There are a few Volkswagen’s that are forgotten through time because of power players such as the Beetle, the Bus, and the Jetta. Let’s take a glance at one of them.
The Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia, a sporty coupe and convertible produced between 1955 and 1974, was a most unexpected vehicle from a company that had built its reputation on the purely functional Volkswagen Beetle. The Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia was an automobile in which style and driving fun took precedence. The Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia story starts with Mario Boano and Luigi Segre of Carrozzeria Ghia. The Turin coachbuilders had done some confidential work for VW, suggesting refinements in Beetle styling that VW mostly ignored. VW didn’t seem to like any of the various Beetle proposals put forth in Germany by Dr. Wilhelm Karmann. An increasingly discouraged Karmann approached Ghia for inspiration.
VW insisted the Karmann-Ghia’s performance mirror that of the humble Bug; some sources say the company didn’t want to be goaded into comparisons with genuine sports cars. Indeed, one Karmann-Ghia ad pictured a coupe adorned with stripes and numbers on the doors, as if poised to race. “You’d lose.” said the tag line. “The racy-looking car in the picture would have trouble beating a Volkswagen. Because it is a Volkswagen.” It is the original Karmann-Ghias that introduced the world to the idea of a sporty Volkswagen. If the Beetle was the people’s car and the Volkswagen bus was the people’s van, then it might be acceptable to characterize the Karmann-Ghia as the “people’s Porsche.” Don’t try to race a Porsche with one, however. You’d lose.
The 1967 Type 14 Karmann Ghia convertible gained notoriety on American television as being the car driven by CONTROL Agent 86 Maxwell Smart in the opening credits of the third and fourth seasons of Get Smart. In late 1974, the car was superseded by the Porsche 914 and the Golf/Rabbit based Scirocco.