What Is It?

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Readers turned out in great numbers to identify last week’s car. All but one entry correctly named it as a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. The car shown was a 1962 model, but we didn’t ask you to be that specific.

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What is it?  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
What is it?

Chosen from the correct entries was Joe Arp, of Watkinsville, Ga., who told us:

“I had a roommate as a student at UGA in 1970 who had an Army green Karmann Ghia. Following a rigorous spring quarter study session at the pool at Callaway Gardens Apartments in Athens,, we felt it to be our duty to draw, cut out, and tape white stars to the Ghia’s doors and go on patrol for the rest of the day.

“I proudly report that we found no enemies at any of Athens’ finest watering holes during the remainder of that particular day while we were on patrol. The VW Karmann Ghia was truly a terrific vehicle!”

Arp wins a prize from The Augusta Chronicle. Other readers identifying the vehicle were:

AIKEN: James Wittig said: “It was a sharp car when it came out, and still is. I’d love to own one. I keep my eyes out for one. They’re very hard to find and are probably going to be very expensive when you do find one. They were designed by the same people who designed Porsche automobiles.”

Pat Chianese said: “I had a 1960 myself.”

Hans Basner wrote: “Submitted by an ex-owner of two of them”

Also: Raymond Richards

APPLING: Dr. John Boutwell

AUGUSTA: Earnest Brighthop said: “I owned one a long time ago. Real fine car; I kept it a long time. I bought it used and kept it awhile. Then I got three cars and let the Karmann Ghia go.”

Gerald Byrd said the Ghia is “a pretty cool little car.”

Lee Casey said: “I remember when I was a Cub Scout, our Scoutmaster used to have one and would drive me to the meetings and back. An awesome vehicle.”

Robert Fulton said the car had “Volkswagen running gear with a body by Ghia and built by Karmann of Germany.”

Victor Loftiss wrote: “The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia was often referred to as ‘the poor man’s Porsche.’ I helped a buddy rebuild the engine of his Karmann Ghia convertible a number of years ago when I lived in Columbus, Ga. It was a lot of fun to drive and always got a lot of positive response wherever it was driven. Thanks for reminding me of that car.”

David Sitler wrote: “I worked on my brother’s a lot.”

Gary Engen wrote: “I happened to live in Heidelberg, Germany, with my military parents in 1955 when the Karmann Ghia was first introduced and it quickly became a hot item and a much cheaper option than Porsche or other European sports cars of the day. I have owned an old Porsche 356 coupe and I often got stopped by folks asking if it was a Karmann Ghia … looks are somewhat similar.”

Also: Elliott Adams, Gerald Byrd, Cornelius Stallmann, John Hayes, Lowell Fritsche, Sheila Stahl, Charlie Weaver, Mary Bell, Joe Benson and Paul Sladky

CANTON, GA.: David Anderson wrote: “Since the Karmann Ghia never went through a complete redesign during its nearly 20 year run, the exact model year cannot be determined simply by a visual inspection. The only updates were for the mechanical changes Volkswagen made to the humble Beetle underpinnings, rear-mounted, air-cooled boxer engine and front suspension, and to meet the evolving federal safety standards.

“Basically however, a 1974 Karmann Ghia with its super exorbitant 60-horsepower engine does not look much different from the one that started it all with its more restrained 36 horsepower engine. All of the Karmann Ghia clubs around the world recommend that the chassis number (what we now call the VIN) be used to verify the year of any car you might be considering purchasing.

“Believe it or not, this car has an interesting connection to the recent What Is It feature vehicle, the 1948 Tucker. Several years before its introduction in 1955, Volkswagen had contacted the German coachbuilding firm Karmann to produce a Beetle chassis-based sports car. Volkswagen subsequently rejected all of Karmann’s proposals, so Karmann approached the Turin, Italy design studio of Carrozzeria Ghia to build a prototype. Karmann and Ghia then jointly presented that completed prototype to Volkswagen management and the rest, as they say, is history.

“So where’s the Tucker connection? Preston Tucker was the overall genius behind the Tucker, but he turned to ex Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg stylist Virgil Exner to design his dream. After the collapse of Tucker, Exner moved on to Chrysler, where he helped pen most of their 1950s concept cars. He also did some early work for Ghia, including one called the Coupe D’Elegance. Exner’s design debuted at the 1952 auto shows as the Chrysler d’Elegance Ghia Coupe so the 1950 timeframe is when Exner would have initially come up with his design.

“Exner claimed that the Karmann Ghia was based on his design, while Ghia claimed one of their own stylists, Mario Boano, came up with the design. The actual designer was never ‘officially’ identified, and automotive historians have agreed that most likely the final design of the little sports car that had the looks, but not the guts, was influenced by both Exner and Boano.

“So there you have it. A single automotive designer link between the most flamboyant automotive failure in history and one of the most successful sports cars in history. It is apparently no mistake that both designs are instantly recognizable and never confused with anything else.”

EVANS: Jeff Brown wrote: “The car is a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. That part was pretty simple. The year is tough. I think its mid 1960s, probably a 1965.”

Jerry Paul correctly guessed the car in the photo was a 1962 model.

PJ Rodgers wrote: “I especially liked the ragtop version.”

Larry Heath wrote: “This car originated in the mid-1950s. It is a VW Beetle underneath (chassis and running gear) with a Ghia-designed body. The actual body was made in Germany and then fitted to the VW chassis. It continued in existence until 1974. It was essentially replaced by the Porsche 914 model, which originated in the early 1970s and which was also VW based.”

