2,110.
Polo N was the basic Polo model and had painted bumpers and no external brightwork.
Polo L was the introductory range-topper and had chromed bumpers and brightwork and upgraded spec.
Debuting at the 1976 Motor Show, the range-topping LS model was introduced, costing 2,699. Borrowing the larger Golf's 1093cc 60 bhp engine, the car was also better specified. Larger 145SR 13 tyres were fitted in addition to rubber bumper buffing strips, parking lights, front intermittent windscreen wipers, a rear wash/wipe system and swiveling driver's sun visor.


August 1977 saw equipment levels realigned for the 1978 model year. The N model now boasted an intermittent setting for the front wipers, while both this car and the L now gained the much-needed rear wash/wipe system of the LS. This realignment wasn't the only major change introduced for 1978 however.


The Derby was launched in February 1978 and was a traditional saloon based on the Polo. Both cars were the same up until the C-pillar on the Polo. This is where the Derby's larger-capacity boot became the big differential between the two cars. An increase of fourteen inches over the Polo saw the Derby's luggage capacity rise to 18.2 cu ft from the paltry 6.2 of the Polo. Initially, the car was launched in one trim level, the LS. Priced at 2,850 the specification mirrored that of the Polo LS and featuring that car's 1093cc engine.
The 1978 Derby was a classically-styled saloon based on the Polo.


In 1979 another range-topping trim level was introduced - the GLS. Superseding the LS in the Polo range and supplementing the LS in the Derby range, extra equipment included chrome headlight and grille surrounds, polished hubcaps, a quartz clock a trip mileage recorder and cigarette lighter. The factory-fitted steel sunroof was still an option on the Polo range, whilst the Derby GLS had this fitted as standard equipment. The Polo GLS still had the LSs 1093cc engine fitted, whilst the Derby had the honour of being fitted with a 1272cc 60 bhp engine, making it's debut in VW's smallest car range. The Derby cost only 250 more than the Derby GLS, making it good value at the time.

Both the Polo and the Derby shared engines, dashboard and interior fabrics.
Only the specified trim levels marked the differences between them.


In line with the rest of the Volkswagen range, both model ranges were facelifted for the 1980 model year. New, wraparound plastic ABS impact-resistant bumpers were now standard issue, along with a larger and bolder front grille. In order to distinguish the two models, the Derby now received square headlamps, while both cars gained new dashboards with instruments grouped together under a Golf-like housing.
The Polo range remained unchanged for 1980, while the Derby range grew to four variants with the S and CLS being introduced. The S model was the Polo N equivalent but was powered by the 1093cc engine. The S model was the Polo N equivalent but was powered by the 1093cc engine. The CLS was a special-edition model and was only available in three metallic colours. Special coachline and C-pillar graphics were fitted to this model, while the bumpers had colour-matched inlays and the grille a 'Derby' badge fitted on the nearside. Special equipment included a rev-counter, door pockets, trip mileage recorder and special gear knob. The CLS also had the 1093cc engine as found in the S and LS.


Volkswagen knew that both model ranges needed replacing and 1981 was to be the final year of Series 1 Polo/Derby production. A limited-edition 'run-out' model was introduced in September of that year. Called the 'LX', the car was only available in two metallic colours and featured a laminated windscreen, halogen headlamps and wider 155/70 tyres. The exterior of the car featured special waistline graphics and trim. Available on a limited number of LXs was a high compression 1093cc engine, 3+E gearing, fuel consumption indicator and change-up light. This was the first use of VW's new 'Formel E' system economy system, which was to spawn a whole range of models in the early 1980s. The Derby GLS gained a rev-counter and digital clock for the final year of production. Series 1 Polo production ended in October 1981, making way for the much-redesigned Series 2. By the end of its six-year production run, VW had sold over 86,000 examples in the UK.
Polo LX was a limited edition model, launched in autumn 1981.

All text copyright Richard Gooding/VW Polo Register 2002.