Why The Karmann Ghia is VW's Best Car
My thoughts on why this beautiful classic is the best car made by the people who make the Beetle.
In 1955, Volkswagen produced the Karmann Ghia. Volkswagen wanted to make something that could compete with other manufacturers in the sports car category. 10 years after the first Karmann Ghia was made, there have been only few changes to the design and performance and that is it. Being 53 years old does not mean this Karmann Ghia, or any other Karmann Ghia in that matter, is the worst Volkswagen made. Actually, it is quite the opposite. Volkswagen has made plenty of cars since this era and none of them have come close to being the overall best. I shall now say why the Karmann Ghia is the best car VW has produced since a friend of mine let me use their VW for this review.
One reason why the Karmann Ghia is the best car made by VW is due to its fancy styling. Thanks to Volkswagen for asking Carrozzeria Ghia (the gentleman who owns and ran the Ghia coach building company) to assist in building a sports car. People loved the design from all over the world. The Karmann Ghia is honestly one of the most beautiful cars to ever roam the streets of civilization. The curves and lines mixed with some of the flaring reminds me of the times that I never will be able to visit. The Golf, Passat, Jetta, or any other Volkswagen nowadays, or ever, turned as many heads compared to the Karmann Ghia. It is elegant in every way in its looks. Especially where the rear quarter panels should be with those arch lines around the wheels. I think that is one of the reasons to why it is so majestic looking; it doesn't have any cuts in it to ruin the lines from flowing. The only problem is that getting any kind of damage on the body that is not on the doors, hood, or trunk, is going to be quite costly. The last thing I love to point out is that the front fascia looks like the car is making the permanent face of saying "Oh."
Like most sports cars, the Karmann Ghia doesn't offer much room for the people who want to ride in the back. What it does offer though is a stylish interior that functions to almost a basic level. There is no sense of luxury offered inside - just a basic radio next to what appears to be a convenient spot to place a cigarette lighter and ash tray. Heating and air-conditioning work through the levers around the E-Brake that are colored red and white. There are vents near each persons foot by the door that let in the hold/cold air. The trick is the faster I went, the hotter or colder the air was that came through. The wipers, since it was raining, work, but they're so cute when I paid attention to them. They're as small as my hand is long. My favorite piece of artwork, as my friend mentioned to me, is the Roman numerals on the speedometer that indicate what gear is either best or appropriate for the speeds they were above. The seats, on the other hand, were as comfortable as a stack of cardboard boxes complete with the lumbar support of a stick holding a crate up for a bunny trap like in the cartoons. The seat belts (since this car was built in 1965), are not over the shoulder. They only go over the lap like a sketchy wooden roller coaster. The one thing that I especially liked was the steering wheel. Even though it was as thin as a slice of bread, it looked unique in a beautiful way. The best thing however, is definitely the visibility. Since the "A" pillars are as slim as the handles on a refrigerator door, there is no interference with my vision as I look around for cars. I can't say that about today's cars.
Performance, I wish, was just as good as it looks. Sadly, when the Karmann Ghia came out, it received the same engine as the Beetle. It made a mere 40 horsepower. The one I drove had around 60 horsepower out of the flat 4 cylinder boxer engine. It was mated to a four speed manual transmission with the three pedals the were as spread apart as penguin steps. It didn't help that the brakes were all drum but I had to sit back and think that this is the mid 1960s. Not everyone had disc brakes. The clutch was not as difficult to press in as I thought but the gears were confusing since they were sloppy. Reverse was tricky to get into but first through fourth gear was crazy. I thought, at times, I was in neutral, since I check by wiggling the knob around from left to right. As it turned out, when I was coming to a stop, the Karmann Ghia would almost stall out. I was able to correct this in a short amount of time. Getting from a dead stop to moving proved a bit challenging since the Karmann Ghia barely had enough horses to get itself out of its way, I had to be sure to commit to either staying put or going. With everything that goes on in getting the Karmann Ghia to move, it is quite a rewarding feeling to be able to go through the gears and plant my foot all the way to the floorboard. It tells me I have done it and this is everything the car can give. In a Golf, I can't go through every gear and keep my foot planted to the ground. Why? I will crash, that is why. Acceleration in any gear in the Karmann Ghia is alright in my book but I can tell it barely moves or gets to speed in a fast manner. The best thing, in performance, this car has is the steering and suspension. It keeps the body roll to a not so bad minimum. The steering is not powered but at higher speeds than 5 miles an hour, it is quite responsive. It gets light after some time but it always provides the feedback from the tires. If I were to ever race with a Karmann Ghia, I would never in though. But that is okay when even VW makes a flyer for the Karmann Ghia that says "You Lose," meaning it can't win at anything that involves racing. But it wins in styling.
Overall, it doesn't seem like the Karmann Ghia is the best VW made but look deeper and it will be revealed that it indeed is. Despite it's flaws, I must remember the time that it was built. VW went for a sports car that was not only beautiful, but it could almost always be driven to its limits. The only way today's cars will be able to be driven like that is on a track. Not only that, but come on, it is the best looking VW of them all.
I would like to take a moment and thank my friend Mike for letting me use his car for this review.
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