Karmann Ghia


Nov 29th, 2021

Karmann Ghia

Today, it's hard to imagine a kid with a poster of some VW model on his bedroom wall. The German car giant has always been known for making great but not particularly attractive cars. However, there were some exceptions during the brand's long history, and the VW Karmann Ghia is undoubtedly one of them.

The legendary coupe was in production for nearly two decades, and it is still one of the most iconic VWs that has ever been in production. 

The Karmann Ghia is famous for its sleek coupe design. What’s interesting about it is that it’s a product of three companies that joined forces to make a halo car for VW, a carmaker primarily known for the affordable and extremely popular VW Beetle.

Today, the Karmann Ghia is a classic car that enjoys respectable value and great popularity among car enthusiasts.

The First Generation of Karmann Ghia (1960-1970)

The development of this sports car started in the 1950s. At the time, VW was known for making simple and cheap cars, such as the legendary Beetle. However, the company wanted something more, and the goal was to create a halo car, which would build up the brand's reputation and make it more desirable among car enthusiasts.

Three companies were needed to design this coupe. Besides VW, this car is also a product of the company called Karmann, which was already in close relation with the Wolfsburg company, as it was responsible for the convertible variant of the VW Beetle.

Still, the new model needed a gorgeous design as well, and logically, VW contacted Italians. More precisely, a company called Carrozzeria Ghia, which was already a significant name in car design companies. The styling was an integrated work of Mario Boano, Sergio Coggiola, Giovanni Savonuzzi and Luigi Segre (owner of Carrozzeria Ghia).

As a result, we saw a sleek coupe design, which was gorgeous from the outside but surprisingly familiar under the skin. VW didn't have time and resources to build this car from the ground up, so instead, it borrowed a platform from the Beetle.

The initial version was presented in 1953 in Paris, and after a few more prototypes, the production eventually started in 1955. The car remained in production for a full 19 years until 1974. For all these years, the styling remained pretty much the same, and most of the updates were about the powertrain.

In Australia, the Karmann Ghia debuted in 1960 and remained available until 1970. Besides the coupe version, this model was also available as a convertible, but such a version was never offered in Australia.


As we've just mentioned, the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia was the Beetle's mechanical twin. The two models shared most of the parts, referring to the same framed platform and suspension components. Like the Beetle, this coupe featured kingpin front suspension design with transverse torsion bars and upper/lower trailing arms. 

Things weren’t much different on the other end either, where the Karmann Ghia was equipped with swing axles that feature trailing arms and a torsion bar. Drum brakes were installed on both ends of the car.

Like the Beetle, the Karman Ghia featured the RR layout, with the rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel-drive.

The styling was gorgeous, and the dimensions were compact, reducing the weight and improving driving characteristics. The car weighed less than 800 kg, which is no wonder considering the total length of 4,140 mm. The coupe measured 2,400 mm in wheelbase, and it was 1,636 millimetres wide and 1,331 millimetres high.

Karmann Ghia Dimensions:

  • Wheelbase: 2,400 mm
  • Length: 4,140 mm
  • Width: 1,636 mm
  • Height: 1,331 mm
  • Front Track: 1,306 mm
  • Rear Track: 1,288 mm
  • Weight: ≈800 kg

Karman Ghia Engines

The first time we saw Karmann Ghia for sale in Australia was in 1960, and the model featured the initial setup of the car, which included the Beetle's 1200cc four-cylinder petrol engine. Of course, the engine was air-cooled and featured a max output of 25 kW and 82 Nm of max torque, which was enough to provide a top speed of 120 km/h. The engine was paired with a 4-speed manual transmission.

Karman Ghia 1200 Specs:

  • Engine Size: 1192 cc
  • Number of Cylinders: 4
  • Fuel: Leaded Petrol
  • Max Output: 25 kW
  • Max Torque: 82 Nm
  • Transmission: 4-speed manual
  • Top Speed: 120 km/h

In 1964, a new engine was introduced for the higher "S" grade. This version featured a bigger 1.5-litre engine with more power and torque (32 kW, 100 Nm) and which was paired with a 4-speed manual gearbox. A few years later, the engine was upgraded to 39.5 kW, while the final version of this engine featured max output of 42 kW.

The 1966 model year brought another engine update, this time, the base 1.2-litre engine was upgraded, with the displacement increased to 1.3 litres and max output to 33.5 kW.

Two years later, base models were equipped with a bigger and more powerful 1.5-litre engine, while the new “L” grade was introduced as the new range-topping model. This was the most powerful version of the car, with a 1.6-litre engine and a max output of 45 kW.

That was a relatively respectable power by European standards at the time. For comparison, the most powerful Porsche 911 of the same age was good for about 92 kilowatts.

Is Karmann Ghia a Porsche or VW?

People often get confused about this because Karmann did a lot of projects with Porsche. This company had a big role in designing, producing, and assembling numerous cars, including several Porsche models. The most famous are models like Porsche 356, 911, 912, and 914, to name a few.

Karmann also worked with carmakers like Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, and VW, and there were several convertible versions of different Golf and Beetle generations. Nevertheless, this particular model is unmistakably a Volkswagen.

What is the best year for Karmann Ghia?

There is no straight answer to this question, but if you ask VW enthusiasts, they will say anything before the 1970 model is a good pick. Collectors particularly love model years like '67 or '69, and models with bigger engines are particularly popular. Still, if you plan to buy some of these, keep in mind that the prices have skyrocketed in the last couple of years.

If you need replacement parts for your classic car, or you want to advertise your Karmann Ghia for sale, you can register on our website, and we will find the best deals for you.

By Nebojsa Grmusa