Introduced in 1955, the Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia was a very interesting German-Italian joint effort, with a significant American connection. Dr. Wilhelm Karmann, whose firm was busy building the cabriolet variant of the Beetle, submitted design proposals for a sporty coupe to VW, which were ignored. Meanwhile, Mario Boano and Luigi Segre of Italy’s Carrozzeria Ghia had proposed some styling enhancements to VW, which were also ignored. Undeterred, Karmann now approached Ghia directly. Using a new Beetle that Boano’s son had recently purchased, Ghia developed a new body that mounted directly to the Beetle’s basic platform chassis. The prototype was shipped to Karmann in late 1953, and this time, VW chief Heinz Nordhoff was quite impressed.
In contrast to the Beetle, the new coupe bodywork was slightly wider and featured a lower roofline with fashionably thin rear roof pillars, as well as an extended lower-body crease that blended into the slightly bulged rear fenders. These same features had previously appeared on the Chrysler-Ghia D’Elegance concept car of 1953, with styling directed by Virgil Exner. Released to the public in 1955, the Karmann-Ghia was an immediate hit, and demand far surpassed its creators’ expectations. When production finally ceased at Karmann’s Osnabrück plant in July 1974, a staggering 283,501 coupes and 80,897 convertibles had been produced.
The 1970 Karmann-Ghia offered here is a very appealing late-production convertible that was recently treated to a professional mechanical and cosmetic restoration. A red exterior finish, white interior, woodgrain dash and black convertible top complement its distinctive and sporting bodywork. The car includes U.S.-specification bumpers complete with override bars, as well as original-type ventilated steel wheels with bright hubcaps and whitewall tires. Mechanically, a fresh and correct VW crate motor offers increased performance with an upgraded dual-carburetor induction system.
As described by automotive journalists Richard M. Langworth and Graham Robson, “The combination of swoopy, rounded looks, impeccable construction, and the ordinary but sturdy and economical Beetle drivetrain proved irresistible”. And so it remains today, epitomized by this very desirable example.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2009 at the The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.
57bhp, 1,585 cc horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission in rear transaxle, independent front suspension with transverse torsion bars and upper and lower trailing arms, independent rear suspension with semi-trailing arms and torsion bars, and hydraulic front disc and rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 94.5".