1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1.6 dual port from North America


Fun and comfortable


Usual items are heat control cables, and the occasional electrical problem. The central wiring terminals are exposed in the trunk, and that can lead to problems with corrosion and shorts if not cared for properly.

If you want to own this car, then you should be somewhat knowledgeable about them, or at least know a mechanic or shop that understands them. Mine was rescued from a shop that could not even get it running.

General Comments:

Car was picked up as an unfinished restoration project, which means I have to locate missing parts and undo mechanic's mistakes. Being almost 40 years old also means you have to take care of all the "deferred maintenance"... things that were not done when they should have been!

As a car it is very reliable and economical: You can drive for hours and use very little fuel, mileage seems between 30-40 MPG.

In the looks department, it always turns heads. That hand-built body has timeless good looks and people will just walk up to you and ask questions. Be careful though; one driver literally hit a curb at 45mph while gazing at it, and a fast food cashier almost fell out of a drive-through window trying to watch us park.

Handling is adequate, not as sharp as a Porsche, but lighter feeling than almost anything else. Surprisingly, the later Ghia's with the 1600cc dual port engines have decent power for the light weight of the car, and keeps up with traffic just fine. The brakes are front disc/rear drum like modern cars, so brake performance is better than expected. However, remember that this is an old car and lacks the safety equipment and mass of modern cars. For protection in front, you have sheet metal, a spare tire, and, um, a gas tank...

Use the same caution as you would driving a large motorcycle.

Another unexpected plus? Comfort! For some reason this little car has a smoother, more comfortable ride than most other cars I've owned or driven. It's relaxed but not sloppy, and I'd rather take for a drive in the country than our other two late-model cars.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 28th July, 2009

1972 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia 1.6 petrol from UK and Ireland


It helps to be mechanically minded to own one


So many things, but it's 36 years old so it's kind of expected.

One CV joint has worn out.

The right rear wheel bearing has worn out.

The windscreen squirter stopped working.

The voltage regulator stopped doing its job.

Worn drivers door hinges had to be replaced.

All rubber windscreen seals had to be replaced.

The fuel gauge needed grounding to work properly.

The drivers door window regulator lost its teeth.

General Comments:

I use this car as my daily driver to and from work, both summer and winter here in Ireland. I've found it to be reliable enough. I've only ever been stranded when I ran out of petrol once due to the dodgy petrol gauge.

The heating system is good when it gets going, but you freeze for the first 10 minutes of your journey! I'd recommend an eberspacher heater for anyone using this car year round.

I'm constantly amazed at how well this car starts in the mornings. It's instant with no hard cranking needed.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 1st June, 2009

1968 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Coupe 4 cylinder from North America


Sometimes amusing, frequently frustrating, but always a fun drive


The most glaring problem, initially, was that the accelerator pedal wire would come loose with some frequency. Usually in city driving, though it did occur on the freeway once or twice, and, most embarrassingly, just before reaching the top of a large hill. (Thank God the emergency brake was up to par!)

The next thing was a chipped first gear, worn and damaged by the previous owner's wishful thinking -- the car is not a Porsche and should never be driven as such. Eventually (read: six years later) the car would not go into first gear at all. This was remedied by a tranny overhaul.

The electrical has always been a mess. There was a small fire in the trunk at one point that charred the fuel gauge and spedo wiring into an unrecognizable mound of plastic and metal. Rewiring afterwards fixed much of this, though the fuel gauge is still finicky and refuses to give an accurate reading.

The windshield wipers are a beast all unto themselves. The passenger-side wiper is gimpy and waggles all over the place when at highway speeds. The driver's side only works at one speed -- far too fast for drizzle and yet too slow to be of use in real rain -- and burns out its fuse on a regular basis.

Oversteering is an issue to consider, especially during any sort of weather. The car lost control on a rain-soaked freeway onramp (I do accept a large part of the guilt, as I should have known to compensate for a rear-wheel-drive, rear-engined car on a tight turn), did a 180 upon reaching the freeway proper, then promptly killed its own engine as if in shock. No damage done, no one injured, but I would hesitate to take the car out in light rain ever again. Oddly, the car did quite well in a torrenting downpour.

The sunroof doesn't leak, but the rear- and quarter-windows do.

The fuel pump shattered while the car was in the shop for something totally unrelated. The mechanic was not amused.

General Comments:

As much as can go (and has gone) wrong with this car, I doubt I would trade it for anything.

Reliability is something that Volkswagen is known for, and the Karmann Ghia does not disappoint. With me, the car has functioned for almost ten years as a daily driver and has suffered a great many injuries (including two high-speed rear-endings), but has emerged from these none the worse for wear and more than willing to keep going. If I ask it to go across half the state on a whim, no new oil and a cold-start at 5am, it does so without a single complaint.

Being a 40+ year old car, there are issues that occur. But very few have ever been totally crippling. Like its Beetle cousin, the Ghia has been able to run on serious damage (ex, a crushed engine compartment) as if it were little more than an inconvenience.

Getting 30-40mpg (depending on the car's mood) is a definite plus.

Lacking the size of even a newer subcompact is a slightly scary experience. Beware SUVs with wide wheelbases and high doors -- they probably won't even know you exist.

The pickup may be terrible (0-60mph? Go make some coffee!), but its ability to maintain freeway speeds in 110 degree weather without overheating is admirable.

Hard left turns will leave you smelling gasoline. That's normal. Usually.

Ghia repair kit: Hammer, screwdriver, electrical tape. These three things will be your constant traveling companions.

Although a newer car might be easier to drive and have creature comforts like A/C and power steering, there's absolutely nothing like driving a Ghia. They may be slow, cantankerous, and downright frightening on the highway, but their reliability, ease of repair, and not-quite-a-sportscar nature most certainly make up for it.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 8th July, 2008

31st May 2009, 16:20

Great review, funny but true.

8th Jun 2009, 21:09

Excellent review with some good pointers to watch out for. I'm looking at a 1968, from the original owner, who happens to be a VW mechanic. It would be my first Karmann Ghia.

27th Jul 2009, 23:49

Yes, amusing, and some good pointers there as well! Gas smell on left turns indicate a bad fuel or filler hose, or loose coupling. If the smell is in the trunk look at the main fill hose and filling vent. If the smell is only under the right fender, check the small vent hose!

Wonderful car to drive.