From sport car enthusiasts to average citizens with a sense of style and good taste, many would agree that the ultimate California cool ride is the Karmann-Ghia. Even if they didn’t know it by name, most people would recognize one of these timeless cars if they saw one on the road.>California is still populated with this classic car, and to this day it remains a hit.
So here’s some interesting history on the Karmann-Ghia….
It was 1950, and Wilhelm Karmann had big dreams of building a car of his own- something of the Porsche class.He had owned one of West Germany’s premiere motor car building factories since 1902, and the recent surge in business from the Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet prompted Karmann to strike a deal up with Volkswagen to create a two-seater convertible based on a Beetle platform. Unfortunately Wilhelm Karmann died within a year of this venture, but his son took the reins of the project.
The prototypes developed by Dr. Karmann in the early 1950s were initially rejected by Volkswagen. A two-seater convertible based on a Beetle platform just did not look right to them. Undistracted by this rejection in West Germany, he reached out to Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, Italy to discuss design. What ended up being the final design had it’s origins in one of the “Dream Cars” outlined by Chrysler through the Italian styling and coach building company Ghia.
The first prototype Karmann-Ghia was built in secrecy in 1953. After a long string of design modifications and negotiations, a deal was finally struck: Karmann’s factory was to build and assemble the cars and sell them through the Volkswagen dealer. Closely following the Ghia-built prototype, the amazingly designed car went into production in 1954 and was released in 1955. Because the car had no name as of yet, Karmann simply put his name in front of Ghia’s name in recognition of the important roles they both played in the car’s history.
For the next 19 years, these cars became a hit in every market they were introduced to. What made them particularly unique was that they were mechanically the twin of the Volkswagen Beetle: rear engine, similar chassis, etc. But stylistically, the Karmann-Ghia had an elegant appeal that immediately stuck a chord with people. The sleek European styling and affordability became a very cool and desirable thing in California, especially when the convertible version came out in 1957.
What Californian wouldn’t want to take a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible Karmann-Ghia?!!