Mileage: 79,701 Miles
Engine: 4-Cylinder 1600cc Engine
Transmission: 3-Speed Auto Clutch Transmission
Exterior color: Amber (orange) Exterior (L20E)
Interior: Palisander Brown Leatherette Interior (54)
Black Convertible Top w/ Glass Rear Window
15-Inch Steel Wheels
Classic Radial LL800 All Season Tires
Texas / Colorado Car
The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia is said to be the most beautiful Volkswagen ever produced, if not one of the most beautiful cars of the late-mid-20th century. Turin-based Italian designer Ghia imagined its form and German coachbuilder Karmann sculpted it into sheet metal reality. Unlike the mass-produced Beetle, the majority of the Karmann Ghia body was fabricated by hand. When it was released in 1956, it shocked the world not because of its stunning façade, but for the badge on its hood—That’s a Volkswagen? Indeed it was a Volkswagen, underneath its elegant sheet metal were mostly Volkswagen Beetle underpinnings, which meant that despite that fancy coachwork, it was simple and reliable—and the price was only $2,300. When the Cabriolet was introduced in 1957, comparisons to the Porsche 356 Speedster abounded. When the Porsche 356 was discontinued in 1965, the comparison became more poignant; Car and Driver’s Bob Brown summed it up in 1972 stating that the Karmann Ghia had become “The Last Speedster.” Those words stood the test of time, when in the mid 2000s Autoweek called it “Slower (0 - 60 mph in 28 seconds), but prettier than any Porsche.” Just last year, the millennial-focused Jalopnik recognized it as the closest thing you could get to a Porsche 356. What makes the Karmann Ghia so wonderful, however, is the fact that it isn’t a Porsche 356. A nice example costs a fraction of the genuine article, as do its parts. And because it is that much less precious you can actually enjoy it in the real world, as it should be. It is the embodiment of what Volkswagen intended—the people’s car—just a very pretty one.
I purchased this 1974 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Cabriolet from my neighbor, a fellow airline pilot, who had owned it since 1982. He purchased it in Texas when he was based in the Air Force and brought to Colorado when he moved here. It was used sparingly as a second car throughout his ownership making it plausible that the 79,000 miles on the odometer are actual miles, but I don’t have records to support that as he did most of his own maintenance. In preparation for sale I turned it over to classic car specialist Mark Hutto who gave it a valve adjustment, oil change, transmission fluid flush, and replaced the ignition points, condenser, fuel filter, fuel lines, battery, and antenna. From there we mounted fresh tires and gave it a gentle polish to bring the Amber paint back to a glossy shine. It has the 3-speed (3 forward plus reverse) auto-stick transmission, which is essentially a manual transmission coupled to a torque convertor and with an electrically and vacuum operated clutch. There is no clutch pedal, but you still have to shift gears like a manual; but thanks to the torque convertor you can also idle and start in any gear. As it sits, it is a very good driver-quality example. Overall it is mechanically sound, and is presentable cosmetically (detailed in-depth descriptions are below). It has minimal rust and a very straight body with the exception of a parallel parking dent in the nose. The top is relatively watertight for its age and functional and it comes with a clean Colorado title. I was tempted to restore it to perfection, but this Karmann Ghia doesn’t quite need that yet—plus it is only original once. It made more sense to give the future owner that choice and offer it for a much lower price point. Personally, I would leave it and enjoy it exactly as it is.
The Amber paint is in good condition considering its originality and age. We gave it a light polish to bring back its luster and it shined up beautifully. Close scrutiny does reveal typical defects that would be expected on 40-year-old paint. The worst are paint chips where the nose was dented while it was reportedly parallel parked by the previous owner. There are also several small dings and dents on the body, the most notable being a slight crease in the left rear fender. There are small areas of rust along the lower rear fenders, and below the doorsills to a lesser degree. The convertible top is presentable, but it does have a small tear on the lower edge just behind the driver’s door and a small hole below the hinge mechanism. It opens correctly, but it does require guiding the spreading in to get it to fold neatly. All trim and chrome work is intact and in very good condition. The windshield is crack-free, but it does have minor pitting. The side and rear glass is also in good shape. The steel wheels are in good shape, as are the hubcaps. They are wearing fresh rubber that we replaced in preparation for sale.
The interior is in good shape, but it does have some flaws. There are no odors and it has never been smoked in. The Palisander colored carpet kit is complete and free of glaring rips, stains, or tears. The Palisander leatherette seats also have no rips or tears, and are free of any excessive wear. The dashboard has several cracks, along with separated vinyl covering on the vertical portion. The factory fitted air conditioning under-panel is present, but the engine bay components of the system were removed decades ago. The steering wheel is in good shape and free of any cracks. The stereo is inoperative. The wood shifter has some wear, but it is my favorite part of the car. The e-brake handle is wrapped in hockey tape. The door cards are in fair shape with some vinyl cracks, slight warping, and stretched map pockets. The front trunk floor panel is in fair shape. The spare tire is present, which also powers the windshield washer system. The rubber hosing that does this does have an air leak, so we left it disconnected. The factory owner’s manual is present and included, along with one key.
The engine starts on command, idles evenly and pulls smoothly. It has a few minor oil seeps, but does not actively leak or spot. The valves were just adjusted, along with the fresh ignition and fuel components we replaced along with the fresh oil change. The auto-stick transmission functions correctly, although I wouldn’t call it smooth. The suspension is compliant and there are no drivetrain or wheel bearing vibrations. The brakes are typical of a 1970’s Volkswagen, and there is slight squeal under light braking. As it sits this is a great starting point for a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Cabriolet. It is mechanically sound and you can enjoy it as it is, or restore it to the next level.