41,689 built 
São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil
|Body style(s)||2-door convertible
|Engine(s)||1.5 & 1.6 L F4|
The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, internally designated the Type 14, was a 2+2 marketed from 1955 to 1974 by Volkswagen in coupe and convertible bodystyles — combining the chassis and mechanicals of the Type 1, evocative styling by the Italian carrozzeria Ghia, and hand-built bodywork by German coach-builder Karmann.
The combination proved instantly successful for VW; production doubled soon after its introduction, and the Type 14 became the most imported car in the U.S. American industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague selected the Type 14 for his list of the world's most beautifully designed products.
Volkswagen introduced a later variant in 1961, the Type 34 — featuring a less curvacious bodywork and based on the newly introduced Type 3 platform.
Over 445,000 Karmann Ghias were produced in Germany over the car's production life — not including the Type 34 variant. Karmann Brazil produced 41,600 cars locally for South America between 1962 and 1975.
In the early 1950s, Volkswagen was producing small, fuel efficient, reliable automobiles (like the Type 1). As the world recovered from World War II, consumers began to demand more stylish and elegant vehicles. Executives at Volkswagen decided to produce an "image" car for post-war buyers. The Type 14, VW's venture into the sports car market, was created in 1956. While it had limited power for a sports car, its stylish looks and reasonable price made sales strong.
Volkswagen contracted with German coachbuilder Karmann to build this car. Karmann in turn contracted the Italian firm Ghia for a sports car design. Ghia took an existing, but unused, design (originally intended for Chrysler or Studebaker) and modified it to fit a slightly modified Beetle floorpan which had been widened some 12 inches (300 mm).
The body and nose of the Type 14 were handcrafted and significantly more expensive to produce than the assembly line-produced Beetle, which was reflected in the Type 14's higher price. Instead of fenders bolted and pre-welded together, as with the Beetle, body panels were butt-welded and hand-shaped and smoothed with English pewter in a time-consuming and expensive process. At the time the Type 14 was built, only the manufacturers of the finest cars took similar care.
The design and prototype were well received by Volkswagen executives, and in August 1955 the first Type 14 was manufactured in Osnabrück, Germany. Public reaction to the curvy Type 14 was excellent, and over 10,000 were sold in the first year, exceeding Volkswagen's expectations.
Since all Type 14s used the same Volkswagen air cooled engine as the Beetle, the car was not suitable as a true sports car, but the car's styling and "Beetle reliable" parts compensated for this shortfall. The Type 14 also shared engine development with the Beetle as the Type 1 engine grew larger over time, finally arriving at an engine displacement of 1584 cc which produced about 60 horsepower (45 kW).
In August 1957, a cabriolet (convertible) version was introduced. Although often called the "1958 model" by some, the Detroit automakers' trend of calling models manufactured in August of a year as the next year's model was not adopted by Germany until at least 1965. In August 1964, the Vehicle Identification Number on VWs started showing the last digit of the year as the 3rd digit of the VIN. As with other automobiles, multiple changes were made to VW models during the model years, including early Type 14s.
Notable exterior changes in 1961 included the car's new wider, finned front grilles, raised headlight relocation, and rear taillight lenses which became taller and more rounded. Cars made from 1955 to 1959 are referred to as "lowlights," due to the lower placement of the headlights. The Italian designer Sergio Sartorelli, designer of Type 34, took part to the various restyling of Type 14, until he worked for Ghia.
In 1970 larger tail lights integrated the reverse lights and larger wrap-around turn signals in contrast to the earlier "bullet" style lights. VW models of this era have earned the slang nickname fat chicks. Larger and wider tailights in 1972 increased side visibility. 1973 modifications included larger energy-absorbing bumpers and the provision of a package shelf in lieu of the modest rear seat.
In 1961, Volkswagen introduced the Type 34, based on its new Type 3 platform, featuring Volkswagen's new 1500 cc engine, and styling by Italian engineer, Sergio Sartorelli. Due to model confusion with the release of the Type I 1500 in 1967, the public dubbed the Type 34 the "Razor's Edge Ghia" in England, "Der Große Karmann" (the big Karmann) in Germany and "European Ghia" in the United States.
An electrically operated sliding steel sunroof was optional in 1963. The styling offered more interior and cargo room than the original Karmann Ghia.
Until it was replaced by the VW-Porsche 914, it was the most expensive and luxurious passenger car VW manufactured in the 1960s – back then you could have purchased two basic Beetles for the price of one Type 34 in many markets. The comparatively high price meant it never generated high demand, and only 42,505 (plus 17 prototype convertibles ) were built over the car’s entire production life between 1962 and 1969 (roughly 5,000 a year). Today, the Type 34 is considered a semi-rare collectible.
Although the Type 34 was available in most countries, it was not offered officially in the USA – VW’s largest and most important export market – another reason for its low sales numbers. Many still made their way to the USA (most via Canada), and the USA has the largest number of known Type 34s left in the world (400 of the total 1,500 to 2,000 or so remaining).
Like its Type 14 brother, the Type 34 was styled by the Italian design studio Ghia. There are some similar styling influences, but the Type 14 Ghia looks very different from the Type 34. The chassis is also a major difference between the cars: the Type 14 shares its chassis with a Beetle, whereas the Type 34 body is mounted on the Type 3 chassis and drive train (the same as in a Squareback/Notchback/Fastback) – all distinguished by a flattened “pancake” engine that provides a front and rear boot. The Type 34 is consequently mechanically the same as other Type 3s. All bodywork, interior, glass, bumpers, and most of the lenses are unique to the Type 34.
The Wilhelm Karmann factory assembly line which assembled the Type 34 also produced the Porsche 914 — the Type 34's replacement.
The Karmann Ghia TC was developed to replace the Type 1 based Karmann Ghia in Brazil. It was built from 1970 to 1975 and given the Type 145 designation. It was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro at the Italdesign studios in Turin, Italy. The TC (Touring Coupe) was based on the Brazilian Type 3, as such, it has the Type 3's drivetrain and running gear.
|Volkswagen Passenger Cars timeline, European market, 1950–1979 — a marque of the Volkswagen Group — next »|
|economy car||. . . Beetle (Type 1) . . .|
|supermini||Polo Mk1 . . .|
|Derby Mk1 . . .|
|small family car||Type 3||Golf Mk1 . . .|
|K70 (NSU)||Passat Mk1 . . .|
|coupé||Karmann Ghia||Scirocco I . . .|
|Type 34 Karmann Ghia||VW-Porsche 914|
|utility vehicle||Type 181 Kurierwagen/Trekker . . .|
|founder: Deutsche Arbeitsfront • Volkswagen corporate website • A marque of the Volkswagen Group|
|Volkswagen Passenger Cars timeline, North American market, 1950–1979 — a marque of the Volkswagen Group — next »|
|economy||Beetle (Type 1)|
|compact||Fastback / Squareback (Type 3)||Rabbit I|
|coupé||Karmann Ghia||Scirocco I|
|Karmann Ghia Convertible|
|van||Microbus (Type 2 - T1)||Microbus (Type 2 - T2)|
|utility||181 Thing / Safari|
|founder: Deutsche Arbeitsfront • Volkswagen corporate website • A marque of the Volkswagen Group • Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. • Volkswagen Group of America corporate website • North American Volkswagen engines|