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All Tests

Karmann Ghia

Type 14 B-4, 1,192/1285/1584 cm3, 77 x 64 mm/85.5 x 69 mm, 6.6/7.0/7.5 : 1, OHV, downdraught carburettor, 22/25/32/37 kW (30/34/44/50 hp), 3400/3600/4100/4000 rpm, radial blower, four-speed, semi-automatic, double crank handlebars, torsion bar suspension, double-jointed swing axle/tilting arm, torsion bar suspension, drums/disks, drums, 810/820/870 kg + driver, 116/120/130/140 km/h, rear engine, longitudinal, rear-wheel drive, DM 7,500/8250*, *convertible, 1955 - 1974

Pet name: Housewife Porsche

After preliminary discussions, it was developed as early as 1953 by the Karmann company in Osnabrück in collaboration with Luigi Segre, chief stylist of the Turin-based Ghia (pronounced 'Gia') company, and made them both world-famous. The body is put over a VW Beetle chassis with first 22 kW (30 hp) and at the very end 37 kW (50 hp), making it a bit slow for its looks.

The car basically has two seats, because there is not much left of the Beetle's back seat. In 1955 it comes out as a Coupé and in 1957 as a Convertible. The price is huge at 7500,- DM compared to 4600,- DM for an Export Beetle. Nevertheless, the Karmann Ghia achieved a proud number of almost half a million cars produced, making it the most successful special body based on the VW Beetle.

Something is arranged at the Geneva Salon in spring and a first prototype is already presented by the Italians in autumn. Above you can see what the jewel might have looked like, for the time particularly successful in its simplicity, at least on the outside. Not even the later chrome-adorned openings are present.

Inside, however, it is said to have been much more splendid. There, the relatively small space was adorned with leather. The most obvious differences were the rear lights and the air vents on the tailgate. VW boss Nordhoff is said to have quibbled only briefly about the price to be charged. After all, it was the most expensive VW model.

The headlights were changed. The body of the Ghia was of course as wide as that of the Beetle, including its running boards. That's why the floor panels at the beginning of the series were first produced by Karmann to widen it, until VW then also supplied the wider floor assembly. In addition to the ventilation for the rear engine, the air filter had also be changed to that of the Transporter.

The Karmann Ghia is of course somewhat faster than the Beetle, even usually faster than the Beetle with the next bigger engine. Nevertheless, only minor modifications to the chassis are necessary. Not much room in the luggage compartment. Above you see it without underlay in a later series with side fuel filler flap. So the modifications always follow those of the Beetle.

Despite the relatively small glass house, two children could be accommodated in the back seat in addition to two adults in the front. As in the Beetle, the backrest of the rear seat could be folded down to supplement the limited space in the front for luggage. The front seats had only one backrest adjustment, but varied in height depending on the distance to the steering wheel.

The repair department of a VW workshop gave the Karmann Ghia an ambivalent welcome. There was undoubtedly a lot of money to be made from accident damage to the car, but in comparison to the Beetle, there was also a lot more work to be done and, above all, it was more difficult. Screw on the mudguards with piping tape as at the Beetle was not possible. Everything had to be butt-welded and usually either tinned or filled.

Especially the nose in front was sometimes only made of putty if the work was not done properly. Such vehicles were said to be very dusty in case of accidents. Even the assembly of the frameless windows was a challenge, taking into account a smooth running to be maintained, while the work on the mechanics was not different.

Type 34 B-4, 1493/1584 cm3 (83/85.5 x 69 mm), 7.2/8.5 : 1, OHV, 1/2 flat-flow carburettor, 106 Nm, 2400 rpm; 33/40 kW (45/54 hp), 3800/4200 rpm, axial fan, four-speed/automatic, double crank links, torsion-bar suspension, double-jointed swing axle/tilting-arm wheel suspension, torsion-bar suspension, drums, later disks, drums, 40 litres, 910/940 kg + driver, 135/145 km/h, rear engine, longitudinal, rear- wheel drive, 1961 - 1969

The Type 34 1961 aims to build on the success of the Karmann Ghia based on the Beetle of 1955. It is based on the Type 3, from which it takes over the entire floor assembly, including the drive train and parts of the interior. The 'hat' again comes from the Italian design company Ghia in Turin, but with references to the Chevrolet Corvair.

Interesting was the modification of the otherwise circumferential edge behind the doors and at the front in the middle. Incidentally, the edge was a distinct challenge for sheet metal working at the time, but also for the safety regulations of various possible export countries. So all in all, the great response remains absent.

The numbers were too small for the remaining countries, the price too high and the distance in driving performance to the smaller model not large enough. The convertible (pictured above), which was also planned, remains a prototype.

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