Interesting variants from yonder year - Humpy
Considering the other post here from me today, I was thinking about interesting, different cars to change to. Now I remember the VW Golf Umwelt from years ago. I'm not seriuosly considering buying one, even if I could find one but has anyone else in the forum driven one or owned one. Do they crop up in the classifieds? How many did they sell? Possibly questions for sean.

As far as I can remember, for people who never heard about them, they were diesel, obviously, had a clutchless manual gearbox and a massive flywheel. Whenever you stopped at the lights or took you foot off the accelerator, the engine cut out. The massive flywheel kept plenty of energy instore so that as soon as you reapplied the gas, when the lights change to green or to accelerate, the engine fired up without a murmur.

I remember the Autocar roadtest, they were quite unnerving to drive by all accounts. Was the technology not good enough to develop and continue, I beleive the car was quite pricey but managed a really high mpg in town.

Can anyone else think of other strange variants of run of the mill cars?

Possibly the V6 Metro was a bit before it's time but completely out of character to the rest of the range.
Interesting variants from yonder year - Rob the Bus {P}

I could be wrong but I always thought that the VW Umwelt engine was a diesel?

I only say that as I am now running a 1989 Golf GTD and have been reliably informed by them's that knows that it has the Umwelt engine.

Sean, over to you...


"Lord of Lard"
Interesting variants from yonder year - Rob the Bus {P}
>>I could be wrong but I always thought that the VW Umwelt engine was a diesel?

Ah...yes...hmmm. I believe that was your original point, wasn't it Humpy? Sorry about that. I shall use ridiculously early shifts as an excuse until I come up with a better one...

I have to say that I have never heard of the strange beast of which you talk. Definitely one for our mysterious friend from Yorkshire I feel.



"Lord of Lard"
Interesting variants from yonder year - Humpy
They were diesel, I said that in the 2nd paragraph. They were called umwelt, not wishing to insult anyone because I'm sure you already know, because that's the german for environment. The groundbreaking technology was the idea that the engine need not run if it didn't have to. The flywheel stored lots of kinetic energy that was then used to get the engine fired up again when it was needed.

I'm not explaining myself very well, but, effectively, every time you lifted off the gas the engine cut out, and every time you reapplied the engine fired up, whether you were standing at the lights or cruising down the road.

I've never really thought about it, but there must have been two clutches. When you were stopped at the lights the engine- gearbox clutch must be disengaged (there was no clutch pedal, it was ll automatic, although there was a manual gear stick), plus, with the engine cut out there must have been a clutch between the propshaft and the flywheel so that the flywheel could continue to spin while the engine was dead. Then as you applied the gas the clutch between the flywheel and the engine engaged to start the engine followed shortly after by the automatic, engine-gearbox clutch which enabled the power to be transferred to the wheels. Quite a good idea really.

Interesting variants from yonder year - Rob the Bus {P}
You must have posted the above before I posted my apology, Humpy! Never mind, eh?

You're right, it does seem like a very good idea. Although like you say it would be extremely unsettling. I'd be forever reaching for the key whenever the engine cut out, thinking that it had stalled! I can imagine that with a petrol engine, you'd hardly notice it cutting out, but with a diesel the difference would be far more marked.

By the way, insult all you like - I had no idea that umwelt is Germsan for environment ;-)


Interesting variants from yonder year - Humpy
yeah, sorry a bit quick on the draw, i was sure you'd have reread and realised. Apparently they said it was eery, imagine the old golf diesels, this was back in '94, they weren't the quietest, then as you reach cruising speed and lift off the gas the thing cuts out.......and then there was silence, nothing apart from the whistle of the wind....then reapply..............rattle, rattle rattle. They didn;t perform very well, I don't suppose with a flywheel as heavy as it must have been.
Interesting variants from yonder year - M.M

I think some faded memories here!

Wasn't the "Umwelt" just the name for a low power, low consumption, low emmissions VW diesel? 1.6 or 1.9 with/without turbo or intercooler but always with a cat??

And I think the VW that stopped in traffic was actually something different which restarted by the starter motor which operated with the clutch down and the throttle floored.

Whichever it was it never caught on!

Interesting variants from yonder year - DavidHM
Yeah, MM is right. Umwelt was just an engine option; I think it was the 1.9, 75 (?) bhp turbo diesel introduced around 1989. I think it was cleaner and/or more economical than other diesels of the time and may even have had a cat as standard.

