1956 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

1200 Coupe 1.2 L

Vehicle values by condition

Condition 4
#4 cars are daily drivers, with flaws visible to the naked eye. The chrome might have pitting or scratches, the windshield might be chipped.
Condition 3
#3 cars could possess some, but not all of the issues of a #4 car, but they will be balanced by other factors such as a fresh paint job or a new, correct interior.
Condition 2
#2 cars could win a local or regional show. They can be former #1 cars that have been driven or have aged. Seasoned observers will have to look closely for flaws.
Condition 1
#1 vehicles are the best in the world. The visual image is of the best car, unmodified, in the right colours, driving onto the lawn at the finest concours.
Insurance premium for a
1956 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1200 Coupe 1192
valued at £11,900
£124.76 / year*

History of the 1955 - 1965 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

1955 - 1965 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia
1955 - 1965 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

By the mid-1950s, the German economy was recovering. Mercedes-Benz developed the 300SL Gullwing, and Porsche had a hit in the America with the 356 Speedster. Volkswagen looked for a way to move upmarket. Ghia had developed a series of show cars with Chrysler, so designer Virgil Exner Jr. suggested something smaller for VW. The result was a handsome Ghia coupe that was introduced at the 1953 Paris Auto Show, on a floor plan 3-inches wider than the Beetle. Exner most likely had a hand in the design, since the greenhouse shows similar proportions to the show cars and the greenhouse was copied for the Volvo P1800 coupe of 1960.

The new Volkswagen coupe launched in 1955, and a pretty cabriolet followed in 1957. Construction was farmed out to Karmann of Osnabruck, who constructed the bodywork with particular care. The power train was still as prosaic as a Beetle, with 30 bhp, 0-60 mph in 23 seconds, and a top speed of 74 mph, but the detail work was impressive. American magazine Road & Track called it “a Beetle in a nice Italian suit.”

Wings were welded and filled, the entire front clip was essentially one piece, and the interior appointments very nicely finished. It might not have been fast, but it was handsome and 10,000 were sold in the first year. The lined and insulated convertible top of the 1957 Cabriolet would not have been amiss on a car that cost twice as much.

Collectors like the earlier cars, with headlights lower in the fenders and small taillights, but the overall shape changed little throughout the run. The 1200 cc engine was fitted at first, but 1300 cc unit arrived in 1965, 1500 cc engine and front disc brakes in 1966, dual circuit brakes, 12-volt electrics and a troublesome semi-automatic transmission option in 1967. A more sophisticated rear suspension replaced the unforgiving swing axles in 1970, and a 1600 cc engine, and big bumpers and big taillights were fitted from 1971.

The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia has found its niche and excellent early convertibles are heading for £40,000 with coupes only £10,000 behind. But early cars are very expensive to restore; a complete lined top can cost several thousand pounds, and body parts are difficult to find. Rust is an unforgiving opponent and can attack floors, door sills, wings and headlights. In addition, most Karmann-Ghias have been hit in the nose at some point, and replacing the front clip is difficult, even if you can find one. But Karmann Ghias tend to be loved, and good examples often have long-term owners. As always, buy the best example you can find.

The Karmann Ghia’s design changed little throughout its run, though it lost its lovely painted dash in 1969, and the rear seat in 1973. But the real proof of its timelessness is the fate of the 1961 Type 3 replacement. Unfathomably ugly, with all kinds of swirls and curlicues, it lingered for eight years. In that time a mere 42,563 were sold – one tenth the number of the originals. There were only 17 convertibles built.

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