How to Buy a Used VW Karmann Ghia

Written by william zane
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The VW Karmann Ghia is an incredibly stylish car that was made from 1956 to 1974. The Ghia combines the tried and true VW Beetle chassis and running gear with styling by Italian design house Ghia. Today, Karmann Ghias are highly sought after collectibles that make great weekend or occasional use cars. A nice Ghia is also a decent investment and a terrific conversation piece.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Newspaper classifieds
  • Internet access
  • Magnet

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  1. 1

    Decide what you want. The Karmann Ghia was offered in both coupe and convertible form. The earlier versions command more money, but they are also not as powerful or reliable as later versions, which came with larger engines. Earlier examples are the best-looking of the bunch, though, and they lack the large bumpers that post-1971 examples came with.

  2. 2

    Find examples for sale. Depending on where you live, this may be easy or a little more difficult. If you live in California or Arizona, for instance it will be relatively simple to find a dry (rust-free) example, whereas if you live back East it may be a little more challenging to find a completely rust-free example. Look in the local paper, the Autotrader, Craigslist (see Resources 2) and even on eBay. There are also VW-specific websites like The Samba (see Resources 1) where there are classifieds sections for people who are selling classic VWs. These are also great resources if you have any questions about a car before or after you buy it. If you are looking at cars on eBay be very way of Ghias that you cannot inspect in person.

  3. 3

    Inspect potential candidates very closely. Whether you are buying a Ghia that you know will need work or you're buying a restored example, it's important to have a solid idea of what you are getting before you write a check. Like all classic cars, there's one thing to really look for and that's the presence of rust. If possible, raise any potential candidates up so that you can look for rust on the floor boards and front suspension area. Look for signs of rust bubbling through the rocker panels (the lower portions of the body between the wheels) and around the front and rear windshield. Rust repair is quite costly to do right, so steer clear of seriously rusted cars. Bring a magnet with you when you inspect the vehicle and run it over the fenders and particularly the nose to make sure there are not extensive Bondo repairs under the paint. Make sure the car is in a complete state and that it is not missing trim pieces on the exterior and the interior, which can be difficult to find and expensive to purchase.

  4. 4

    Test drive it. Take any potential Ghias for a test drive on city streets and if possible on the freeway. Most older VWs have rather vague steering unless they've been modified, but the car should track straight and true without excess shaking from the steering and while you are braking. And while the Karmann Ghia was never a fast car, the motor should run smoothly, without excess smoke coming from the exhaust pipe. VWs have a distinct shifting style from the gearbox and though shifting is not as easy as it is on a new car, the gearbox should move from gear to gear without any crunching. If possible, have the car inspected by a VW mechanic or someone familiar with Karmann Ghias.

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