Among all the great things about the Volkswagen Golf GTI, some of our favorites are on the inside: the plaid seats and golf ball shifter. They're welcome bits of whimsy in what's otherwise a straight-laced German hatchback. And they're great pieces of tradition, having been around since the original was launched in Europe in the 1970s. As it turns out, both of these styling cues come to us from one woman, Gunhild Liljequist.
According to Volkswagen, Liljequist was hired on to work on colors and interiors in 1964. Before joining VW, she was a porcelain painter and chocolate box designer. A few years into her tenure, VW brought her the GTI project to give it a sporty interior to match the engine and chassis, and she went with black with plaid. She said: "Black was sporty, but I also wanted color and quality. I took a lot of inspiration from my travels around Great Britain and I was always taken by high-quality fabrics with checked patterns."
As for the golf ball shifter, that came about through a bit of word association. Liljequist said: "That was a completely spontaneous idea! I just expressed my sporting and golf associations out loud: ‘how about a golf ball as the gear knob?'"
Liljequist stayed at Volkswagen until 1991 when she retired. The plaid seats and golf ball shifter live on in the Golf GTI and many other GTI models. And hopefully they continue to be featured long into the future.