I don’t spend a lot of time talking about air-cooled models on these pages, and that’s a huge gap in Volkswagen’s history. It’s also not so long ago that VW continued to crank out brand new Beetles alongside their water-cooled replacements. The proliferation paved the way not only for the water-cooled replacement models I tend to favor, but some pretty awesome air-cooled examples, too.
Of those my favorite certainly must be the Type 34. I dissected Volkswagen’s first attempt to move upscale in an article on The Truth About Cars last year:
Volkswagen’s Other Karmann Ghia: the Type 34
Basically, like the Phaeton, the Type 34 was a sales failure. It was too expensive – costing about 50% more than a normal Type 14 Ghia. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a very good looking failure. While the underpinnings were shared with its less exotic 1500 cousins, the upscale Karmann Ghia was aimed squarely at making peasants feel like landed gentry and certainly looked the part. Sweeping character lines ran the length of the car, giving it its signature “razor” nickname. Added to the upscale look in terms of desirability today is rarity. Never imported to the United States, the Type 34 only achieved about 42,500 units – less than 10% of the total number of the more popular and familiar Type 14 Karmann Ghia. But we’re lucky to find one today in Michigan:
I’m always intrigued by the variety of market specific vehicles that Volkswagen has produced over the years. From the myriad of Citi Golfs I’ve seen all over South Africa to the SP2 of the Brasilian market, this is a company that’s been very adept at making niche models for regional tastes. Case in point this 1975 Karmann Ghia TC for sale in São Paulo, Brasil. Produced from 1970 through 1976, this coupe was based on the Type 3 chassis and used the 1600cc “pancake” flat-4. This was the direct successor to the Type 14 Karmann Ghia and was sold only in South America. Just over 18,000 copies were ever produced.
The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia is a car that mystifies me. From my perspective, it’s the best looking of the Volkswagen lineup from the 1950s until the launch of the Scirocco. Like the Scirocco, it’s really just a more sedate Beetle underneath with a special body; but the looks of that alone really set the car apart. But unlike the Scirocco, which in good shape commands more money than its counterparts as witnessed by the $20,000 example from last week, the Karmann Ghia remains fairly affordable in comparison to the top-tier air-cooled models. If aliens landed with a lineup of a Mercedes-Benz 190SL, a early Porsche 356 and a Karmann Ghia next to each other, you’d have a hard time explaining to them why the Volkswagen was only worth a fraction of what the other two currently are. Yet here it is, a clean and classic Volkswagen coupe with lower miles in great condition for under $17,000:
The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34 was a curiosity at the Volkswagen shows I frequented in my youth. In the rare instances I would come across one, I wasn’t sure what to make of this two-door with the same name as the Karmann Ghia Type 14. This was the flagship model for Volkswagen at the time, styled by Sergio Sartorelli, who was also responsible for the design of the Fiat 2300 S Coupe and Fiat 126. Based on the Type 3 chassis with the pancake flat-4 engine, this was the fastest Volkswagen of the time and cost the equivalent of two Beetles. Just over 42,000 examples were produced over nine years, from 1961 through 1969. This example for sale in Washington state isn’t stock, but could be a good starting point for someone looking to return one to stock.
Several Karmann Ghias are still kicking around my area in various states of care. One looks like it’s been daily driven since the early 70s, missing a few pieces of trim but still perfectly functional with no noticeable rust. One is almost entirely patina, like a rat rod but not trying so hard. The last is the rarest to see but still out there, perfectly clean, curvaceous, and complete.
Today’s beautiful Castilian Yellow example is on the latter end of the spectrum thanks to covering just under 50k miles in 47 years. The tan and chrome suit these cars well, and it’s hard to believe that the original paint can shine like this. The interior similarly looks perfectly vintage but hardly used. The wooden luggage rack is a cute look, but not for everyone. Ghias are beautiful and desirable cars, headturners for even the uninitiated and easy to maintain and modify thanks to their Beetle roots. If you’re collecting with an eye on resale value, a low-mileage original is the way to go.
The restored 1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Convertible we featured last month is back up on offer, having failed to meet its reserve last time around.
