Restoring nothing but Karmann
Ghias for over 25
years, I'm often asked after a brief (or sometimes never ending) description:
"Is this a good car to restore?"
My answer, in general terms, is that the Karmann
Ghia is much like a
Mustang or Corvette...Sharp unique design, old enough, interesting history, and
is well recognized.
terms, the attitude of the restorer usually falls between "How much money can I make off this
thing?", to "She's been a member
of our family for 25 years!" If you're the latter, you can stop
reading now....it is as they say a pure "Labor of Love". If you're concerned
with saving money and time (which can also increase enjoyment), choosing a good
Ghia is the 1st and most important step in the restoration process. Below are
area that will help you weigh out purchase price vs. cost to
#1: Beware of first impressions!! Good
restoration projects often look bad and likewise, some very bad cars look good
at first. To make things simple, let's rank by importance, the three main areas
of restoration: #1 Body, #2 Mechanical, and #3 Upholstery.
important is the upholstery because if everything is bad, one can currently do a
nice stock interior for around $1500.00 to $1800.00 complete. Give me something
that was used as a hen house or wolverine cage. This will cost about the same to
restore as an interior that's "a bit
tattered" or "needs some
TLC" (as ads often say), but you will most likely pay much less for
the “hen house” Ghia.
When it comes
to the mechanical, everything (with the exception of front disc brakes on '67 or
later Ghias) is the same as the
Beetle (which is also to say, very available and reasonably inexpensive). Like
upholstery, there is a price ceiling, and you’re finished with something near
100% of new original.
us to our #1 concern...The
interior and mechanical, which can be only so bad, (at which point you replace
everything) when fixing the Ghia body, the sky is the limit, price time and loss
of sanity wise. Sheet metal body parts cost two to ten times that of a Beetle
and all fenders must be welded, not bolted on. To make matters worse, unlike the
interior and mechanical which can be restored nearly 100%....the body usually
rust or collision damage, even serious damage, is most often preferred to minor
rust and/or collision damage spread throughout a Ghia's body and floor
rockers (inner and outer) used to be the end of a Ghia until 1995 when complete
rockers once again became available.
are rusted, also look for rust or openings where they connect to the wheel
wells. In an exploded body view, one can see that the seams below the doors are
where the rockers go under the
fender metal and then continues all the way from one inner wheel well to the
other. In a convertible, this area is critical because not only are the rockers
the only thing that connects the front of the body to the rear, they also
contain an extra support "beam" inside their structure. A good test of a
convertibles' integrity is to open both doors, stand on top of the rocker with
one hand on the windshield frame and lightly bounce. If the windshield frame
"wobbles" or "flexes" in different directions, work is needed in the
just in front of the rear seat is where rust is likely found in the floor pan.
If rust is found in the front foot well area, a close inspection for rust in the
rear sections of the inner front fenders should be made.
areas of rust are at the bottoms of both the doors and rear deck lid. The outer
skin of both of these structures fold up and under. Besides obvious holes,
beginning rust is indicated by a swelling or unevenness in these areas. Also
check the spare tire well, under the battery, as well as a good general look
over the whole car.
In respect to
collision damage, always check the front nose by how "crisp" the center ridge
looks. This ridge should look the same from the front of the hood down to just
above the horn opening underneath. Look at the inner front fender structure and
nose from inside the front trunk. Previous collisions will show as wrinkles in
the front and sides of these areas. Another important area to avoid problems is
the around the headlights. The edge of the inner bucket should protrude beyond
the edge of the fender. If this area has been damaged, headlight & trim ring
fitting will be difficult or impossible. Luckily, all the sheet metal is
available for this area. Be sure to inspect the engine compartment as well for
collision and rust damage.
may help you get the purchase price down, but actually cost you no more in
restoration. Parts such as side chrome molding, other bright work, all
upholstery, and any parts made out of rubber are all replaced in
restoration....missing or not. On a higher end, i.e.; more complete restoration,
the windshield, turn and taillight lenses would also be
don't want missing are: BumperS,
rear fold down glass on convertibles (69 1/2 & later) and the convertible
top frame. Even in bad shape, these parts can either be restored, or have good
trade-in value for better parts. A lot of Ghia People buy and swap parts amongst
themselves, so almost all extra parts are a plus.
1960 & 1967 Ghias can be particularly difficult to restore because of a lot
of 1 year only parts (especially the '60), so these cars should be very
for the purchaser is the "basket case". This is an otherwise complete Ghia that
(typically) had the restoration started, then the owner lost interest. This may
be a good choice for someone who has already done a partial or full Ghia
restoration and can identify most, if not all the parts separate from the car.
Be sure to check the fit and alignment of any parts separated from the Ghia
(such as bulb-holders, trim rings, doors, deck lids, etc.) during the bodywork
phase. If any of these parts are damaged, replace with undamaged parts before
starting the body work. This is time very well spent before the paint goes on, so do it!!.
styling, many people (myself included) think the older (more classic) the
better. But of course, "To each his own". Major styling changes are grouped as
56-59: Small front vent
openings with double bar vent grills and small "coffin" shaped tail lights.
Front fenders slope down which led to the common “Low Light nick
a. 56-57 shared
steering wheels with the Bug, 58-59 was uniquely Ghia with wheel spokes off
center from the center hub and a unique horn ring and button.
b. Front turn
signals changed mid year 59. Earlier were same vintage Bus style (large chrome
sleeve covering a raised body section) with side mounted screws holding a
plastic lens. Later is a solid chrome base with a thin ring with forward mounted
screws holding a glass lens. This style continued through mid
60-69: Larger "tear
drop" front vent openings (to end of production), Slightly larger "cats eye"
has 1" wide chrome trim strip running across the dash face.
b. 67-71 New dash
with centered speedometer & very small fuel gauge & clock. Also plastic
wood grain laminate over the dash face.
c. 68 on, fuel
filler in right fender, new "trigger" exterior door handles (as opposed to thumb
actuated button), and ignition switch in steering column.
d. Mid year 69
gets a new convertible top assemble featuring side securing latches and a fold
down glass rear window.
70-71: Larger 9" tail
light with flat face, wrap around front turn signals with side reflectors.
Shortened bows (tubes) on rear bumper to accommodate wrap around rear reflectors
for N. American market.
72-74: Huge 13" tail
lights, larger one piece blade bumper, updated black dash face, two large black
faced "tunnel" gauges, four spoke steering wheel with large center horn
back seat in '73 and 74 (in USA only), just
“The Ghia Guy”