As is the case with many iconic cars, it all started with a dream... In the early '50s Wilhelm Karmann, head of the car manufacturer of Osnabrück, dreamt of an open-topped spider based on the Volkswagen Beetle.
Things got serious when, in the spring of 1953, he commissioned his friend Luigi Segre, owner of Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin, to design a convertible sports car. As early as that October, Karmann inspected the result in a garage in Paris, and was very pleased, even though the car presented to him was not a spider, but a closed coupe.
Karmann wasn't the only one who was impressed. The elegant prototype also seduced Volkswagen’s Managing Director at the time, Heinrich Nordhoff, and the decision was made to develop a production model.
The result was a car that combined reliable Beetle tech with a body design bristling with Italian elegance. A larger front seating area, two beautiful round dials, and a top speed of 116 km/h gave the car considerable sporting appeal. After minor changes to the bodywork – including the addition of those characteristic air vents in the front of the car – the production-ready coupé was presented to the media on 14 July 1955 at the Casino Hotel in Georgsmarienhütte. The elegant Karmann Ghia Coupé (Type 14) was an immediate hit there, just as it was at the car’s official launch at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1955.
Production started in August 1955, and what followed was a long production life that spanned 19 years.
Two years after the coupe's introduction, Karmann's original dream of an open-topped spider came true when a convertible was added to the line-up. “The dream car for fastidious motorists who love to drive fast, even with the roof down,” claimed the sales brochure in 1958.
The Karmann Ghia was retired in 1974, with 362 601 coupes and 80 881 convertibles built, respectively.
The final Volkswagen Karmann Ghia was finished in a Phoenix Red paintjob. Up until now, it has only been possible to view this car in Volkswagen’s own car collection at Volkswagen Osnabrück. At the 2020 Bremen Classic Motorshow, Volkswagen Classic is giving the public access to the last car of its type – for the first time.
The Bremen Classic Motorshow starts on Friday 31 January and continues until Sunday February 2nd.