Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Karmann Ghia is a two-seater sports car marketed by Volkswagen, designed by the Italian firm Ghia, and built by German coach builder Karmann. Over 445,000 Karmann Ghias were produced between 1955 and 1974.
In the early 1950s Volkswagen was producing small, fuel efficient, reliable automobiles (Like the Volkswagen Beetle); but as the world recovered from World War II, consumers began to demand more stylish and elegant vehicles.
In the early 1950s executives at Volkswagen decided that it was necessary to produce an "image" car to satisfy the needs of demanding post-war automobile buyers.
Volkswagen contracted with German coach builder Karmann to build this car. Karmann in turn contacted the Italian firm Ghia for a sports car design. Ghia took an already made, but unused design (originally made for Chrysler) and modified it to fit on a slightly modified Beetle floorpan.
The body and nose of this elegant two door unibody coupe were hand crafted and significantly more expensive to produce than the strictly assembly line produced Beetle; this was reflected in the Karmann Ghia's higher price tag.
The design and prototype were well received by Volkswagen executives, and in August, 1955 the first Karmann Ghia was created in Osnabrück, Germany. Public reaction to the curvy Karmann Ghia was excellent, and over 10,000 were sold in the first year, exceeding Volkswagen's expectations.
Since the first Karmann Ghia's used the same 36hp engine as the Beetle, the car was not suitable as a true sports car; however the car's beautiful looks and "Beetle reliable" parts made up for this shortfall.
In 1958 a convertible version was introduced.
The car was slightly redesigned for the 1960 model year. The most notable changes were the car's front "nostril" grills (which were widened), and the rear tail-light lenses (which became more rounded).
In 1974 the car was discontinued due mainly to increasing safety regulations and sluggish sales.
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