Designed by Italians (Ghia) and built by German coach-builders (Karmann), the imaginatively named Karmann Ghia is a delightful combination of beautiful lines and tough engineering. The mechanics are very much on the utility side with hardy air-cooled four cylinder flat (boxer) engines from the Beetle. They start at a mere 1,200cc and end at a slightly more respectable 1,600cc. The cars are around 800kgs so there is plenty of fun to be had in a low speed sort of way.
Ambitiously marketed as a 2+2, it is only really a two-seater with good luggage space (a bit like the Volvo P1800 – another Club favourite). It first appeared at the Paris Motor show in 1953 and launched to the public in 1955. Considering this was sixty years ago the car must have been a pretty outrageous design proposition, almost Fritz Lang like in it’s styling, especially in futuristic silver.
We’ve had loads of Karmann Ghias in the club over the years, both coupes and convertibles, early to late models. Our current car is an early (1963) model in white over red and is probably our favourite. It has the smallest of the engine variations but is surprisingly spritely and great fun to drive. The diminutive engine makes a distinct zingy metallic noise that will be instantly familiar to air-cooled lovers around the world. The seating position is low like a sports car, the steering is light but precise and the engine is lovely and free revving. It really is a delight and proves you don’t need a ton of bhp to create an exciting car.
They are well put together and easy to live with thanks to their popularity and their shared bloodline with the Beetle. Mechanically they are simple and parts are readily available.
[label type=”small”]Image: Volkswagen[/label]
Launched in 1962 the Type 34 Karmann Ghia is a rare beast based on the Type 3 VW ‘Variant’ (effectively a long Beetle). It is a bigger and more refined car aimed at the middle class buyer. The razor edge styling wasn’t as pretty as the Type 14’s Joan Holloway rivalling curves but it was certainly just as striking, probably even more so now thanks to the unfamiliarity to the eye.
Even though they were not exported to America at the time, the majority of the remaining cars can now be found there. This is an eye-catching car and would be an amazing ownership proposition but not as easy to live with as the type 14; rarity of parts, particularly body panels might be challenging, especially as a restoration project.
Find out more about the club’s Karmann Ghia here