Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
Complete article on Wikipedia

The Karmann Ghia was a sports car marketed by Volkswagen, designed by the Italian firm Ghia, and built by German coach builder Karmann. Over 445,000 Karmann Ghias were produced between 1955 and 1974. Collectors estimate that there are fewer than 20,000 Karmann Ghias still registered around the world. Of those, fewer than 2,500 are cabriolets (convertibles). With the declining number of unaltered Karmann Ghias still on the road, the value of these cars has and continues to increase.

History of the VW Karmann Ghia

In the early 1950s, Volkswagen was producing small, fuel efficient, reliable automobiles (like the Volkswagen Beetle). As the world recovered from World War II, consumers began to demand more stylish and elegant vehicles. Executives at Volkswagen decided to produce an "image" car for post-war buyers.

Volkswagen contracted with German coach builder Karmann to build this car. Karmann in turn contracted the Italian firm Ghia for a sports car design. Ghia took an existing, but unused design (originally intended for Chrysler or Studebaker) and modified it to fit a slightly modified Beetle floorpan which had been widened some 12 inches.

The body and nose of the Karmann Ghia were handcrafted and significantly more expensive to produce than the assembly line produced Beetle, which was reflected in the Karmann Ghia's higher price. Instead of being bolted together, like the Beetle, body panels were butt-welded and smoothed prior to English Pewter being applied and hand shaped and smoothed. No auto manufactured today uses such a time-consuming and expensive approach to building automobiles. Indeed, even at the time the Ghia was built, only the manufacturers of the finest cars took such care when building a car.

The design and prototype were well received by Volkswagen executives, and in August 1955 the first Karmann Ghia was built in Osnabrück, Germany. Public reaction to the curvy Karmann Ghia was excellent, and over 10,000 were sold in the first year, exceeding Volkswagen's expectations.

Since the first Karmann Ghias used the same Volkswagen air cooled engine as the Beetle, the car was not suitable as a true sports car, but he car's styling and "Beetle reliable" parts compensated for this shortfall. The Karmann Ghia also shared engine development with the Beetle as the Type 1 engine grew larger over time, finally arriving at an engine displacement of 1584 cc.

In August 1957 a convertible (cabriolet) version was introduced. Although this version is often called the "1958 model" by some, the Detroit automakers' trend of calling models manufactured in August of a year as the next year's model wasn't adopted by Germany until at least 1965. In August 1964, the Vehicle Identification Number on VWs started showing the last digit of the year as the 3rd digit of the VIN. All through production, multiple changes were also made to VWs without regard to the "model year" concept. Especially for these earliest Ghias, "September 1957" would be much more useful as a description of production model than the elusive "model year" that was only used for marketing by VW of America.

The car was slightly redesigned for the 1960 model year. The most notable exterior changes were the car's front "nostril" grilles (replaced with a wider design), the headlights (which were moved up the fender), and the rear taillight lenses (which became taller and more rounded, sometimes referred to as "cats-eye" lenses). Cars made from 1955 to 1959 are referred to as "lowlights," due to the lower placement of the headlights, and are much sought-after by Karmann Ghia purists and collectors.

In 1970 larger tail lights were with integrated reverse lights, as well as squarish wrap-around turn signals, versus the "bullet" style used earlier. The taillights were revised again in 1972, becoming taller and wider, with better visibility from the side. Large safety bumpers were added for 1973. Additionally, 1973 saw the removal of the unusable back seat as a means of skirting new seat belt regulations. Where the seat was once located, there was now a simple shelf with no back rest.

In late 1974, the car was discontinued mainly due to increasing safety regulations and sluggish sales, in favour of its water-cooled front-drive replacement; the Rabbit/Golf based Volkswagen Scirocco.

Type 34 VW Karmann Ghia

In 1961, Volkswagen introduced the Type 34 Karmann Ghia, based on its new Type 3 platform. It was the launch vehicle for Volkswagen's new 1500 cc engine. It was the fastest, most luxurious, and most expensive Volkswagen at the time. Due to model confusion with the release of the Type I 1500 in 1967, the public dubbed the Type 34 the "Razor's Edge Ghia" in England, "Der Große Karmann" (the big Karmann) in Germany and "European Ghia" in the United States.[1]

One interesting option introduced in 1963 was an electrically operated sliding steel sunroof — a feature copied from its Porsche cousin, which introduced it in 1961. The styling was more squared-off, versus the curved appearance of the original Karmann Ghia, offering more interior and cargo room. This venture into a more upmarket realm with a low volume production car was not a success, and production ceased in 1969 after 42,505 units were built. Today, the Type 34 is considered a semi-rare collectible.

The Wilhelm Karmann factory assembly line which assembled the Type 34 also produced the Porsche 914 — the Type 34's replacement.

VW Karmann Ghia TC

The Karmann Ghia TC was developed to replace the Type 1 based Karmann Ghia in Brazil. It was built from 1970 to 1976 and given the Type 145 designation. It was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro at the Italdesign studios in Turin, Italy. The TC (Touring Coupe) was based on the Brazilian Type 3, as such, it has the Type 3's drivetrain and running gear.

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