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Volkswagen Karmann Ghia: Buying guide and review (1955-1974)

Volkswagen Karmann Ghia: Buying guide and review (1955-1974) Classic and Performance Car
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
German automotive company Karmann had a long history of working on niche projects with mainstream automotive manufacturers, and during the 1950s became involved in the manufacturing of the convertible Beetle. They started looking into the viability of producing a stylish sports car on similarly proven mechanicals, and having discussed styling designs with Italian specialists Ghia, Dr Wilhelm Karmann approached VW. Company bosses quickly green-lit the project, and in 1955 the Luigi Segre-styled Type 14 Karmann Ghia was launched.

The public immediately took a liking to these beautiful machines. With basic Beetle underpinnings the initial versions were no ball of fire, but continual development and incremental refinement kept the Karmann Ghia popular with customers the world over throughout its production run. 

1961 saw the introduction of the Type 34 Karmann Ghia, which was a larger car styled by Sergio Sartorelli and based on the Type 3 VW chassis. This model was sold alongside the original Karmann as a more luxurious alternative. A high price and the decision not to sell it in the US limited the car’s numbers. They were only available as Coupes and due to their rarity are valued by collectors the most today.

Today this interesting classic has developed a loyal group of enthusiasts, who value the unique characteristics of these sporty little cars.
 
Which one to buy?
 
If you are looking for speed then this is not the car for you. The Beetle based underpinnings, even in 1600cc form, provide leisurely acceleration at best. What this car is about is stylish transport, providing its thrills at a more relaxed pace. The Karmann Ghia received numerous updates and improvements throughout its long 19-year production run, but some of the key changes include the 12-volt electrical system from 1967-on and independent rear suspension on all models built after 1969. 

There were a whole host of styling changes, which still divide Karmann Ghia fans to this day. From a practical standpoint, the Type 14 models built in either 1960 or 1967 model year had a lot of bespoke parts, so make sure that if you buy one of these models it is in complete condition.

The Type 34, introduced in 1961 was aimed further upmarket and offered more standard kit and more interior space at a higher cost. Based on the Type 3 chassis it offered more modern suspension and luxury extras such as an electric sunroof and plusher interior trim and seats. Higher pricing limited uptake, and it was less successful than the original versions, ending production in 1969.

There were approximately 444,000 Karmann Ghias produced, and thanks to the wide availability of parts and the popularity of the cars there are still a large number around today. As is expected of the classic VW scene, modified Ghias are very common, with many owners choosing to upgrade engines and suspension. Body panels are the one thing that can be expensive to get hold of, and it’s therefore key to watch out for are cars that are too far gone or damaged beyond economical repair. Interiors and engines can be repaired far more cost effectively than a rusted through body shell.

Becoming a member of the GB Karmann Ghia owners Club is an excellent way to get access to a whole host of information on the cars themselves as well as the best places to source parts and trim.
 
Performance and specs
 
1965 Karmann Ghia 1300
Engine 1285cc, 8valve OHV flat-four 
Power 39bhp @ 4000rpm 
Torque 68lb ft @ 2000rpm
Top speed 80mph 
0-62mph 27.0 seconds 
Fuel consumption 31.2mpg 
Gearbox Four-speed manual
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2400mm
Length 4140mm
Width 1634mm
Height 1330mm
Weight 830kg
 
Common problems
 
• Interiors can get into bad condition over the years, but if the car is in otherwise good shape then do not worry. car should not dissuade you from making a purchase. Trim is readily available and entire seat and dashboard re-trims are far less costly than extensive body or mechanical work. 

• Mechanically the Type 14 Ghias are almost 100 per cent Beetle underneath. This means reasonable prices parts and good availability. Front brake discs on models built from 1967 onwards are the only item that is not interchangeable with an equivalent era Beetle.

• Type 34 Karmann Ghia’s were based on the newer Type 3 chassis and are mechanically identical to other Type 3 chassis cars, which included the 1500cc and 1600cc Notchback and Fastback VWs of the same era. As in the older Karmann Ghia the newer Type 34 has unique interior trim and bodywork compared to other VW models.

• A Ghia’s bodywork is where you should focus your attentions when assessing the viability of a purchase. Rust or damage on a number of panels may make financially viable restoration impossible. 

• Check the rocker panels for corrosion; this is especially important on convertibles as strengthening beams run through this area providing structural integrity

• Other areas to inspect include the rear boot lid, spare tyre well and around the battery, where spilt acid can cause corrosion over time. 

• Rocker panels for Type 14 Ghias, once unavailable, are now available so rust here is not as terminal as it used to be.

• Check for signs of accident damage by looking at badly repaired panels or shoddy paintwork. Bumpers can be tough to source.
 
Model history
 
1955: Type 14 Karmann Ghia launched in Coupe body style only available in LHD
1957: Convertible model launched in LHD
1959: Both Coupe and Convertible models now available in RHD
1961: Type 34 Karmann Ghia with 1500cc engine is offered alongside existing Type 14. Type 34 only available in Coupe body style
1962: Electric sunroof option introduced on Type 34 in LHD models only
1964: RHD Type 34 models now also offered with sunroof option
1966: 1300cc engine available for one year of production for Type 14
1967: 1500cc engine standard across all Karmann Ghia’s
1969: Type 34 production ends with 42,498 cars made
1971: 1600cc Engine introduced
1974: Type 14 production ends with 444,300 vehicles made
 
Clubs and websites
 
• www.kgoc.org.uk - Karmann Ghia UK owners club and forum
• www.karmann-ghias.co.uk - Useful resource for Karmann Ghia owners and enthusiasts
• www.vwheritage.com - Official parts from Volkswagen for all models 
 
Summary and prices
 
Viable restoration projects can start from as low as £5000, and fully restored concourse condition cars regularly change hands for £28,000 and more. Good, useable cars are somewhere between these two figures, with a decent Type 14 convertible going for around £15,000. Convertibles are highly sought after and a constant rise in values over the past decade means that more and more cars are being restored. 

The Karmann Ghia is a timeless classic offering a classy means of conveyance with the added benefit of being based on affordable mechanicals. Once referred to as the poor man’s Porsche 356, such a moniker nowadays would be selling it short. The Karmann Ghia has matured into a desirable classic in its own right. 

Words: John Tallodi
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Last updated: 18th Nov 2015
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Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia
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  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1973

    POA POA

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volkswagen Karmann Ghia coupe 1973 body-off restored This Volkswagen Karmann Ghia coupe has been built in 1973 and is body-off restored. The car has beautiful red paint with chrome accents. The interior of the car is fully renewed and provide with original black skai. This combination is very beautiful. The car has an original 1600CC, 4Cyl, engine and is in very good technic condition. So a very gorgeous and reliable Volkswagen Karmann Ghia for lots of driving fun. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1973
    For sale
    POA POA
    E&R Classic Cars
    +31 416 751393 View contact number
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1965

    POA POA

    SOLD/VERKAUFT/VENDU/VERKOCHT Volkswagen Karmann Ghia coupe 1965 originally German delivered. The Karmann Ghia is a 2 door sportscar, built by Volkswagen between 1955 et 1974, mostly sold outside of Europe. This Karmann Ghia was originally delivered in Germany in the original colours. The car is in a very beautiful and well maintained condition. The car has the 1.2 ltr 34 HP engine with a 4 speed manual gearbox. Drives great. This Karmann has the extra chrome handles on the bumpers and the original chrome wheel covers. The value for Karmann Ghias are increasing lately and especially for the older models with the little bumpers and taillights like this one. So a very beautiful, great driving Karmann Ghia and a good investment. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1965
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1972

    POA POA

    SOLD/VERKAUFT/VENDU/VERKOCHT Volkswagen Karmann Ghia cabriolet 1972 in very good condition The VW Karmann Ghia is a 2 seat sports car, built between 1955 and 1974 as a coupe and convertible. This is an original 1972 Karmann Ghia cabriolet. Both the in- and outside are in a very beautiful and very good condition. The paint has colour Adriatic Blue, with a black interior and a black Sonnenland cabriotop. In the back there is the aircooled 1584 CC 4 cyl Boxer engine and the manual gearbox. Technics are fully checked in our workshop and in excellent condition. When you are looking for a very beautiful Karmann Ghia cabriolet ready to drive, then this one is a good choice. Car has USA title and document importduties for every EU country are paid by us. Documentation is complete for registration in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importduties. We can help with transport. Trading in, buying and consignment possible.

    • Year: 1972
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1958

    POA POA

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Lowlight 1958 in very good condition The Lowlight is a very rare and early variant of de VW Karmann Ghia, built between 1955 and 1959 and recognizable at the little extra taillights and the little air inlets at the front. This is a marvelous 1958 Karmann Ghia Lowlight, in very good condition. Blue metallic paint is very beautiful and the interior of the car is fully renewed by beige/blue seats. The original 1198 Type I, 30 HP engine is in an excellent condition. A Karmann Ghia in such a marvelous condition is hard to find. So a car for a lot of driving fun and a good investment also. Car has USA title and document import duties for every EU country are paid by us. Documentation is complete for registration in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importduties. We can help with transport. Trading in, buying and consignment possible.

    • Year: 1958
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Coupe 1971

    POA POA

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volkswagen Karmann Ghia coupe 1971 in very good condition The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia was built between 1955 and 1974. The Italien company Ghia designed the car and the German bodyworks company Karmann built it. This is a 1971 VW in colour Irish Green with beige interior. The wooden dashboard, classic steering wheel and the black minilite rims are beautiful details on this car. The car is in excellent condition and ready for lots of driving fun, also because of the wonderful sound of the aircooled boxer engine. Car has USA title and document importduties for every EU country are paid by us. Documentation is complete for registration in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importduties. We can help with transport. Trading in, buying and consignment possible.

    • Year: 1971
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1971

    POA POA

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volkswagen Karmann Ghia cabriolet 1971, fully restored This is an original 1971 VW Karmann Ghia convertible. The car is fully restored. Both the in- and outside are in great condition. The combination of the black paint, the red interior with white piping and the ‘white wall’ tyres is magnificent. The original 1598 CC, 4 cyl 48 HP boxer engine is in the back. The car has a 4 speed manual gearbox. The interest for the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia is increasing lately, so this car is not only great to drive, but a good investment also. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1971
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Saxomat '70

    €29,950(£26,769.31) €29,950(£26,769.31)

    In the early 1950s, Volkswagen was producing its economy car, the Type 1 (Beetle). With an increase in post-war standards of living, executives at Volkswagen proposed adding a halo car to its model range, contracting with German coachbuilder Karmann for its manufacture. Karmann in turn contracted the Italian firm Ghia. In contrast to the Beetle's machine welded-body with bolt-on fenders, the Karmann Ghia's body panels were butt-welded, hand-shaped and smoothed with English pewter in a time-consuming process commensurate with higher-end manufacturers – and resulting in the Karmann Ghia's higher price. The design and prototype were well received by Volkswagen executives, and in August 1955 the first Type 14 was manufactured in Osnabrück, Germany. Public reaction to the Type 14 exceeded expectations, with over 10,000 sold in the first year. In September 1961, Volkswagen introduced the VW 1500 Karmann Ghia , or Type 34 , based on its new Type 3 platform, featuring Volkswagen's new flat 1500cc engine design, and styling by Italian engineer Sergio Sartorelli. Due to model confusion with the Type 14 1500 introduced in 1967, the Type 34 was known variously as the " Der Große Karmann " ("th

    • Year: 1970
    • Mileage: 75857 mi
    For sale
    €29,950(£26,769.31) €29,950(£26,769.31)
  • Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia

    £11,550 £11,550

    No Rust ! Engine 1776 cc Double Weber Camshaft 110 ° Sports seats Sports outlet Alloy wheels Reinforced suspension in front Air suspension New tires Fully repainted (USA) Some dull places Very good condition Suitable for daily use Free delivery up to 350 km from Antwerp

    • Year: 1974
    • Mileage: 150000 mi
    For sale
    £11,550 £11,550
    Kristiaan Keirsebelik
    Kristiaan Keirsebelik
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Cabriolet 1969

    €37,950(£33,919.71) €37,950(£33,919.71)

    Volkswagen Karmann Ghia cabriolet 1969 in very good condition This is a fabulous 1969 Volkswagen. The car has marvellous white paint. The Karmann Ghia has the classic dashboard with 3 clocks. The car has a blue leather interior, a great combination with the exterior. The Karmann Ghia convertible is in very good condition and is ready for a lot of driving fun. Car has Holland title and mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any import taxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1969
    For sale
    €37,950(£33,919.71) €37,950(£33,919.71)
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1970

    €14,950(£13,362.31) €14,950(£13,362.31)

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volkswagen Karmann Ghia cabriolet 1970 in very good condition This beautiful VW Karmann Ghia convertible was delivered in 1970. The VW has beautiful green paint and lots of chrome details such as chrome wheels and chrome bumpers. The interior is in beige leatherette with a beautiful wooden dashboard, a very elegant combination. The car has the original 1493 CC boxermotor and together with the manual gearbox, this Karmann Ghia is very easy to handle. This VW is ready for lots of driving fun. Car has USA title and document importduties for every EU country are paid by us. Documentation is complete for registration in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importduties. We can help with transport. Trading in, buying and consignment possible.

    • Year: 1970
    For sale
    €14,950(£13,362.31) €14,950(£13,362.31)
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia '69

    €27,500(£24,579.50) €27,500(£24,579.50)

    Lowered price from €29.950 -> €27.500 In the early 1950s, Volkswagen was producing its economy car, the Type 1 (Beetle). With an increase in post-war standards of living, executives at Volkswagen proposed to contract with German coachbuilder Karmann for the manufacture of a coupé. Karmann in turn contracted the Italian firm Ghia, who adapted for it a Beetle floorpan widened by 12 in (300 mm). The design and prototype were well received by Volkswagen executives, and in August 1955 the first Type 14 was manufactured in Osnabrück, Germany. Public reaction to the Type 14 exceeded expectations, with over 10,000 sold in the first year. In September 1961, Volkswagen introduced the VW Karmann Ghia 1500, or Type 34 , based on its new Type 3 platform, featuring Volkswagen's new flat 1500cc engine design. Due to model confusion with the Type 14 1500 introduced in 1967, the Type 34 was known variously as the " Der Große Karmann " ("the big Karmann") in Germany, "Razor Edge Ghia" in the United Kingdom, or "European Ghia" (or "Type 3 Ghia" among enthusiasts) in the United States. Until it was replaced by the VW-Porsche 914, it was the most expensive and luxurious passenger car VW manufactured in

    • Year: 1969
    • Mileage: 68770 mi
    For sale
    €27,500(£24,579.50) €27,500(£24,579.50)
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1966

    €49,950(£44,645.31) €49,950(£44,645.31)

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT Volkswagen Karmann Ghia cabriolet 1966 fully restored This is a marvellous 1966 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia cabriolet. Recently fully restored. The VW has a really fabulous new black paint with several chrome details. The interior has a beautiful dashboard in car colour with chrome clocks and beige leather, a beautiful combination with the exterior. This Karmann Ghia has the 1493 CC engine and manual gearbox. The car drives great. The Volkswagen is easy to handle and a pleasure to drive. Car has German title and mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any import taxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1966
    For sale
    €49,950(£44,645.31) €49,950(£44,645.31)
  • Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1969

    €37,950(£33,919.71) €37,950(£33,919.71)

    SOLD / VERKAUFT / VENDU / VERKOCHT VW Karmann Ghia coupe 1969 fully restored This 1969 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia coupe is fully restored (photoreport is present) and has paint and wheels in a beautiful burgundy red colour. The interior has black leatherette and a beautiful wooden dashboard. This Karmann Ghia has the original 1296 CC, 4 cyl boxer engine with semi-automatic gearbox. This Volkswagen Karmann Ghia coupe is in a fabulous, very well restored condition. Car has Holland title and Holland mot/tuv. Easy to register in every EU country. You do not need to pay any importtaxes. We can help with transport.

    • Year: 1969
    For sale
    €37,950(£33,919.71) €37,950(£33,919.71)