A Restored 1957 VW Karmann Ghia

The 1957 VW Karmann Ghia featured in this article was a sports car sold by Volkswagen between 1955 and 1974. As it’s name implies, the design and construction of this car was mostly the product of two entities. One was the the Karmann coach builders of Germany and the other was Italian design and coach building company Ghia. Together they would create a signature car for Volkswagen in both coupe and convertible styles. VW had hoped that their new Karmann Ghia would be their image model.

1957 Karmann Ghia
1957 VW Karmann Ghia

The Karmann Ghia Addition to the VW Product Line

The two seat VW Karmann Ghia received an excellent reception from the public. The Karmann coach builders were well known for their hand craftsmanship and Ghia added an Italian flare.

Styling was the product of Luigi Segre of the Ghia Studios. Up to this point Volkswagen was selling only their Beetle and VW Bus and the car buying public was looking for something a bit different. Volkswagen had to emerge out of the German wreckage of World War Two and if they were a bit late with their new offering it was understandable.

A Totally New Design on a Beetle Frame

The VW Karmann Ghia was a completely new body design on a Volkswagen Beetle frame. The Karmann Ghia’s engine was the same as that offered on the VW Beetle, a four cylinder air cooled design. If you compare the Karmann Ghia to the Beetle, the former’s design offered a bit better cornering and better crosswind resistance. The more aerodynamic Karmann Ghia was able to go faster than the Beetle by about 9 miles an hour on average.

karmann ghia rear engine car
Karmann Ghia’s sports car styling and rear engine compartment

In 1958 VW introduced their new Karmann Ghia convertible which was also received well by the car buying public. Karmann Ghia’s sales were running quite well. They built about 10,000 vehicles the very first year.

One drawback to the VW Karmann Ghia was it’s power plant. A four cylinder engine from the Beetle was not exactly what sports cars were about. Chevy found that out when they introduced the Corvette in late 1953 with a six cylinder engine connected to an automatic transmission and sales was well below expectations.  VW did what would be expected. They promoted the car’s unquestionably excellent design and construction and hoped that these attributes would offset any engine size concerns.

By the late 1950’s many sports car manufacturers were talking power and VW was talking four cylinders.  VW made a point of pushing the Karmann Ghia’s  almost hand construction methods. For the most part VW was successful at this and produced some creative and humorous advertising. Karmann Ghia U.S. promotion didn’t begin until the 1960’s.

karmann ghia engine
Restored Karman Ghia engine

What the VW Karmann Ghia offered was a excellently designed and styled car with rounded looks and the best of construction with the economical VW Beetle drivetrain. If you wanted your car to look sporty and high performance wasn’t that important an item, then the economical Karmann Ghia was your car. The 1957 Karmann Ghia coupe sold for around $2,400 and the convertible in 1958 for around $2,700. The Karmann Ghia represented good value and it was economical to operate. The Karmann Ghia was always priced a bit higher than the VW Beetle.

Over the eighteen year run there was not a whole lot changed with the car with the exception of the headlights being raised and mandated safety law modifications. As with all the VW’s there was some engine updating through the years. The VW Karmann Ghia was produced to 1974 after which it was replaced by the VW Rabbit.

1957 Karmann Ghia Specifications

As mentioned above, the Karmann Ghia was manufactured with a four cylinder 36 horsepower air cooled engine taken straight from the VW Beetle. The engine was rear mounted the same as on a VW Beetle.

The Karmann Ghia’s wheelbase was a short 94.5 inches and overall length 163.0 inches. The car’s weight came in at about 2,300 lbs.

Compare the 1957 VW Karmann Ghia to additional cars featured on AutoMuseumOnline found on the links below…

The 1954 Austin Healey 100/4

The Nash Metropolitan

The 1959 MGA

karmann ghia dashboard
1957 Karmann Ghia dashboard

The VW Karmann Ghia Collector Car

These sporty little classic VW Karmann Ghia’s are today relatively inexpensive especially when you consider that they were VW image cars. The karmann Ghia has a place in automobile history as a 1950’s sports car without the expensive bells and whistles. Many collectors of Karmann Ghias cite the car’s quality construction and graceful design.

The VW Karmann Ghia also has good support. The Karmann Ghia Club of North America is a non profit organization dedicated to serving the needs of the Karmann Ghia community. The club also publishes a newsletter, conducts appraisals and hosts functions each year.

Collector prices will vary. You’ll find late 1960’s coupes in mint condition with price tags in the mid teens. Convertibles, as is the case with most classic ones, will most likely get another 50 percent over that figure. You’ll also find some showroom condition vehicles with price tags in the $20,000 plus range.

It’s been reported that old potential Karmann Ghia project car candidates are not easy to find these days. While a lot were produced and most shipped to the U.S., the classic car’s appreciation has been climbing and as of this date a lot of the project cars have been snapped up. If you locate one at a decent price and without a major rust problem you’ll have a good find.

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)