By Keith Nobles
The creation of the Karmann Ghia is the story of how being bold in business can pay profitable dividends.
In the years after World War II Luigi Segre operated Carrozzeria Ghia, an Italian automobile design and coachbuilding firm while Wilhelm Karmann was a German who operated his own coachbuilding firm. Both being in the coachbuilding business, Segre and Karmann were acquainted with each other and at an automobile show in the early 1950’s Karmann mentioned to Segre his desire to build an entirely new car based on the Volkswagen Beetle chassis. The idea intrigued Segre and Segre sent his son to Paris to buy a Volkswagen Beetle and drive it back to Italy. From the chassis of the Beetle purchased in Paris, Carrozzeria Ghia designed an entirely new body and presented the design to Karmann. Karmann then built the car Ghia had designed as a prototype. Ghia and Karmann then presented the prototype to Volkswagen and proposed that the prototype become a production model car.
Volkswagen loved the design and the car and the Volkswagen Type 14, popularly known as the Karmann Ghia, was born. The Type 14 made its’ public debut at the 1953 Paris Auto Show and went into production in August 1955.
445,238 Karman Ghia’s were built from 1955 to 1974.
The Karmann Ghia, being base on the chassis and mechanicals of the Beetle, shared the economy, reliability and ease of repair that made the Beetle so popular. The style of the Karmann Ghia was very different than the egg shape that Ferdinand Porsche had arrived at in designing the Beetle as the ‘people’s car’ at the direction of Hitler in the 1930’s. The Karmann Ghia was not a true sports car but certainly presented itself as being sportier than the other vehicles being offered by Volkswagen at that time.
Today the Karmann Ghia is very collectible. Of the more than 445,000 Karmann Ghia’s built relatively few survive today and those that have survived are primarily found in dry climates. Rust was a primary culprit in limiting the life span of the Karmann Ghia. The Karmann Ghia also gained a reputation as being a handful to drive at highway speeds on windy days, though it was superior to the Beetle in these conditions.
Today a Karmann Ghia in top-notch condition can go for close to $60,000 at auction.
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Karmann_Ghia
1956-1974 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia History http://www.danjedlicka.com/classic_cars/karmann_ghia.html