The below post originally appeared on our site November 24, 2014:
It’s been a little bit since we looked at some nice Karmann Ghias, and today there are two lovely but very different examples in the marketplace. These are lovely designs; granted, not the best driving cars in the world – but a car that really will set you apart from the crowd and will make everyone smile. Of the Karmann Ghias, my favorites are the early “low light” models and the Type 34 from a bit later – luckily, here’s an example of each:
The car enthusiast community is a pretty fickle bunch; take a fairly slow, swoopy 1958 convertible with classic lines, just the right amount of chrome and enough charisma to make you smile. Put a Mercedes-Benz star on it and call it a 190SL, and it’s a $150,000 – $200,000 car with a well-heeled following; put a Volkswagen badge on it and it’s a $20,000 – $40,000 car with a cult following. But appreciation for the Karmann Ghia is growing, and these early “low light” early models are the most desirable. With a clean restoration and the right classic color combination, I’m left wondering why anyone would choose a 190SL over this:
It seems these days the blueprint to own a classic car in good condition is to go to a big-headline auction and pay ever-increasing amounts to get the best and most unique example of a particularly popular run of car possible. Look at the 911 and E30 M3, though they’re not alone; the frenzy over prices has created its own “Hemi” moment as prices double on a year over year basis. Where does that leave enthusiasts? With plenty of options, thank you very much. If you want a classic Porsche like the 356 or early 911s but just can’t stomach the incredible bills associated with those cars, why not consider the early Karmann Ghia? Seriously, to someone who was uninitiated, if you took the badges off of each and swapped them around, it would be easy to believe that the 356 was a Volkswagen product and the Karmann Ghia was the Porsche – its sleek lines look, if anything, more sporty than the 356. Classicly styled, long and low and with that trademark flat-four soundtrack that drove several generations, the Karmann Ghia is one of the few classic German cars that is still quite affordable but will make you feel like a million dollars wherever you pull up – especially when presented in the condition of today’s 1956 example:
A rare bird amongst older Volkswagens, the Type 34 isn’t well known despite being one of the best looking products to come out of Wolfsburg. This is in part because the Type 34 was never officially offered in the U.S., but despite this hurdle a reported 400 out of the known remaining 2000 models reside here. With hints of some older Mercedes-Benz models and even the similarly rear-engined Corvair, the Type 34 was a very pretty – though very pricey – option that hoped to take Volkswagen to a new market. Today’s example has already undergone all of the hard work and merely waits for the next owner:
Model: Karmann Ghia Type 34
Engine: 1.5 liter flat-4
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Mileage: 43,500 mi
Price: $25,500 Buy It Now
This Car is for Sale by Owner, No middle men Involved. Earlier listing with consignee did not work out so I am selling it directly. This car is in Tennessee and buyer can pick it up after full payment is made. This is a beautiful car and has never been shown after restoration. INTERIOR IS EXCELLENT. I believe that this is the absolute best restored T34 anywhere in the world. All chrome is triple plated. All guages works including clock, Missing bulbs for fog lights. Electrical SYSTEM has been thoroughly serviced. Mechanically this car is excellent.
Read more: http://nashville.ebayclassifieds.com/classic-cars/nashville/1963-vw-t34-karman-ghia-fully-restored-all-numbers-match/?ad=29855590#ixzz2hHedb7uY
Light “Pacific Green” and white seem to be the go-to colors for older Volkswagens and look great on this car. The interior does look excellent, chrome is redone, and the car is reported to be mechanically sorted. Great, the hard work is out of the way! The photos don’t really seem to do the car justice but it does look good. Value? A bit hard to peg; top dollar on these Type 34s is $30,000 – but that car was sold in Europe where they’re more rare, and it was completely original. Hagerty pegs the value of a condition 1 show Karmann Ghia at about $20,000, but that’s the more common coupe rather than the rare Type 34. I would say this car is probably in between condition 1 and 2 and would guesstimate the value around $20,000 – but at that price, you’ve buying a car that someone has taken care of the major restoration headache. You can therefore be happy to drive to shows and meets in a car that few people know about and even fewer have ever seen; this is a special car, indeed!