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Classic Cars

Karmann Ghia Celebrating 60 Years of Quirkiness

Its original concept debuted at the 1953 Paris Motor Show

 
 
Slideshow
The Karmann Ghia concept was originally introduced in 1953 at the Paris Motor Show

The Karmann GhiaKarmann-GhiaVolkswagen Karmann-GhiaGermany, 1955 > 19753 series
12 versions
50 photos
1 video
offered buyers lots of style and little speed. Underneath its curvaceous, Italian sheet metal, it was mechanically identical to the Volkswagen BeetleBeetleVolkswagen BeetleGermany, 1938 > 200339 versions
102 photos
3 videos
, and for many buyers that was ok. The Karmann Ghia celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. 

The idea behind the Karmann Ghia was quite simple. In the mid-50s, Volkswagen looked at its lineup and saw that while it was quite practical with the Beetle and TransporterTransporter Gen.1 [T1]Volkswagen Transporter Gen.1 [T1]Germany, 1950 > 19678 versions
44 photos
, it lacked much style. It wanted to offer a car that would appeal to more people but would not cost much to engineer.

Wilhelm Karmann founded and ran the company that bore his name as an independent auto assembler. In its history, it built cars for several European automakers from PorschePorschePorscheGermany, 1931 > present43 models
4655 photos
29 videos
to FordFordFordUnited Kingdom, 1909 > present33 models
3897 photos
5 videos
. It had an especially close relationship with Volkswagen and began building the Volkwagen Beetle Type 1 ConvertibleBeetle Cabriolet KarmannVolkswagen Beetle Cabriol...Germany, 1949 > present2 photos
in 1949. 

Volkswagen contacted Karmann about building the new model, and Karmann contacted designer Luigi Segre of Carrozzeria GhiaGhiaGhiaItaly, 1914 > present2 models
4 photos
in Italy to create the design. The car widened the floor pan of the Beetle by 12in and included relatively complicated hand-shaped and smoothed body panels. Because, Karmann was already building the Beetle Convertible, the addition of the Karmann GhiaKarmann-Ghia Gen.1 [Type 14]Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia Gen.1 [Type 14]Germany, 1955 > 19746 versions
10 photos
was relatively simple.

It made its public debut at the Paris Motor Show in 1953, Volkswagen debuted the concept, and production began in 1955. 

Karmann built 450,000 Karmann Ghia's from 1955 to 1974. For 1957, Volkswagen introduced a convertibleKarmann-Ghia ConvertibleVolkswagen Karmann-Ghia C...Germany, 1955 > 19601 photo
version, and there were styling refreshes in 1961 and 1970. Mechanically, it followed the Beetle with gradually more powerful engines over time.

The Karmann Ghia story does not quite end there though. In 1961, Volkswagen introduced a second model called the Karmann Ghia 1500Karmann-Ghia 1500Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia 1500Germany, 1961 > 19621 photo
based on the larger Type 3Type 3 Gen.1Volkswagen Type 3 Gen.1Germany, 1961 > 19736 versions
5 photos
5 videos
platform. They were quite expensive and never quite as popular as the smaller, standard Karmann Ghia but were in production through 1969. 

There was a third model Karmann Ghia sold exclusively in Brazil from 1970 to 1976. Known as the Karmann Ghia TCKarmann-Ghia TCVolkswagen Karmann-Ghia TCBrazil, 1970 > present6 photos
, the cars were designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Ghia and used the same running gear as the Type 3 but with clearly Porsche-inspired styling.

The original Karmann Ghia concept is still in VW's collection at its Osnabrück Automobile Collection. It will also be on display at the Schloss Bensberg Classics in Germany from September 6 to 8. 

Karmann went out of business in 2009, and Volkswagen bought some of the remnants of the company, including the Osnabrück factory where the Golf CabrioletGolf VI Cabriolet TSI BlueMotionVolkswagen Golf VI Cabrio...Germany, 2011 > present2 photos
, the Porsche BoxsterBoxster Gen.3 [981]Porsche Boxster Gen.3 [981]Germany, 2012 > 20167 versions
26 photos
2 videos
, CaymanCayman Gen.2 [981]Porsche Cayman Gen.2 [981]Germany, 2012 > present9 versions
37 photos
, and the Volkswagen XL1XL1Volkswagen XL1Germany, 2013 > present11 photos
are now built.

Encyclopedia
VolkswagenVolkswagen
Karmann-GhiaKarmann-Ghia
Karmann-Ghia Gen.1 [Type 14]Karmann-Ghia Gen.1 [Type 14]

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