Smoothie based on the Beetle

The Ghia com­bined beau­ti­ful ital­ian de­sign with the tried and tested VW Beetle chas­sis

Rutherglen Reformer - - Drive Time - Ian John­son

The VW Beetle was what it claimed to be, a well­built car for the peo­ple a role which it per­formed ad­mirably in its long ca­reer.

But in 1955 some­one waved the style stick over the Beetle and the amaz­ing Karmann Ghia was born.

Man­u­fac­tured in 2 plus 2 coupe form from 1955 to 1974 and con­vert­ible from 1957, the Karmann Ghia com­bined the chas­sis and me­chan­i­cals of the early Beetle with a sports car styling by Luigi Se­gre of Car­rozze­ria Ghia and the build qual­ity of Ger­man coach builder Karmann.

The later model had more an­gu­lar body­work, but the real mas­ter­piece was the early form which had a time­less qual­ity which makes it look good even against much more modern wheels.

Pro­duc­tion dou­bled rapidly after its in­tro­duc­tion and it be­came the car most im­ported into the USA.

With its lay­out of rear-en­gine, rear-wheel-drive it was a to­tal stun­ner and soon ac­quired the nick­name of the poor man’s Porsche.

Not ex­actly true, be­cause if t was pitched against a Porsche it would lose hands down as per­for­mance was not the Karmann Ghia’s forte.

But it em­bod­ied all the fea­tures that en­deared Bri­tain to the Beetle but was a to­tal smoothie in its ap­proach to ev­ery­day mo­tor­ing.

I re­mem­ber when they were go­ing for peanuts on the used car mar­ket but these days they are a prized model thanks to a high build qual­ity that helps to en­sure longevity.

It is ac­cepted that Ghia’s head man Se­gre mas­ter­minded the de­sign, but there is a com­mon be­lief that all he had done was to scale down a de­sign by the great Vir­gil Exner of the Chrysler d’El­e­gance which Ghia had built in limited vol­ume.

At its peak, pro­duc­tion topped 42,000 cars per year. I was passed by one re­cently, this be­ing one of the 684 ex­am­ples left reg­is­tered on Bri­tish roads. Its ap­pear­ance was as fresh as many more modern de­signs – a tribute to it cre­ators.

SMOOTH Kar­man­nGhia’s was de­signed by Italy’s fa­mous Ghia stu­dios

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