The iconic VW Beetle and the beloved VW T1 “love bug” are well-known, but the VW Karmann Ghia stands out as an even more stylish variant. In the early sixties, the unexpected success of VW Beetle sales led VW to explore more captivating projects. With the budget-friendly Beetle and the soon-to-be hippie emblem T1 in their portfolio, VW's leadership pondered the creation of a sports car. Their concept was straightforward: craft an attractive coupe leveraging as many Beetle components as possible.

It’s universally acknowledged that no head-turning two-door sports car is complete without a dash of Italian flair, which is why the styling was masterfully entrusted to the Ghia design studio. The renowned Karmann, already a key collaborator in producing the VW Beetle, ensured impeccable technical execution.

As a result, the VW Karmann Ghia (now known as Type 14) was born in 1955. It was not a pure sports car, but was rather a wolf in sheep's clothing, as its 1.2 engine only had a 30 hp boost. Inside the car, VW Karmann Ghia retained the 2 + 2 seating configuration of the Type 1. Interior trim specification on the car was, as might be expected, designed for comfort. Karman Ghia was rather pricey for the sixties: USD 1281 was equivalent to the price of two standard Beetles. However, with the looks of an expensive Italian coupe and the price of a Volkswagen, the Karmann Ghia never suffered from a lack of customers who were willing to pay extra for this improved little bug, with 10,000 cars being sold by VW in 1956 alone. A cabriolet version of the vehicle was launched in 1957, followed by more powerful versions with a top of the range 1.6-lite 60 hp engine in 1971. By 1974, VW had made 445,000 (coupe + cabriolet) units of the Type 14, the majority of which ended up in the United States.

Due to the legendary reliability of the bug platform, of which we all are well aware, it should not be difficult to find a well-maintained car today. Even though you can expect to pay over 15,000 EUR for a decent Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, it will be a better investment than an ordinary bug, as the price of the Karmann Ghia is now climbing at a faster rate. However, the car in excellent condition could be worth up to 100,000 EUR.

However, the tale doesn't end here. With the Beetle's sales skyrocketing annually and the Karmann Ghia (Type 14) surpassing expectations, VW aimed higher. In 1961, they introduced their most opulent model yet, the 1500 Karmann Ghia Coupe, now recognized as Type 34. Despite sharing a name, the Type 34 bore little resemblance to its predecessor, being based on the newer VW Type 3 platform, unlike the Type 14's Beetle foundation. Due to its shared name but distinct identity, the Type 34 was nicknamed differently across regions: "Der Große Karmann" ("the big Karmann") in Germany, the "Razor Edge Ghia" in the UK, and the "European Ghia" in the USA, where it was never officially sold due to anticipated low demand.

VW Karmann Ghia
VW Karmann Ghia
© Shutterstock

Currently, enthusiasts distinguish these models by their VW platform designations: the classic Ghia as Type 14, and the more modern iteration as Type 34. Despite its luxury features, including an optional electric sunroof, the Type 34 didn't offer enhanced performance over the Type 14, sharing the same engine options of 1.5-liter 53 hp and 1.6-liter 60 hp. Its higher price tag, compared to the Type 14, limited its appeal to customers, resulting in the Type 34 ceasing production in 1969 after 42,505 units were built, five years fewer than its predecessor. For collectors today, the Type 34's rarity and distinctive dual front design, a testament to exceptional Italian craftsmanship, make it a coveted find, although locating one in good condition is challenging, with only a few thousand remaining worldwide.

Whether you lean towards the iconic Type 14 or the elusive and highly collectible Type 34, which is significantly pricier but exponentially rarer, the choice remains a testament to personal taste and the pursuit of rarity.


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The Perfect Classic Car? Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Test Drive! (1970 Import 1500 Road Test)