The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia was produced as a 2+2 coupe from 1955 through 1974 and as a 2+2 convertible from 1957 through 1974. It had styling by Italy's Carrozzeria Ghia with the hand-built bodywork performed by German coachbuilding house, Karmann. The mechancial and chassis components were of the Type 1 Beetle.
The prototype was debuted at the 1953 Paris Auto Show as a styling concept by Ghia. The prior year, at the 1952 Paris Auto Show, Chrysler displayed a Ghia built, Virgil Exner designed showcar called the d'Elegance. Comparing the two vehicles, it is easy to see the many similarities. The designs were very similar, however the mechanical layout was drastically different, with the Karmann Ghia having its engine it he rear. Both had a beak-like bumper and similar creased bodylines. The fenders were different, with the Karmann Ghia being more smooth and round. The front was also different as the Chrysler required a grille to allow air into the engine. The Karmann did not.
During the 1950s, Chrysler and Ghia had a partnership that resulted in several show and concept cars.
The production version of the Karmann Ghia followed in 1955 and during its first year, over 10,000 examples were sold.
After a decade of production, Karmann contracted the Carrozzeria Ghia to create a design that would be a faithful, worthy and a modern successor to the original creation. Designer Giorgetto Giugiaro (an employee of Ghia at the time), who's previous work included the Maserati Ghibli, was given the task of creating the design. Giugiaro's resume also included working for Bertone at the age of 19, where many famous designs followed including the Alfa Romeo 200 Spring, the Gordon Keeble GT, the Iso Rivolta, Iso Grifo, and the Aston Martin DB4 GT Jet. After leaving Bertone for Ghia in late 1965, his work included the Maserati Ghibli, the DeTomaso Mangusta, and others.
The VW Karmann Ghia Type 1 Concept Car design was similar the Mangusta one-off Spyder designed by Giugiaro for DeTomaso. It had the same fixed side frames for the windows and a similar side profile. In comparison to the previous Karmann Ghia, the body design was more angular, and it rested on a slight lengthened Beetle-chassis and drivetrain. It was built as a 2 door, 2 passenger convertible.
Although the Type 1 Concept never made it passed the prototype stage (and only 1 example was built), the original Karmann Ghia lived on well into the 1970s.
It is not entirely clear why the Type 1 Concept ever made it into production. Perhaps because Rowan Controllers (a company owned by DeTomaso's in-laws) purchased Ghia in early 1967. Alejandro De Tomaso became the president. Soon after, the general manager, Giacomo Moro, and the head designer, Giugiaro, left the company. In late 1968, Giugiaro founded his own styling studio.
In 1970, part of Ghia was sold to Ford and by 1973, Ford had purchased the remainder of the company. Several Ford products of that era, including the Mustang, were given the Ghia name, indicating that it was designed Italy. by Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2019
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