In September 1961, Volkswagen introduced the VW 1500 Karmann Ghia or Type 34, based on its new Type 3 platform – that’s the 1500/1600 Notchback, Variant (Squareback) and Fastback VW to you and me. It featured Volkswagen's new ‘pancake’ 1500cc engine design and styling by Italian engineer Sergio Sartorelli. Due to model confusion with the Type 14 1500 introduced in 1967, the Type 34 was known variously as the ‘Der Große Karmann’ (the big Karmann) in Germany, ‘Razor Edge Ghia’ in the United Kingdom (and here) or ‘European Ghia’ (or ‘Type 3 Ghia’ among enthusiasts) in the United States.
The styling offered more interior and luggage room than the original Karmann Ghia, featured an electric clock, three luggage spaces, built-in fog lights, round taillights, upper and lower dash pads, door pads and long padded armrests. And it was the fastest production VW model of its day.
Until it was replaced by the VW/Porsche 914, it ranked as the most expensive and luxurious passenger car Volkswagen manufactured in the ʼ60s – hitting your wallet just over double what a Beetle would.
The Type 34 was available in most countries but was not offered officially in America. However, many made their way to the USA (via Canada) and today the States has the largest number of known Type 34s left in the world (400 of the total 1 500 to 2 000 or so remaining).
At the time, Volkswagen planned a cabriolet version of the Type 34. Sixteen prototype versions were put together, but this brought an issue to the fore with Karmann unable to produce the drop tops at a cost that would be competitive with the market. Early in 1962, despite having distributed sales brochures and pricing for these, the idea was canned. Only a couple are known to survive today.
Description by seller:
Originally a Type 34 Coupe, but the roof was removed a number of years ago.
Bodywork has a few spots of rust, some areas of filler and the paintwork has the odd issue (runs, scratches etc.)
Front left wing has some filler, a scratch and paint run. Left door skin and sill front showing signs of rust bubbles. Engine bay lid has paint chipping at the lower middle and also at the top middle. Back right wing has waistline clearcoat flake (in red). Back right wing shows signs of rust bubbling below bumper on arch edge. Engine lid needs some alignment/tweaking.
Tyres are old and wheels could do with a strip and repaint.
Dash is not cracked. Woodgrain is in good condition with Karmann Ghia badge sitting proudly in the middle. Seats are original but worn – a few nicks, cuts and patches – and could do with a recolour spray or recover. Carpets are good. Door panels are not bad, possibly just a good clean-up and tidy needed.
Clutch action is light with no play. Car pulls off smoothly with no shudder and there is no grating when finding any of the gears. Steering is light and there are no real thuds and clonks from the suspension.
Brakes have been completely overhauled (including new discs) and the gearbox has been opened up, checked for wear and new bearings fitted – both part of an R80 000 mechanical check and repair session.
Some new wiring-harness terminals look a bit modern but other than that the engine bay looks the part. The car starts first kick and settles into a smooth idle. It drives very well and pulls through the range without hesitating. Exhaust sounds good with no manifold leaks or blown silencers. Lights work and lenses have no cracks or heavy pitting.
No radio or aircon but then again, no need for these with the open-air driving experience.
Car looks the part from a few metres away and pulls the crowd with the two-tone paint job. Perfect good weather weekend toy (it has no soft top) and a true four-seater open-air cruiser. Ideal for matric dances and weddings.
Available to view by appointment in Johannesburg.
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