Some cars from yesteryear take a little longer to experience their time in the limelight. Obscure mid-century makes and models often find themselves forgotten amid the larger and louder voices in the room. The household names that were popular in America during the golden age of classic cars tend to drown out some of the 20th century’s most stylish and understated vehicles.
Here is the story of the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, a beautiful little car that is finally getting the attention it deserves. These classic cars are becoming more popular and fetching affordable, yet modest, prices on the market. Let’s take a closer look at the history of this lesser-known cousin to the iconic Volkswagen Beetle and how much it’s worth in today’s market.
A Brief History of the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
Many people are unaware that the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia had an impressive and successful lifespan. It lasted nearly 20 years and sold well in that timespan. Despite this model’s notable success, the German automaker eventually replaced it with easier-to-produce models as the Beetle maintained its position as the flagship Volkswagen vehicle. This halt in production was to the benefit of car collectors, as they’re now increasing in value and demand among car enthusiasts.
To understand the journey that led the Karmann Ghia to its current position within American car culture, you should first learn about the VW Karmann Ghia’s history and how it all began.
1955 to 1960: The First Years of the Karmann Ghia
Volkswagen launched the 1955 Karmann Ghia in Europe and followed it with a coupe model in America one year later. It was essentially a Beetle on the inside with a stylish, European flair on the outside. The Karmann Ghia contained the same rugged, rear-mounted and air-cooled engine as the Beetle. The two vehicles also shared the same chassis and various other mechanical components. Today, some question why Volkswagen bothered to make the Karmann Ghia if it was so similar to the Beetle beneath the hood.
Volkswagen’s Beetle line of vehicles was still fresh in America at that time. The company viewed the Karmann Ghia as a way to make more money and reach a broader audience. The Karmann Ghia was Volkswagen’s way of showing the world that their level of quality and reliability was available in more car models than the Beetle alone. Beetle owners felt better about choosing Volkswagen when they saw the manufacturer could make a handsome new car like the Karmann Ghia.
Their plan seemed to work. Americans loved the Karmann Ghia’s sportier dashboard and wide, padded front seats that were easy to adjust and comfortable to use. This new vehicle demanded a higher price than the Beetle, but many Americans were willing to spend more on luxuries like the convertible model, which launched in 1958.
1961 to 1967: Setting the Karmann Ghia Apart
Beetle sales were so robust in the mid-1950s and early ’60s that Volkswagen felt little need to even advertise the Karmann Ghia. They saw their newer vehicle as doing its job of reaching some more customers and helping turn Volkswagen into a household name. But Volkswagen’s approach to the Karmann Ghia began to shift in 1961 when they started advertising it for the first time. The Karmann Ghia got 40 horsepower, and Volkswagen felt that was something worth sharing with the public.
As Karmann Ghia sales began to climb, Volkswagen made some subtle improvements to it over the next few years. It received the same mechanical upgrades given to the Beetle, keeping it on the cutting edge of production and mechanical performance for Volkswagen. By the time of the 1965 Karmann Ghia, Volkswagen’s car was one of the most popular convertibles on the market, boasting great padding and a glass — not plastic — rear window. Consumers loved it compared to other, cheaper convertibles seen in European vehicles at the time.
Then 1967 rolled around, and many car enthusiasts believe this was the Karmann Ghia’s best year. It had a 1.5-liter engine with 53 horsepower. Its excellent aerodynamics allowed it to reach high speeds despite its heavier weight than the Beetle. Since the Karmann Ghia was lower to the ground than the Beetle, it handled better and boasted excellent traction. But the primary reason people view the 1967 Karmann Ghia as the best was that it was the last model before the United States began tightening its production regulations.
1968 to 1974: The End of Production
The Karmann Ghia still had some life left before Volkswagen took it off the production lines in 1974. Volkswagen made the 1968 Karmann Ghia with a semi-automatic transmission, keeping it competitive with other cars on the market. By 1972, the Karmann Ghia could hit 90 miles per hour thanks to its 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that boasted 60 horsepower.
Then the 1974 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia came off the assembly lines, and it would be the last of its kind. The Karmann Ghia was a classic example of a car achieving a near-perfect appearance for its era, leading to few changes throughout its entire run. For instance, the 1974 Karmann Ghia looks nearly identical to the 1955 model, with many of the slight visual differences resulting from America’s changing regulations. These changes included larger taillights, parking lights, turn signals and hazard lights.
But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Volkswagen decided to end the Karmann Ghia’s run to make room for their new, less stylish coupe, the Scirocco. The Karmann Ghia’s memory rested silently in history for decades, until now. It’s finally getting the attention it deserves.
Karmann Ghia Price Guide
Many variables affect a classic car’s worth. These include the following:
- The vehicle’s demand
- The vehicle’s internal and external specifications
- The vehicle’s age
- The vehicle’s current condition
It’s challenging to give a general value to any classic vehicle, especially when the same car could be worth more to one person than another. As a classic car that is only recently seeing higher demand, the Karmann Ghia is on the more affordable end of the spectrum. This fact makes it perfect for anyone looking to get a budget-friendly classic car.
Karmann Ghias generally fetch anywhere from $7,000 to $12,000, depending on the factors above. Older models in excellent shape tend to have a higher price than newer models, making the 1974 Karmann Ghia value on the more affordable end of the spectrum. Always be sure to consult trusted individuals or industry professionals before pricing your Karmann Ghia or before buying one you see for sale.
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