The original Volkswagen GTI made its debut in 1976, quickly becoming a shining beacon of hope for driving enthusiasts in the dark decade of the '70s. Thus, 2021 marks the 45th year for VW's seminal hot hatch, and it appears that VW is gearing up to commemorate the milestone with a special Edition 45 version of the Golf GTI.

Volkswagen isn't quite ready to make that announcement, however, and these official-looking photos leaked out onto the internet, on the U.K.'s AutoExpress website among others.

The Edition 45 is based on the 8th-generation Golf GTI that has already gone on sale in Europe but doesn't reach our shores until later this year as a 2022 model.

Among the special design elements of the Edition 45 are lower-body skirts, a front splitter, and a rear spoiler at the top of the hatchback. The wheels boast a unique design with the GTI-signature red pinstripe around the rim. Discrete "45" graphics appear at the bottom of the rear doors, and a rear diffuser houses a pair of stout exhaust outlets.

It's not known whether the Edition 45 is based on the Europe-exclusive GTI Clubsport variant with 295 horsepower or the whether it uses the standard GTI powertrain, with a 242-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-four and either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

That question is a moot one for U.S. buyers, though. After all, since the new GTI will be a 2022 model when it finally reaches our showrooms, at that point wouldn't the 45th anniversary have passed? There's also the fact that the original GTI wasn't sold here until 1983, so again it's not really the 45th anniversary of the model for us. Maybe the best we can hope for is a 40th anniversary special edition come 2023. As we consider the GTI's remarkable longevity, let's take a moment to remember the original Rabbit GTI's momentous television debut here in America, via the launch TV commercial below.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Information

Volkswagen Golf GTI

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