Here's Where VW's Tartan GTI Seats Originate From

The iconic 'Clark Plaid' seats found in modern and classic Golf GTIs alike can be traced back to a trained porcelain painter who'd been inspired by her travels through Britain

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Here's Where VW's Tartan GTI Seats Originate From - Car History

After running a Mk7.5 VW Golf GTI for the best part of two months, there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure of: I love the tartan seats. They’ve been a fixture on various hot Golfs starting with the Mk1 GTI, and have even made appearances on various cooking Polos. But where did the idea come from?

It can all be traced back to Gunhild Liljequist (below). A trained porcelain painter and the first woman to work for Volkswagen Design when she joined in 1964, Liljequist would later be tasked with designing various elements of the first Golf GTI’s interior.

Here's Where VW's Tartan GTI Seats Originate From - Car History

She came up with the simple but brilliantly effective idea of having a golf ball-style gearknob (a concept that was mocked, initially), and the tartan seat pattern which would become known as ‘Clark Plaid’.

Speaking around the time of the Golf GTI’s 40th anniversary last year, Liljequist said:

“I took a lot of inspiration from my travels around Great Britain and I was always taken by high-quality fabrics with checked patterns. The remit was as follows: we are making a sporty Golf, which nobody knows about yet.

So I approached the task from a sporting angle. Black was sporty, but I also wanted colour and quality. As such, you could say that there is an element of British sportiness in the GTI.”

Here's Where VW's Tartan GTI Seats Originate From - Car History

The original fabric was plucked from the archive and used to create a modern interpretation of Clark Plaid for the MkV GTI, and following this revival, the classic tartan look remained for the GTI versions of the MkVI and MkVII Golf. It’s expanded beyond the GTI too, with different interpretations available in the GTD and GTE.

The design isn’t something that’ll be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s undeniably iconic, and set to stick around for a while.