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Type 3 Ghia (Type 34) History
|INTRODUCTION TO THE TYPE 34 KARMANN GHIA|
by Lee Thomas Hedges
HISTORY & BACKGROUND:
When the Type I Karmann Ghia was introduced to the public in the mid 1950's, it generated tremendous excitement for VW enthusiasts and owners. This beautifully bodied 2 seater Coupe was designed by an Italian design firm and built by hand by a German coachbuilder, however, underneath this racy body was the proven mechanicals of the VW Beetle. The KG Coupe sold very well and in 1957 the KG Cabriolet (convertible) model was introduced and sold even better. Since the Beetle and KG were built on the same chassis design with identical running gear, it was naturally classified the Type I. The Transporter series were considered the Type II, so appropriately, the next line of cars would be called the Type III, and so it was. When VW decided to approach the middle class marketplace with a new line of cars in the late 1950's, they had already decided to continue the tradition of a Coupe and Cabriolet with this new line.
The new line was officially introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 1961, and the new cars were an immediate success. They were larger, faster, stronger, roomier, and better equipped, all important features for middle class needs. The Frankfurt Show unveiled the VW 1500 models (designated VW 1500 because of their new 1500cc engine redesign, which was 25% larger than the current Beetle & KG engine), including the 4 seater Sedan (commonly known as the Notchback) & 4 seater Cabriolet, the Variant Estate Wagon (Squareback), and the 2 seater Karmann Ghia Coupe & Cabriolet. At the time, VW believed both Cabriolet models would be ready for mass production, but a few months later they discovered that Karmann could not produce the Cabriolets at a cost that would be competitive with the market. There were structural problems with the Sedan & Coupe that required extensive modifications, which would increase the selling price dramatically. VW decided to shelve both Cabriolets in early 1962, even after distributing sales brochures and price lists and including these open models in the VW 1500 introduction ceremonies. These Cabriolets were to remain prototype designs, with only a few dozen built by hand for shows in 1961, and only a couple remaining in the world today in the VW & Karmann Museums.
The VW 1500 Karmann Ghia Coupe (its true
full length name in 1961) was a very unique car from the start, which was readily apparent
from the reception it received at the 1961 Frankfurt Show. It had four lights in front
with a sweeping frontal line (some called it whiskers) that wrapped along the sides toward
the rear. The rear had round taillights and a flat vertical panel. Some loved it and some
hated it, but all agreed that VW succeeded with its design target, which was to produce a
controversial stylish Coupe based on the new VW 1500 model line. Volkswagen differentiated
the two KG models by model type designations, with the original KG titled the Type 14 and
the new KG the Type 34. VW dealers went with the new advertising model names, calling the
earlier KG the VW 1200 KG and the new one the VW 1500 KG, but then there was confusion
when VW came out with the 1500cc engine for the Type I KG in 1967. The public came up
The Type 34 was the flagship model of the entire VW line.
It was the most expensive VW available, the fastest, and the most luxurious. The Type 34
was fitted with such standard amenities as fog lights, cigar lighter, electric clock,
locking steering column, front & rear vent windows, variable wiper controls, and
luxurious interior accommodations. It also had the distinction of being the only VW fitted
with built in fog lights and have the option of an electrically operated steel sliding
sunroof. The Type 34 was a beautifully handcrafted body on a standard Type III chassis and
running gear. It shared the same engine and transmission, suspension and frame, making it
easy to service and locate mechanical parts. Unfortunately, 95% of the Type 34s parts are
unique to the car and can not be shared between the other Type III models, making the
restoration process very difficult. Now with all many unique parts on a vintage VW that
EXISTING TYPE 34s WORLDWIDE
The Type 34 was built from September 1961 through July 1969, although the earliest known Type 34 was built in early December 1961. There were a total of 42,505 Coupes built, all at the Karmann factory in Osnabruck, Germany. Unbelievably, there are known to be only about 1000 in existence worldwide today, although there many be as many as 2000 laying in storage around the world. From existing databases, there are 45% in Germany, 30% in the USA, 10% in Great Britain, 2% in Canada & New Zealand, and 10% in the rest of the world. The majority in the USA and Great Britain are unrestored original drivers, unlike most of the Canadian and German Type 34s that have extensive rust damage and highly restrictive registration laws for safety. Typical costs for an unrestored original Type 34 on the West Coast USA are from $1000 $2500 with higher prices on the East Coast due to the harsher conditions. Typical values for an accurately restored to original (non concourse) Type 34 is from $5000 $10,000 in the USA and much higher in Europe.
TYPE 34 CLASSIFICATIONS:
VW TYPE 34 KARMANN GHIA REGISTRY: