• Home
  • antique-car
  • Driving report VW Karmann-Ghia: Most beautiful Volkswagen

Driving report VW Karmann-Ghia: Most beautiful Volkswagen

Uli Jooß
VW Karmann-Ghia in the driving report
Subscriptions & booklets

D he reputation of the VW Karmann-Ghia was only saved when it was almost too late. After production was discontinued in 1974, it only took a few years for the VW prodigy from Osnabrück, which had been reviled by auto experts for his entire life, to be considered an accepted classic. It went straight to the instant classic before the word even existed. And already in 1981, just seven years after the end of production, the later Motor Klassik editor-in-chief Dirk-Michael Conradt wrote in auto motor und sport about the Karmann-Ghia as an exclusive used car with a guaranteed increase in value.

After a long start-up time, it reaches a top speed of 118 km /h

He should be proved right. He estimated a value of 6,000 marks for a well-maintained and rust-free Karmann convertible from the last few years. Today, almost 25 years later, the price for a corresponding copy is moving towards the 15,000 euro mark. The Karmann-Ghia did not find the quick career to become a classic automobile easy. Which was possibly due to a major misunderstanding. The modern, sporty coupé body and probably also the Italian nickname seduced many contemporaries of the early Karmann years into the mistaken belief that it was a sports car.

Seen in this way, the Karmann Ghia from 1955 had to disappoint. Because unchanged Beetle technology worked under the round sheet metal. 1,192 cubic centimeters, divided into four flat lying cylinders, delivered just 30 hp, which of course could not tear up trees. Especially since the Karmann Coupé was around 100 kilograms heavier than a standard Beetle. So it's no wonder that it took the Karmann around half a minute to accelerate from standstill to 100 km /h and, after a long start-up time, to reach a top speed of 118 km /h.

After a long start-up period, it reaches a top speed of 118 km /h

He should be proved right. For a well-maintained and rust-free Karmann convertible from the last years of construction, he put a value of 6,000 marks. Today, almost 25 years later, the price for a corresponding copy is moving towards the 15,000 euro mark. The Karmann-Ghia did not find the quick career to become a classic automobile easy. Which was possibly due to a major misunderstanding. The modern, sporty coupé body and probably also the Italian nickname seduced many contemporariesthe early Karmann years led to the mistaken belief that it was a sports car.

Seen in this way, the Karmann Ghia from 1955 had to disappoint. Because unchanged Beetle technology worked under the round sheet metal. 1,192 cubic centimeters, divided into four flat lying cylinders, delivered just 30 hp, which of course could not tear up trees. Especially since the Karmann Coupé was around 100 kilograms heavier than a standard Beetle. So it's no wonder that it took the Karmann around half a minute to accelerate from standstill to 100 km /h and, after a long start-up time, to reach a top speed of 118 km /h.

The VW Karmann Ghia is not a housewife's Porsche

This means that in 1955 it was also one of the just enough motorized road users. At least it was enough to keep the multitudes of Goggo and Isetta in check, who at the same time as the Karmann Ghia were preparing to modernize the Federal Republic. That called mockers on the scene, who dismissed the Karmann as a housewife Porsche or simply as a blender. All they had to do was read Werner Oswald, who in the first test of the new VW Coupé in auto motor und sport 11/1956 precisely recorded its character and said: 'The happiest with the Karmann-Ghia will be those customers who know that they can neither demand extreme driving performance nor above-average driving characteristics, but rather that both remain within normal limits that fully satisfy most needs. '

It was the needs of the better-off wives who did not have to transport children in the back seats, but at most a poodle, as contemporary advertising photos suggest. Apparently there were quite a few of them, because the Karmann Ghia sold well enough to stay on sale for 19 years. After all, 468,872 copies were built during this time, and exactly 112,333 were registered in Germany. A considerable number, then, which, however, did not silence the number of Karmann scoffers and despisers. It may be easier today to succumb to the Karmann's charm. Now that you don't have to take it as seriously as Reinhard Seiffert did in the coupé comparison test in auto motor und sport 12/1966. Back then, the Karmann, which had meanwhile increased to 40 hp, had to compete with the Fiat 850 Coupé, Ford 12 MTS and Opel Kadett B Coupé.

