The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia was produced between 1955 and 1974. It was built on VW’s Type 1 platform (which also served as the platform for the VW Beetle) and featured hand-made body work made by the German company Karmann. Available as either a 2+2 coupe or a convertible, the Ghia enjoyed resounding success and was even, at one point was the most-imported car in the United States.
Most of the Ghia’s success is due to its combination of attractive styling and low price. Volkswagen was one of the world’s leaders in producing affordable cars following World War II, and they kept that philosophy in mind with the Ghia. The car wasn’t as inexpensive as its cousin, the Beetle, however. While the two cars shared the same basic platform, the front end body work of the Ghia was hand-crafted by Karmann. The result was visually stunning and highly desirable in the market, but more expensive than the Beetle’s mass-produced body work.
The Karmann Ghia first premiered at the Paris Auto Show in October of 1953, and the first production model rolled out of the factory in August of 1955. Volkswagen sold over 10,000 Ghias in the first year it was available, which greatly exceeded initial expectations. The Ghia continued to sell well throughout its life, and a total of over 445,000 Ghias were produced in its 19-year production span, which doesn’t include 41,600 Ghias produced by the South American branch of Karmann or the 42,505 Ghia Type 34 models (a high-performance, and much more expensive, variant of the Ghia).
The Karmann Ghia was powered by a 1.6-liter flat four-cylinder engine (also called a “boxer” engine) that produced 60 horsepower. The Ghia Type 34 received a smaller, but more powerful, 1.5-liter flat four engine while it was produced between 1962 and 1969. Eventually, the Type 34 was retired and replaced with the Porsche 914, which had a similar version of the same flat four engine under the hood. At the time, the Ghia Type 34 was the fastest and most expensive Volkswagen vehicle availalbe.
In 1974, the Ghia was replaced by the Volkswagen Scirocco, but it was not forgotten. The Scirocco’s body styling had none of the attractive curves of the Ghia, instead adopting a boxier, more angled design. The Ghia has since become something of a collectors item in the classic car world, particularly the Ghia Type 34 due to their rarity.