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Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia (1955 - 1974)

Last updated 29 April 2015

Good looks, cool image, easily tuned, all the usual Beetle advantages of a great scene and specialist support
Not as fast as it looks, even in late 1.6-litre form


Coachbuilder Karmann came up with the idea of producing a new Beetle-based coupe. The new small Volkswagen had a wonderfully simple and adaptable floorpan, and the German specialist realised that it would be comparatively easy to built special bodies for it. Volkswagen, of course, jumped at the chance when it saw the pretty coupé body that Ghia designed for Karmann.

It was a logical extension of the Volkswagen range, which was going from strength to strenth throughout the 1950s - as Porsche had the more expensive end of the sports car market sewn-up with the 356, Volkswagen ensured that its Karmann-Ghia coupe and convertible would have more modest performance.

The public certainly agree that the 1955 Karmann-Ghia was a very good thing, and this sleeker Beetle went on and sold well. However, it wasn't as quick as its lovely looks promised, for its underpinnings and drivetrain were pure Beetle - and that meant less than sparkling performance.

In 1958, Volkswagen and Karmann came up with a convertible version. Extra strengthening made the convertible heavier and therefore slower than the coupé, but that didn’t matter to those who admired this fresh-air fashion statement; America loved it, of course. The original 1192cc engine was increased in capacity in parallel with the Beetle up to 1584cc by 1974.

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