The 1966 year was a record year for the VW Karmann Ghia

Because this is also proof that the Osnabrück Coupé was not taken for full by serious car enthusiasts: The guest performances in the test fleets of the car magazines were extremely rare for a model that had been built for such a long time. The 1966 comparative test was one of the few exceptions. Against the competition from Fiat, Ford and Opel, which was a decade younger, the Karmann Ghia was the least powerfuland the most expensive car does not have the slightest chance of victory. 'The Karmann Ghia still has the advantage of being a VW in a Sunday suit,' summed up Seiffert. 'It's just a Sunday suit from 1955, and with clothes so expensive, you'd rather go with the fashion.' The Karmann customers did not seem to care, the 1966 model became a record model year: 33,782 units were built - more than ever before.

It was not until 1969 that this mark was just surpassed with 34.58 units. After that, however, sales fell rapidly. In the last year of construction 1974 just under 7,000 cars were delivered. The last facelift for the 1971 model year was also likely to have had a counterproductive effect. Although the performance increased to 50 hp with the introduction of the 1,600 engine, the angular bumpers and the large taillights of the Type 3 sedan did not really match the soft curves of the Karmann body. Today the years are reconciling with the inharmonious discontinued model.

The instrumentation of the VW Karmann Ghia is minimal

And there are even Karmann friends who only use their Ghia in want to have this shape, just like there are fans of the rubber lip spider from Alfa and the rubber boat MGB. On the other hand, the original Karmann Coupé and Cabriolet models from the era before the first facelift in 1959 appear delicate and fragile. They stand on narrow diagonal tires that look a bit like carousel cars with their white wall rings. Thin chrome tubes serve as bumpers, and in the mini taillights, six-volt light bulbs glare rather hopelessly against the late spring sun. Lacquered sheet metal, lavishly scattered ivory-colored buttons and only three display instruments in the cockpit are a reminder of the time when you didn't have to study a kilogram manual to operate an automobile.

There is an ignition lock, to the left of the steering column like at Porsche, a choke cable, a turn signal, light and windshield wiper switch. All of them are unlabeled, but after a brief trial, mix-ups are practically impossible. The instrumentation is also minimal: the three round clocks provide information on the speed, time and fuel level. Whereby you could do without the display of the tank content, because an old-fashioned fuel cock waits in the footwell for Karmann pilots who are lazy about the tank.

Servo-less drum brakes

The steering wheel is large and thin. It takes little effort to crank the narrow front wheels in the desired direction. The rest of the levers and pedals that you need to move forward can be operated just as easily. Only the servo-less drum brakes require a more solid step, but after a short familiarization you can also trust the archaic Beetle stoppers. Today the engine is perceived as loud, but the boxer runs unmatched vibration-free even after 50 yearsyet. And you can get used to the expected modest performance. After all, nobody expects miracles from a 30 hp engine in today's traffic.

In any case, what is offered is enough not to attract attention as a traffic obstacle. And the restrained pace leaves more time for the little trivialities - the view over the round fenders onto the road, the typical VW smell from the heating flaps, which are slightly open for precisely this purpose, and an indifferent straight line that the driver always corrects a little on the steering wheel lets - like an actor in a 50s movie. What also distinguishes the early Ghia is that inimitable VW quality feeling of those years. Everything seems to be carved out of the solid - the switches click harder, the door snaps into the lock more emphatically than with some new cars.

The fact that this feeling is extremely deceptive with the body should no longer be reproached for the car today. He is a child of his time, and he has been around for so long that he can be forgiven for anything. When it was launched, the line-up of the Bundeswehr and the return of the last prisoners of war made the political headlines. When he secretly left the stage, the resignation of Willy Brandt and the world championship title of the Beckenbauer generation were the dominant themes. Who can still grapple with the reputation of the most beautiful Volkswagen of all time?

0 Comments

Leave a reply

Name *