The year was 1953 – 60 years ago. It was October when a small sports car was delivered to a small garage during the Paris Auto Show. The idea of this new style car was birthed by Wilhelm Karmann. He hired Luigi Segre of Carrozzeria Ghia to construct the actual working model. Wilhelm Karmann came to Paris to see the auto show and was thrilled with seeing his new vehicle. Carrozzeria Ghia was based in Turin. The prototype prepared by Ghia for Wilhelm Karmann was a coupe although Karmann had envisioned a convertible.
That initial introduction was in October and in November 1953, Wilhelm Karmann approached Volkswagen's chief, Heinrich Nordhoff, and showed him the attractive little car. How could he so easily approach this otherwise conservative head of VW? It was a simple answer, really, because Mr. Karmann had already been building the VW Beetle Cabriolet since 1949 and had a close relationship with Nordhoff. Karmann's company and the Volkswagen company were both based in Wolfsburg, Germany.
The prototype was a winner and the Volkswagen directors were excited. Costs were worked out. Decisions were quickly made, but still allowed from some interior refinements and some body detail changes. Production began in 1955 with the car in the same basic form as Ghia had designed it when they made the prototype.
Using the Beetle running gear to underpin the new 'Karmann Ghia', the VW company built 450,000 between 1955 and 1974, with the internal company designation as the 'type 14.' Volkswagen now had a vehicle in their line-up that was positioned 'above' the popular Beetle. This allowed the company to attract a much broader customer base, thanks to the idea and foresight of Wilhelm Karmann and design capabilities of Carrozzeria Ghia.
As a schoolboy and college student during that time-frame, I have many stories to tell involving the Karmann Ghia, friends, trips, and girls. Just thinking about it brings back fond memories of that terrific little sportster by Volkswagen. I am sure that many of you can do likewise.