The Karmann Ghia was essentially a VW Beetle with a different body shell attached, yet it is considered an elegant sports car. So what constitutes a sports car? For the Karmann Ghia it was all about styling.
In the years following World War II VW had been successfully producing small and efficient automobiles like the Beetle, with a reputation for outstanding reliability. But as time wore on consumers began demanding vehicles with style and elegance, reflecting the changing attitudes at the time. This call was answered by the Karmann Ghia.
The end result however was a car which appealed to 2 very different groups. There were those who wanted a Porsche on a VW budget, and those who wanted a beautiful European touring car that was durable. This was achieved because VW chose to stick to its reliable Beetle chassis, yet covered that Chassis with a shell that was hand built to perfection using methods not seen anywhere else but on the world’s finest cars.
Then end result was a car which could not reach 100mph unlike its rivals, but this could easily be overlooked thanks to its beautiful styling and knowing it wouldn’t let you down whilst out on the road. During its 18 year production run, around half a million people considered these points more important than thoroughbred racing performance.
It is worth noting that VW emphasised all of the above facts in its advertising. They made it a point to openly declare that it was mechanically identical to the Beetle, and had slogans such as “The 1963 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Slower, but Prettier Than Any Porsche!”. This was an honest advertising campaign, and captured the attention of the public. Unfortunately due to high import duties at the time relatively few made it over to the UK, but this didn’t stop the car being a huge success at the time and going on to become a classic car.