HATCHING HISTORY

Steve Kenny, via email

I get a little frustrated reading comments such as “Renault 5 duelled with the VW Golf GTI to be the first official hot hatch”, when I have owned a number of vehicles prior to these that I believe qualified as hot hatches.

Although the term hatchback was probably not coined until the 70s, prior to this the term was fastback coupe, generally defined as a vehicle with a rear door swinging in an upward motion to provide rear access.

The first example I can trace is the 1938 Citroen Traction Avant, although this was a two piece arrangement until it was redesigned in 1954. The first single piece hatch, I believe, appeared on the 1953 Aston Martin DB2/4, in reality not much more than a window!

With hatchback defined and dated, I’m thinking early “hot hatch” as in Alfa GTV Type116 or Lancia HPE, both released in 1972, but research suggests that a true “official” hot hatch is a specific performance enhanced (engine, suspension, aero in any combination) version of a regular production hatchback. The two vehicles mentioned don’t meet those criteria.

Hopefully, to set the record straight, the first and “official” hot hatch must be the Renault 16TS released in 1968 as a performance enhanced version of the 16TL. Awkward, I know, but a handy performer for its day and undeniably a hatch, albeit with four doors. For those who would debate the 16TS’ credentials, then the next in line chronologically is also a Renault and a true “hotty”, the R17 Gordini released in Australia in 1974 as a performance version of the 17TL with a top speed of 185km/h from its 1605cc 16TX EFI motor. Renault seems to keep on doing it.