I spotted this fabulously rare Volkswagen Karmann Ghia on one of my many work trips to London.
When was the last time you saw one of these? I think I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve seen one in the wild… and yet this model paved the way for the modern successes of ‘Modern VW’ as we know it today (Ok, emissions scandal aside, we’ll let that one go…)
One of my favourite geeky automotive reference websites [howmanyleft.co.uk] indicates that as of late 2016 – there are less than 1000 of these beautiful cars left in the UK, either road- registered or SORN’d – the vast majority of these being imports due to its success in America. Let’s just hope those SORN’d are being restored and not left to rust away in barns and garages across the country. With a long build run from mid 50’s to 1974, coachbuilders Karmann (who would later gave us the amazing Golf MK1 cabriolet) apparently delighted Volkswagen bosses with their beautiful design, basing it on the ever-popular Beetle, on which it shares a floorplan. Over 365,000 were made in total. It came in a coupe and convertible form, with the cabriolet being our favourite (as ever – who doesn’t love a good drop-top?) although it was heavy and therefore slower than the coupe due to the clunky, complicated and cumbersome 1950’s roof mechanism design and other safety strengthening which added to the weight.
Either variant will never be what you would call quick though. In fact, you won’t want to make any appointments that require getting there in the next fortnight if you’re driving a Karmann Ghia. The basic 1.2L engine option offered a mere, almost unbelievable (today anyway) 30 BHP, a 26 second 0-60 time and an overall top speed of 77MPH. The convertible offered a slightly larger 1.3L engine option that brought this up to a grand old 40BHP topping out at 80MPH. That will leave you 8MPH shy of going “Back to the future, Marty” – although you will look damn cool as you try!
There’s something beautifully ‘off’ to me about the side profile, as the bubble roof gradually slopes to the large protruding rear and those bloated back arches. From the front and rear aspects however I do think however they’re absolutely gorgeous. Hints of Alfa Romeo from the front and – given the Germanic links between the Beetle and the Porsche 911 of this era – if you squint you can almost see an essence of Porsche, which I don’t think is ever a bad thing.
This is a true rare classic that we’d love to someday own and offer for hire. Those now rare classic lines, protruding lights and chrome bumpers would look super in wedding photographs. Who knows – perhaps one day we’ll stumble across one tucked away in a barn and restore it to its former glory! Isn’t that always the dream?
It’ll have to be a convertible, of course, if we can be picky, and of course if it’s for your wedding, we better leave plenty of time to get you to the church on time. Best leave the day before 🙂
Until next time