Not only will your collegiate daughter love it for its looks, but it certainly isn't powerful enough for her to get into too much trouble


Volkswagen's popular Beetle spawned a number of other automobiles, creations like the Thing, Microbus, and most interesting of all, the Karmann Ghia. One of the most sought-after air-cooled convertibles ever built, even Car and Driver magazine went as far as to compare it to the ever-classic Porsche Speedster.
Introduced in 1955, the beloved Karmann Ghia was an interesting German-Italian joint effort. The body was produced by Karmann under contract, but was designed by the famous Italian design firm Ghia. The car far surpassed its creator's expectations in both execution and commercial success. When production ceased at the Osnabruck plant in July 1974, 283,501 coupes and 80,897 convertibles had been produced.
We are pleased to present this lovely and fully restored Karmann Ghia convertible, complete with a Sapphire push-button AM radio and stock steel wheels and hubcaps. The finish of the handsome green paint is excellent, while the tan interior, top and boot are all in excellent overall condition.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
Years Produced:1958-1974
Number Produced:80,897
Original List Price:$2,725
SCM Valuation:$7,800-$13,000
Tune Up Cost:$110
Distributor Caps:$8
Chassis Number Location:on dashboard, visible from the windshield, also stamped on the forward lip of the battery opening under the rear seat
Engine Number Location:stamped on block underneath generator
Club Info:Vintage Volkswagen Club of America, 1441 Forest St., Springdale, AR 72764-1016
Alternatives:1966-1979 Volkswagen Beetle convertible, 1962-1969 Chevrolet Corvair Monza convertible, 1990-2004 Mazda Miata
Investment Grade:C

This 1970 Karmann Ghia Convertible sold for $12,650, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Monterey auction held on Aug 13-14, 2004.
To any of you who venerate the likes of Car and Driver, may I point out that indeed it did publish the aforementioned “comparo” in August 1972, pitting a new Karmann Ghia convertible against a 1956 Speedster. At the time, it must have seemed like a good idea, doting over a new car in lieu of a 16-year-old used one, yet they still tripped over some of their own logic.
Most damning is that while C&D measured the handling as equal (both cars achieved a lateral acceleration of 0.75 g), they flat-out admitted that the Karmann Ghia wallowed, due in no small amount to it being a much heavier car. Therein lies the appeal of the Porsche-its amazing steering and light feeling, a minimalist performance car that offered respectable road-course performance right off the dealer’s lot. The best that can be said about a Karmann Ghia is that it’s a stylish street cruiser, something most often uttered by members of the fairer sex. A sports car, it is not.
Quite frankly, this was about as silly of an apples-to-oranges comparison as pitting a Karmann Ghia against a new Volkswagen would be today. Porsche Speedsters and VW Karmann Ghias are just two entirely different cars that were built for entirely different
markets. Even as collectibles, this rings true, as there’s a Grand Canyon-sized difference in their current values. The best Speedsters are making six-digit prices, while very nice Karmann Ghias are extremely lucky to break $20k.
So, we’ve established that a Karmann Ghia is far from a Porsche-but it certainly wasn’t far from a Beetle. While the bodies were fabricated and assembled by Karmann (read that as requiring a lot of hand fitting and seam filling, i.e. extra weight), they retained a stock VW powertrain. Anemic enough in the garden variety Beetle, this made the Karmann Ghia a garden slug. That on a per-model basis the cars weighed about 120 pounds more than Beetles didn’t help. Only in later years, when the Beetle gained horsepower, did the Ghia’s performance similarly improve. Even then it was slow, and the car has never appealed to the enthusiast crowd.
Not to say that this is entirely bad. Karmann Ghias have generally had caring owners who have saved them from the level of abuse that Beetles typically see: i.e., outfitted with Baja fenders and chrome accelerator pedals shaped like feet, or becoming Bradley GT-donors. For those so inclined, both four- and six-cylinder Porsche powertrains can be made to work in a Karmann Ghia and some wackos have even stuffed Corvair mills in the tail.
Perhaps the best way to damn the Karmann Ghia with faint praise is to say that not only will your collegiate daughter love it for its looks, but the suspension is relatively forgiving and the car certainly isn’t powerful enough for her to get into too much trouble.
Parts availability is in several ways better and less expensive than a late-model jellybean import, even for most of the difficult stuff like body, glass and trim. For mechanicals, remember, Volkswagen made something like 21 million Beetles. As I’ve said before, you have to be careful not to get hit by parts falling out of the sky.
Karmann Ghias rode the New Beetle popularity wave with the real air-cooled Beetle in the late 1990s, but that trend has leveled off, and pricing has been stable over the past few years. Though the SCM Price Guide does not yet list the Karmann Ghia, we routinely see good examples trade in the low teens, with an occasional car poking its head above $20,000. The car pictured here was a well-executed restoration to stock condition, but not perfect. As such, it would make a good cruiser and nice local show car.
With a pre-auction estimate high of $30k, someone’s bubble likely burst when the gavel fell on this no-reserve sale at just over $12,000. There are those who think they can drag a rusted-out Chevette across a Monterey auction block and still get $10,000 for it, so it is somewhat refreshing to see that not everyone falls prey to the “Red Mist of Monterey.” Better yet, perhaps this buyer got the deal of the weekend.
Though I imagine green would tend to go over better in Germany, it is generally considered a “bad” color for a convertible in North America. This particular hue is just too plain and dark to attract the typical teeny-bopper, quirky-car-fan that adores these Volkswagens, so when the time comes to sell, this car’s new owner may have to be patient.
Still, for what this Karmann Ghia was-a later model car with a 1600-cc engine and thin bumpers in nice shape-the final bid wasn’t a lot of money for a fun summer toy. Let’s just hope its new owner doesn’t show up at any PCA events with the C&D comparo taped to his windshield, offering to autocross Speedsters for pink slips.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)u

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