1972 Karmann Ghia Coupe!The Karmann Ghia has always been a cult car. Collectors all over the world appreciate the clean lines of its timeless design, combined with the ruggedness of its Volkswagen underpinnings. Relatively unknown, however, is its exciting heritage.
Based on Virgil Exner's ideas for a sporty Chrysler--the d'Elegance Show Car--Italy's exclusive Design Studio Ghia (like PininFarina a sub-contractor for Ferrari) was able to sell the Coupй's superb design to the German Volkswagenwerk, then emerging as an industry giant and looking for a high-profile vehicle to showcase its progress.
Based on the Beetle's Type 1 platform and introduced in 1955, it was manufactured at the Karmann Karosseriewerke in Osnabrьck, Germany. The Karmann Ghia was an instant success and lived for almost 20 years, until 1974. Over 440,000 units were built; in 1972, annual production had dwindled to exactly 12,434 Coupйs. Today, well-kept examples are exceedingly hard to find.
The 1972 Karmann Ghia Coupé presented here, VIN *1422492560* is a clean, life-long California car. Still registered to its original, 6-digit, blue-and-gold license plates, it's as dry as a leftover Christmas cookie and has never been involved a fender bender. With its sexy curves and attractive color combination, it is met with admiration wherever you go.
The car's last caretaker, a nice Lady from Sun Valley, Calif., drove the car about 4,000 miles per year, on average, and kept meticulous records during the twelve years of her ownership. Exactly 44 receipts for maintenance and parts purchases accompany the car, totalling exactly $9,430.34. Engine and transaxle have been rebuilt during this time; tires, battery, distributor, regulator, fuel pump, carburetor, brake cylinders, and other assorted parts were fitted. A perfect indicator of the overall health of a Karmann is its trunk compartment, as neglect manifest itself here first. Let's have a closer look!
Removing the cardboard trunk liner reveals the "inner workings" of the Karmann. Everything looks clean and undisturbed. The area behind the dash displays tidy factory wiring. Spare, jack, and factory tool kit are present, too.
Just like a Pagoda Mercedes SL and Porsche 356, a Karmann Ghia features a one-piece front end that actually consists of six butt-welded smaller sections. Should a repair become necessary, it is almost impossible to align everything perfectly again, irrevocably impairing fit and finish of body panels. After inspecting the front trunk, we're happy to report that Karmann's vulnerable "nose" is in fine condition, the car having never been involved in any serious accident. There's no body filler, no rust, just strong, original sheetmetal.
Straight exterior has survived the past 38 years admirably. Doors, hood and trunk lid fit excellent. There are no major dents, there's not a single rust bubble anywhere. Stock steel wheels wear dog dish hub caps and slotted alloy beauty rings. Tires are Metric Radials in the correct size 165R15.
A popular choice in its day, the exciting Tangerine color makes for a good-looking little sports car, indeed! Car sports an older repaint in the original hue; the paint on the roof is a little more faded than the rest and might still be the original, factory-applied coat. There are a few blems here and there; overall, it's a mighty fine-looking Vee-Dub! Brightwork and weatherstripping are in equally good condition. Let's look inside now.
Headliner appears umarked, so do the sun visors. Yep, the interior light works!
Teutonic simplicity, Karmann style. Factory steering wheel shows a couple of small cracks. Dash has been topped with a black cover, which looks perfect. Fascia has a couple of hairline splits, but still looks well-preserved, compared to most Karmanns of the model year. Arguably, covering the dash in black vinyl was not one of the factory's better ideas. Gauges are original, radio and speakers are not.
Very comfortable front seats still wear their virtually unmarked, ivory leatherette upholstery with basketweave inserts.
Rear seatback folds foward and thus create a huge additional cargo space. Karmann has multiple trunks!
Ready for a test drive? So are we, but before we leave, let's check out engine and undercarriage.
Engine bay looks very sanitary. The weak spot underneath the battery, where acid usually devours the sheet metal: here, it's 100% clean and rust free. The 1584cc flat four was just fitted with a new 34PICT carb, it starts easily and runs like a Swiss watch. 55 lively horses are able to push the car to an advertised cruising speed of 86mph . . . with a bit of tail wind support, of course. Being a true VW, it runs, and runs, and runs . . . and keeps on running . . .
One of the last power plants that can still be worked on with hand tools if need be--no computer needed!
Inspecting a Karmann's undercarriage is a must, for unpleasant surprises could lurk here in the dark. On this one, the floor pans are of reference quality! There's none of the usual rust repair in evidence, none of the corrosion that's prone to weaken a Ghia's structural integrity. It's the proverbial dry California survivor, an exceedingly rare animal, to be sure!
More detail shots of the amazingly clean and dry undercarriage, for your enjoyment.
Absolutely perfect California weather greeted us on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We celebrated by driving one of the Fatherland's finest arond town while listening to a healthy dose of Tupac's finest.
This Karmann is one of the best-behaved Volkswagen products we've ever had the pleasure of driving. It does everything with ease, like a well-mannered child that was just released from college prep school. Shifting is effortless, the car tracks straight as an arrow, and, thanks to the front disc brakes, stops much better than you'd expect from a classic car. All lights, gauges, and switches work, except for the clock. It is such a delight to drive that we put almost a hundred miles on it, enjoying every single one of them!
A trip back in time. We'd unequivocally state that everything was better, 38 years ago. Cars were lighter, simpler, and provided more fun per mile (and more mpg) than today's bloated, plastic appliances. VW certainly "checked all the boxes" with the Ghia--its longevity being irrefutable proof!
This 38 year-old VW certainly is able to keep up with modern day traffic, on a daily basis, if you so desire. Speaking of cost of operation, a vintage VW is very likely the most economical of all classic cars. With its documented regimen of regular upkeep, there are no repair bills to be anticipated for a long time to come.
Needing nothing but an appreciative new onwer, the Tangerine Dream is ready to be enjoyed. It's in fine fettle, and could conceivably last for another 38 years.