For what was a little automaker in the 1950s, it’s amazing just how many classics Volkswagen produced at a time when imported cars were still largely disregarded by domestic manufacturers. Of note is the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, a sports car that debuted in 1953 and is now celebrating its 60th birthday, albeit in the same way that Isaac Hayes is celebrating his 71st birthday today.
The Karmann Ghia started life as a project by Wilhelm Karmann to hire Italian Luigi Segre of Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin to transform the modest VW Beetle into something a little more stylish and sporty. At the time, Volkswagen wasn’t even aware of the project, but at the 1953 Paris Motor Show, Karmann showed off his project. He won the approval of the Volkswagen executives, and the rest is history. The car went into full production in 1955, and 450,000 Karmann Ghias later, it has become one of the most iconic Volkswagens after the original Beetle, Microbus/Kombi, and Golf.
The car would be built by Karmann, as the company had also built the Beetle convertibles at the time.
Now 60 years on, the hand-built Volkswagen Karmann Ghia is still considered a remarkable value for an classic German sports car. Even though it shared its meager powertrain options with the Volkswagen Beetle, it was still fun and has become a staple of oceanside cruising. Happy birthday to the Karmann Ghia. If VW ever decides it wants to do another retro-themed car along the lines of the Beetle and make another, we wouldn’t complain.