Saturday, May 6, 2017

The German troll under the bridge

In a fit of insomnia I rode my bike down to Brighton Beach recently at dawn. The sun rising over the wreckage of inner Coney Island was beautiful, and the breeze off the Atlantic fresh and invigorating. Then I turned back under an elevated block of the subway and found this:
Yeesh. I felt like I needed to say "sorry" and close the bathroom door because this thing looks like I walked in on it. How a beautiful car can get to looking so creepy is beyond me.
This is a 1973 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia in what looks to be a repaint of Bright Orange. It also looks like a bum that's getting a bit too close while trying to ask for something.
What happened here is a mystery to me as the engine is in the back. Was it parked facing something that burned? Is this a horrifically done dent repair? Who knows but the effect is icky.
Those nostrils originally had delicate chrome vents in them with 3 horizontal bars. That circle above the damage had the VW emblem at one point and shows the original Amber factory color. 
This car is 100% Beetle under the skin which makes parts and maintenance extremely easy. Basically the Beetle was the people's car and so VW decided to hire coach builder Karmann to design a foxy, sporty iteration to lure customers. Karmann decided to bring Italian design firm Ghia into the mix and thus the name was born.
The first Karmann Ghia was introduced in 1955 and looked very similar to this one. The body panels were hand formed which certainly justified the extra cost. Upon release the Karmann Ghia was a total success, surpassing even the most optimistic projections with 10,000 sold.
Unfortunately someone decided a generic tough guy steering wheel was better than the original. By '73 the factory steering wheel was made of black plastic and wasn't the nicest in VW history but it managed some class for the era. The early wheels are lovely with a thin ceramic rim and chrome horn ring. I can't blame them for the radio replacement or the under dash gauges (no water temp gauge of course). That button between the clock and radio is a cheap horn replacement. I had one just like it in a car where the previous owner replaced the steering wheel with a bro faux job.
These are the flat style hubcaps with castle Wolfsburg in the middle. I've heard these called Porsche caps as well and don't know if they were ever on a VW from the factory.
In front of the rear wheel there is a dark circle. That is the point where you should place the factory jack for lifting the car. So many older VWs are damaged because someone rolls a big floor jack under the car indiscriminately. The thin floors and rockers will buckle easily.
1973 was the first year for these large federally mandated bumpers. Unlike some larger American cars there's just no hiding these and they really take away from the delicate curves.
Herein lies the air cooled 1600 flat 4 hooked up to dual carbs. By '73 there was a decent amount of power for such a light car. They bragged that it was good for 93 mph which is PLENTY for this!
That guy in the distance had a fierce trudge going.
These taillights look pretty good to me, especially when contrasted against the Beetle version of the same vintage. They are larger than the earlier Ghias but they maintain a lovely feminine shape to go with such a voluptuous car. The earliest Ghias are known as Low Lights due to their tiny art deco style lights low on the fenders.
Well that's where I backed away to rejoin the Dawn's Early Light. I would suggest that few cars from 1973 have aged as well as the Karmann Ghia though this is a munchy example. Convertibles were available from 1957 through the end of production in 1974 and they really look great. However finding any VW from this era without debilitating rust is difficult let alone one where the roof is made of cloth. As with any VW if you're curious to shop for one I suggest checking the battery tray, spare tire well, and rocker panels for rust. Don't panic if you see some, but those areas are a good barometer for the overall condition.

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