Throughout the 19 years of it's production, the Karmann Ghia underwent regular year by year modifications, some significant, some not so. Thankfully, the graceful shape remained, it would take a late model and an early model standing side-by-side for the untrained eye to pick out the changes over the years. We would like to list the more significant of these changes, very briefly, in order for you to determine what specification a particular car is likely to have. Please remember that modifications, upgrades and conversions are often found, use the following as a guide only...


Coupe Launched at Frankfurt Motor Show. Metal body-coloured dashboard, small font-air intake grilles with two chromium slats, lower headlight position than later models (after 1959) and small, almost rectangular rear tail-lights. Bullet-style front indicators. 1200cc flat-four air-cooled engine producing 30bhp. Fuel filler cap under front bonnet. No synchromesh on first gear. 5-stud wheels with 'dome' hub caps. 6 volt electrics. Blade style bumpers fitted.


These early models are now referred to as 'low-light' Karmann Ghias due to the headlight positioning, they are by far the most sought after and rarest of type 1 Karmann Ghias.


Slight dashboard change and new steering wheel added.


Convertibles available for first time. Blade-style bumpers with 'over-rail' finishers available on export/US models.


Front end redesign means headlight position is raised by 2 inches and front air intake grilles now have three chrome slats and surround.


Tail-lights remodeled and larger, coming to a point at top and base, commonly called 'banana-style' tail-lights. Right hand drive models available for the first time in this year.


First given given a synchromesh and engine bhp increased to 34.

No major changes until 1966.


1300cc 40bhp engine launched in response to demand for more power. Handling improved by king and link pin front suspension being replaced by ball-joint arrangement.


1500cc engine now fitted, producing 44bhp. Upgraded to 12 volt electrics. Front disc-brakes added improves stopping power, rear track increased for better handling. Top gear ratio longer for better motorway cruising. New style 4-stud wheels fitted with flatter hubcaps.


Front offside wing modified to include fuel filler on the outside. Semi-automatic 'stickshift' gear box available as an option.


Rear tail lights enlarged. Known as 'middle-size!' 1600cc twin-port engine available, producing 54bhp. Top speed now increased to 85-90mph. Front indicators changed to wraparound style for safety.




Larger 'Europa' bumpers fitted, with over-riders on export US models. Dash now matt black with 'padded' steering wheel.


'Large' tail lights fitted.

For many, due to the enhancements over the years, these late model cars are the easiest to drive and live with, and are the safest. With disc front brakes, 1600cc power, more modern suspension, headrests, inertia seat-belts and large light and signal lenses they are well adapted to modern traffic. Luckily, they are also the easiest cars to source due to production numbers and better survival rates.


The last Karmann Ghia rolls of the factory production line in June 1974. Just two weeks later, Karmann had changed the production lines over to build the long-running Scirocco. They also continued with production of the Karmann Cabriolet Beetle and VW-Porsche 914.

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