Bill Harding wrote: “The Karmann Ghia was a Volkswagen Bug with a nicely styled (by Italian coachbuilder Ghia) coupe or convertible body. The final assembly was in Osnabruck, Germany. The car was exported to the U.S. from 1955 to 1974. For the 1968 edition of Get Smart it replaced a Sunbeam Tiger as the vehicle driven by agent Maxwell Smart.”

Also, Charlene Czuszak and Sandra Saul

FRANKLIN, N.C.: Dale Sanford wrote: “The automobile pictured is a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia which a stylish Italian inspired body on a VW beetle chassis and powerplant. The name came from the German coach builder Karmann and the Italian Ghia automotive design companies. It featured a unibody construction with the body being welded together instead of having the fenders bolted on as in the case of the popular Beetle.

“The Karmann Ghia was built from 1955-74, when it was replaced by the Scirocco. My guess as to the year would be either a 1960 or a 1964 based on the bumper guards and the clear or white turn signal lens. VW called it a 2+2 style instead of a sports car. In 1957 they also came out with a convertible model. I always wished my parents would get one, but they always opted for the Beetle because of the price difference.”

GRANITEVILLE: Ted Stringfield said it was a “sharp little car.”

GROVETOWN: Paul Buskirk, Keith Barnes and John Robelen

HEPHZIBAH: Ralph Whitton wrote: “During the lifespan of the Karmann Ghia there were three different models, the Type 14, Type 34 and the TC. Type 14 bodies had little or no body style modifications over the production run, mostly headlight, taillight, bumper and side air vents.

“Production of the Type 14 cars was moved to Brazil from 1962 through 1972. Those Type 14 bodies had no body changes except for vent windows, bumper and taillight assemblies. I worked at a Shell full-service gas station back in the ’60’s when service was really service (fill it up, check the oil, water, brake fluid and power steering fluids and wash the windshield for the customer) as apposed to today’s prepay/pump it yourself and check your own fluids. Sorry, waxing a little nostalgic there … the good old days. I serviced a ’64 or ’65 Karmann Ghia and it was aqua, as it seemed all the ’64 or ’65s were that color. Don’t recall seeing that color much on any other years. That and the clear turn signal lens makes me think ’60s.”

Also: Leo Bennett, Eddie Pettis and Paula Reese

KEYSVILLE, GA.: Glenn Widner wrote: “It looks like a mid-’60’s car by the bumper and parking light. I had one Volkswagen in my life, and I believe I pushed it farther than I drove it.”

LOUISVILLE, GA.: Robert L. Holbert wrote: “It could be any year in the 1960s since there were few changes to them. It was VW’s entry in the sports car market designed by an Italian design group who, I believe, designed Alfa Romeos, hence the somewhat lookalike Ghia.”

MARTINEZ: Pastor David Keener wrote: “One of the preferred rides of agent Maxwell Smart.”

Jim Muraski wrote: “VW debuted this model in the October 1953 Paris Auto Show as a concept car and after being well-received, began production in August 1955. Production continued through 1974 with only minor styling changes with the exception of 1961 when a Type 34 variant was produced featuring a totally different angular body style. I’m not sure what exact year this featured car is but I’m going to say it’s in the 1962-69 range because of the grille and parking light configuration.”

Also: Perry Austin and Jeff J. Miller

NORTH AUGUSTA: Don Ash said: “I have a 1961 VW now that has been completely reconditioned. I’ve had four or five. I bought a new one in 1971. It cost $1,495 brand new.”

Chris Cooper said he has always been a “Volkswagen man”: “I have a 1979 Super Beetle convertible.”

Michael Stripling said: “I never entered the contest before because didn’t know what it was, but this time I’m sure!”

Also: Jacob Hebbard, Camille Person, Frank Harmuth, Jimmy Benson, David Davis, David Frazier, Bob Shimp, David Clark and Dan Hillman

PERRY, FLA.: Larry Anderson wrote: “The name derives from the Italian designer that worked for Ghia and the German coach-builder Karmann. It was marketed in the U.S. from 1955 till 1974. Built on the Beetle chassis. Hard to tell the year but guessing from the turn lights I would say a 1962-65 model, also because of the lights i would say it was one that was built in Brazil’s Karmann factory, not in Germany.”

SANDERSVILLE, GA.: Bill Hall

TRENTON, S.C.: John Stevens

NO CITY LISTED: Gary Fuller said: “I had a chance to buy one in 1960 for a thousand dollars, but I found out it was good for only about 75 miles an hour so I let it go and bought a 1950 Ford Custom.”

Pat Henchy said: “My husband got one when he came home from Vietnam.”

Julie Badger wrote: “Maybe a 1964. What a great car. “

Ed Belinski wrote: “This week’s car is none other than the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, probably early 1960s. My first car was an old 1961 Beetle (Model 111). My college car was a 1973 Super Beetle (Model 113) with the curved windshield. One of my high school girlfriends drove a red Ghia, the rear seat being not more than a foam pad.

“When we traveled any distance we took my Beetle because it had more room. One of my memories of going to college was I had everything I owned, including my three-speed bicycle, in the trunk or the back seat of the 1973 Beetle. Thanks for bringing back the memories.”

Also: Waylon Moore, Greg Elijah, Thomas Glenn, Wesley McCarthy, Andy Philipp, Charles Miles, Bobby Daniel, David Ball and Max Blanco.

NEXT WEEK’S CONTEST

Can you tell us the make and model of this 2013 vehicle? If you know what it is, call (706) 823-3419 or send an e-mail to glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com.

Please tell us your name and telephone number and city. Spell your name if you call. We had to omit several entries this week because callers’ names were unintelligible.

You have until noon Wednesday to respond. A winner will be chosen randomly. If you win, let us know when you would like to pick up your prize.

– Glynn Moore, staff writer


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