During 2020, Volkswagen is celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Karmann Ghia, the sports car version of the practical Beetle. Beloved more for its beauty than its performance, which was notably unspectacular, the Ghia was built for 19 model years by VW in coupe and convertible versions.
The Pick of the Day is a 1966 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible in Aero Silver with a black interior and updated with a 1,600cc VW dual-port engine that should be good for 60 horsepower.
“A very fun and exciting Volkswagen classic which is mechanically sound,” according to the Beverly Hills, California, dealer advertising the Ghia on ClassicCars.com.
The Karmann Ghia was created through a collaboration of Karmann, the Osnabruck, Germany, Volkswagen manufacturer, and Carrozzeria Ghia of Turin, Italy, which created the iconic styling, originally in coupe form. The Ghia joined the Beetle, which restarted production after WWII, and the transporter/microbus, which first rolled out in March 1950.
“It would be 1955 before Volkswagen produced its first truly beautiful car, a coupe whose lines were crafted in Italy and essentially hand built in Germany,” Volkswagen notes in a news release about the Karmann Ghia anniversary. “And 65 years after the first one rolled out of Karmann’s Osnabruck factory, the Karmann Ghia remains a striking piece of automotive art.”
In 1953, after four months of secretive design work, Karmann and Ghia presented their prototype to Volkswagen brass. Although built on the Beetle chassis with the same drivetrain, the sports coupe was a striking departure from the stolid, practical appearance of VW’s existing products.
“The prototype Karmann Ghia looked nothing like the Beetle,” the Volkswagen release says. “An elegant nose and front cargo area flowed smoothly into a sizable seating area for two passengers. The thin roof pillars and gracious curves gave the Ghia a sense of motion even at rest, and it has a sporty stance because the body sits seven inches lower than the Beetle.”
The prototype was received enthusiastically by the Volkswagen leadership, and production of the coupe and convertible began for the 1955 model year. The first Karmann Ghias arrived in the U.S. in 1956.
This 1966 Karmann Ghia, which retains most of the original 1955 styling, looks like a fairly good example that could use some cleaning up; for one thing, it’s missing the VW emblem that should be perched on its nose. The body shows some minor damage on its right lower section, both bumpers look tweaked, and the interior needs a refresh. And that boy-racer steering wheel has got to go.
But it appears that it would be drivable while being fixed up, and would be a good candidate for full restoration of a fairly early example. The dual-port flat-4 engine should provide decent power, certainly better than the 40-horsepower unit that came with the car. And like air-cooled VWs everywhere, the Ghia should prove reliable and easy to maintain, with modest expense.
Although Karmann Ghias are popular among Volkswagen fans, they’ve never really hit it big in the general collector car market, and they are valued accordingly. This one is priced at $19,750. The needed refurbishing should provide some bargaining room.
To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.