A bit of googling reveals the car Humpy is thinking of to be the 1994 Golf Ecomatic. (It was about £12k when an equivalent Escort was about £10,000.) I think the big thing that killed it was the high price as well as the disconcerting feeling of having the engine cut out.
Interesting variants from yonder year - Morris Ox
The variant which stopped in traffic was the Formel E.

I used to have a 1985 Polo C Formel E which had either a 1.3 or 1.4 petrol engine. The system was activated by a switch on the dashboard (which had a warning light on it to remind you the system was live). When you stopped at traffic lights and put the gear lever into neutral the engine would switch off after a few seconds. De-clutch, move the lever back into gear and it would start again.

Not really sure it saved a huge amount, and only worked when you knew your traffic light systems so you'd got some idea of the likely delay.

System had a more heavy duty starter motor and, as I remember, longer gearing in the top two ratios. Result was that third would take you all the way up to 60-65 if you wanted, which gave surprisingly good acceleration.
Interesting variants from yonder year - T Lucas
Fiat Stradas had a similar engine cut out thingy,i think it was soon dropped in the UK.
Interesting variants from yonder year - Humpy
Thanks chaps, that's right, the Ecomatic. I wouldn't mind trying one for novelty's sake. Didn't they come with the Umwelt engine..(trying to save face...)
Interesting variants from yonder year - Aprilia
I drove an Ecomatic (Formel E was just another version or VW models that had a high top gear; sort of 4+E gearbox as they called it).

The Ecomatic engine shut off when you were stopped for more than a minute or so. There was no massive flywheel to store energy, it just restarted using a heavy-duty starter motor.

It shut off on its own and restarted when you had the clutch down and pressed slightly on the accelerator (didn't have to be in neutral).

I drove one for evaluation purposes for another manufacturer - it worked fairly well really. It had a heavy duty electrical system (alternator, battery, starter) to cope with the frequent restarts.
Interesting variants from yonder year - MS
My Dad had a Wartburg (3 cylinder 2 stroke) that had an automatic free-wheel. When you took your foot off the accelerator the clutch disengaged, reducing engine speed to idle and saving fuel.
Interesting variants from yonder year - tunacat
Wasn't it the case with 2-strokes that they had to have overrun freewheel because if you took your foot off the throttle going downhill for example there'd be insufficient oil going into the engine (in the petroil mix) in relation to the revs it'd be doing?
Saabs had that feature too.
But an uncle had an 'auntie' Rover - a 90 or 100 - which had a freewheel system on it too (despite being 6 cyl 4-stroke). Presume that was just to save fuel (?)

It would have taken a heck of a flywheel to keep a diesel engine turning while waiting at lights, what with that compression ratio!

Interesting variants from yonder year - Maz
I drove an Ecomatic (Formel E was just another version or
VW models that had a high top gear; sort of 4+E
gearbox as they called it).

Yes Formel E was just an economy model for the Polo. Mine had 3+Economy gearbox. It also boasted an immediate MPG indicator when you hit fourth (E) gear.

No idea what Formel means in German.
Interesting variants from yonder year - mare
Top Gear magazine tested one against a Honda Civic VEi. Both cars were M reg, so about 1994. Purpose of the test was to compare the differing approaches to getting maximum economy i.e. Diesel that cut out and a very efficent petrol engine. Not a lot between them if i remember rightly.

On a related note (variants), i found a VW Polo Harlequin on eBay, the one with the different coloured panels. IIRC, the seller was after quite a high price for this "individual" car. Definitely one for exhibitionists!
Interesting variants from yonder year - M.M
Err I think the Fiats just had a *habit* of cutting out...not actually by design. Usually an annoying intermittant failure of the electronic distributor pickup unit.

Interesting variants from yonder year - paul45

Of course you are correct, however.... one of the Fiat range back in the mid 80's (Can't remember what model type - Regatta perhaps??) had a "city mode" feature. Princple being the same, if the car didn't move after about 10secs the engine cut out. It restarted (most of the time) simply by depressing the clutch.

Have to admit it was always a gamble as to whether it would work or not... Still made for a little sport in the morning. I guess the extra strain on the battery by powering up lights, heater etc, means we don't see too many of them about. Coupled with fact that it was a Fiat so keeping them running was an art in itself.


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