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Karmann Ghia (S. Johnston)
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The stylish Karmann Ghia

Dealing in Antique Cars.

Part 2 of an article sent in by a US dealer of classic cars


Hello again!

OK! I promise to deliver my incomparable experience and expertise on at least one car this time around. No nonsense this time... None of that, How to Make A Living Selling Exotics stuff.

...Well, just this one, maybe. Remember I said that if you attempt the business end of exotics, find as rare and unusual a niche as you can in order to make a go of it? Well, I came across some guy in Georgia who makes a living refurbishing and selling the quintessential Francaise: The Citroen 2CV ! - that tin-can of a car that makes you laugh when you see it!

(I just slapped myself to get back on track. I must have advanced ADD or something... Can't seem to stick to one subject. Anyway...)

Right, then! 'Ménage a Trois'!

Now, at the risk of losing the interest of you muscle-car, testosterone-laden heavy hitters with the twin-turbo dreams; you hunks with the golden chains rattling to the heavy throbs of that SureFire Vette engine -- that shiny new, Corinthian leather jacket in the passenger seat (Ahhh! It's him! Howard Dean's speech writer!!); you slaphappy Viper wanna-owns who cry at the very thought of seeing something like a Saleen Mustang in your lifetime, I simply have to do it. I do owe a story to my first car: The One, The Only, The Fabulous Karmann Ghia!

All right, so the total horsepower available in this thing (36) is about what your neighbor's Pantera uses to light the glove box. No matter. We're talking CLASS here! The kind of owner you might want to meet and actually spend some time talking with! (Sure. We've all had that wild, 6-minute fling with the dumb blond in the Corvette Maco Shark at one time or another in our lives... But we're talking commitment here, guys and gals... Someone with more going on between their ears than Chucky-D and Brit-tan-y! Someone you might even want to bear children with!)

All car companies, successful or otherwise, want a status symbol at some time in their corporate life-span. Think Avanti for Studebaker, T-Bird for Ford, NSX for Honda. etc.

And so it was that Chrysler, at one time in the early 50's, sought out new designs from Italy in an attempt to trump the new Corvette from GM. (The spies knew it was coming.) They tried and discarded many designs -- one in particular from the House of Ghia.

Volkswagen, in the same mood and mode as the others, approached the German Designers, Karmann, looking for a new shape to house their infamous power plant. According to one source, Karmann personnel approached Ghia for ideas. Voila, the rejected Chrysler design. (See...! Ménage a Trois! Germany, Italy, and the USA! ...And wasn't that worth the wait...)

There's one parked in front of this Florida condo right now... next to the (obligatory) Lexus, the new Jag and the Beemer... So, guess which owner I want to meet? That's the 'thing' -- to me, at any rate -- about vintage or otherwise interesting cars... One wants to know something more about the owner. Who is this person? How did they get hold of this car? Then you pipe it with, "Let me tell you my experiences with this..." or "I remember that one..." or, "Lucky you! Air-cooled!"

See what I mean? The automobile as social elixir.

Now, as for the one with the Lexus... Well, we know he's into comfort and likes his driving experience to resemble his living room... 'Nuf said about him.

One more aside. (Sorry.)

Out on Long Island, NY, there's a great little rag called Dan's Papers. Gives a rather good overview of what's happinin' out there with the rich and famous and, sometimes, with their less illustrious neighbors. Anyway, for a while -- and I haven't seen his column recently -- this bloke ( -- sorry, memory fails -- ) was writing these great articles about some great cars. (I realize this is highly subjective. Let's just say, he was writing about the cars that were truly interesting to moi.) He and I were right on; simpatico. For a while.

Then, completely out of character, he writes an article on the Miata(!) and actually praises it. The %$#@&!! Miata !! Now what comes to mind when you see a Miata on the road?

My point exactly!!

So, needless to say, my dream writer appeared to be irreparably flawed and I was never again in such a great hurry for the next issue of Dan's.

OK. Back to my first love.

Now remember, the Karmann Ghia is hand made. Can't say that about too many cars. And say all you want about SUV's and their drivability in snow. But for 3 or 4 more inches of ground clearance for those twice-a-year, over-the-top, N'or Easter blizzards, the Ghia was better! That low center of gravity and rear-engine traction got me, my buddies and girlfriends through innumerable Adirondack-Class snow drifts and far flung ski trips into the far reaches of northern Quebec.

And even when I had it, during it's last year of production (1974*), it still turned heads. Let's face it: It was pretty. It's no wonder, then, that some of the better ones draw up to $15,000 today.

(*Just as the Corvair was pulled to avoid competition for the Camaro - and you thought it was Nader - VW was gearing up for the Scirocco and had to can my baby.)

But the biggest flaw was the poor quality of steel -- not even close to that used in the Bug. So extra care, attention, and money was -- and is -- required for upkeep. Alas, the three items that I, an immature, struggling student, had little to spare.

So, then. Who is this car for?

Certainly not for the Pantera owner. Probably not even for the TR-6 guy. And certainly not for immature students.

Perhaps for someone's son or daughter after landing that first real job; giving them a first and relatively inexpensive taste for the pleasures and effort involved in owning and maintaining a piece of automotive history -- with a none-too-shabby sense of what fun a sports car can be to boot.

And, hey; You can bet they'll meet someone more interesting than they otherwise would in that silly Miata!

Next Time: We turn up The Juice... Something... well, more 'thumping', for those raging hormones.

And my second car was...

to be continued....


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Please note that everything on this site is Copyright to R Jones, the site author (unless stated otherwise). All advice is given in good faith only, based on my experiences of the subject. Anything relating to legal issues should be clarified with the relevant bodies, I do not take responsibility for any losses, damages, hair loss or otherwise arising from advice found on this site, given as it is in good faith only. Articles submitted by others and published here are reproduced in good faith and don't necessarily reflect the views etc of anyone at Classic Wheels. If you'd like to see your classic car featured here, by all means send me details and a photo of it - articles about other historic or antique vehicles are also very welcome. Privacy policy, cookies & disclaimers.