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356 Alternative: 1962 Karmann Ghia Convertible

1962 VW Karmann Ghia

The VW Karmann Ghia is one of those cars that has always fascinated me. It offers decent looks paired with the durable engineering to be expected of a VW. But to be honest that isn’t really what fascinates me the most about them. I’m going to preface my next statement with a warning, if you’re a Porsche nut you best skip to the next paragraph so as to not be offended by what I’m about to say. Why buy a Porsche when you can get Karmann Ghia’s version of the Beetle for a fraction of the cost? Sure the Ghia doesn’t have as much horsepower or all the brand prestige, but at its heart, it’s quite similar. The only real difference is the price, right? Whether you agree with that statement or not, this ’62 Karmann Ghia is worth taking a closer look at and can be found here on eBay in Plainville, Connecticut where it’s being offered without a reserve.

VW Karmann Ghia Interior

Now before anyone gets upset, trust me, I know there is a significant difference between a Porsche 356 and a Karmann Ghia. But, I still have to bring up the question of why are Porsches worth so much more. Both are derived from the same Beetle design that Mr. Porsche developed all those years ago. They both are powered by an air cooled boxer engine that is hanging out over the rear wheels. Yet when you look at prices, they are so far apart you would think they were built on opposite sides of the globe. The only real justifiable difference in price that I can see is build quality, but then again this VW doesn’t look to be built all that differently than a 356?

VW Karmann Ghia Engine

As I think about it, I struggle to understand why the Karmann Ghia isn’t more collectable. Perhaps it’s the Ghia designed body, which if you ask me looks more sporting than the 356, or the fact that they built nearly half a million of these. Or maybe it’s the lack of overall performance. With just 40 horsepower, it certainly was underpowered and made the 75 to 90 horsepower available in the 356 seem impressive. On the upside, being a Type 1 engine means parts are cheap and there are plenty of upgrade options to give it some much needed speed. The seller of this one claims the motor was run 6 years ago, but they haven’t attempted to start it since.

VW Karmann Ghia

While I never see a Karmann Ghia ever going for the kind of money that a Porsche can fetch, I can see these cars going up in value. They were actually well-built machines, with a Karmann crafted body and underpinnings from one of the most durable cars ever manufactured. This one is going to need lots of work, but has a lot going for it. You don’t see many of these in convertible form and you certainly don’t find many that have been in storage since 1971. With bidding still well under $500, it should make a great starting point. I’d challenge anyone to find me a Porsche that can be had for similar money in better shape! So if you were in the market for a rear mount air cooled convertible, would you go for this VW or would you spend considerably more money and buy a 356?


  1. Grr

    Love it. Have long asserted that even 911s are just Beetles on crack.

    Hope someone saves this little cutie from the crusher.

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  2. Rancho Bella

    Karmans are kool………………Would love to find an early low light model. I just don’t see much anymore……….I used to see em’ all the time. As to this one……..serious resto dough is needed.

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  3. Dan Farrell

    One of the biggest problems with Ghias is finding one with an unscathed nose which stuck out farther than the flimsy bumpers.

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  4. jim s

    i do know you can put a Porsche motor in a VW and a VW motor in a Porsche. but with what is offered in the aftermarket motors for not a lot of money i would go that route. in fact if you look at all the aftermarket parts that are offer for these you could build a very nice daily driver/weekend racer. this ebay listing has ended for some reason!

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  5. james g

    you can fit a 911 engine without cutting out the back in the back you need to do is cut a small hole behind the license plate that you cant see

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  6. Ken kittleson

    Nice attempt at comparing the Ghia and Porsche but, as the owner of ’68 Porsche 912 and a ’69 Ghia, the Porsche is an adult go-kart while the Ghia handles like a little wallowing pig in comparison.

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  7. Dave Wright

    The only person that would make statements like there is someone that has never owned a Porsche……….or could afford to.

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    • Nicky P

      “Why buy a Porsche when you can get Karmann Ghia’s version of the Beetle for a fraction of the cost?”

      Ha! Porsche technical answer … Because you’d have a Karmann Ghia.

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Well, obviously Josh was trying to stir the pot a little and looks like it worked. We all know that this car isn’t a Porshe, but when a guy can’t afford the real thing, a VW might be the closet they are going to get. And even if they can afford one, perhaps they prefer to not be associated with the negative stereotype that a few Porsche owners have created over the years…

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    • Dickie F

      I have owned over 60 automobiles in my 40 years of driving – from a Ford Anglia to a mini pick up truck – I filled the gap with many VWs, BMWs, Porsches, Mercedes, 4x4s, campers, new cars, classics, racing and rally cars – I enjoyed every one of them at the time, from the 1200 ragtop beetle to a 150hp 356 Speedster on the same day.

      It is not about “afford to” Dave,

      “The human being is full of sensors, and these sensors have to be satisfied by information the car feeds in. A car has to provide an emotional driving experience, you have to feel exactly what the car is doing, so it has to be transparent in use.
      It is not about pure speed, it has to have this puristic, rewarding and emotional driving experience that feeds your sensors, it has to have food for the sensors”.

      If you get that from a go-kart that day or an 18 wheeler, the price does not come into it.

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      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Well said Dickie.

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      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff


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  8. Stu Member

    I have an old 912 motor and have been looking for a pre-68 bug or Ghia to put it in. That used to be a popular upgrade. After watching for over a year for a bug at a decent price, I’ve about concluded I’ll be light years ahead to keep the 912 motor in it’s original rust bucket car. Patching it up enough to be safe and driving it as a ‘rat’ 912 is still a lot more car than most of the old VWs on offer. If you get into really nice bugs, the value isn’t there for the money–they’re still just VWs.

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  9. Horse Radish

    this foolish seller has opted to take a cash offer (most likely) and end the auction.
    I say foolish, because they let it sit for 44 years in the first place.

    Now, what does anybody here think would be the magic number in this case ?, where they couldn’t even wait another 7 days (or less) to see where this auction will go,after it has been in that garage for 44 years anyways.

    Or they fell for some humbug story……….

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  10. Dolphin Member

    With all due respect to Porsche fans, I can understand Josh’s point of view.

    I owned a good running 1200 cc Beetle a long time ago. That car provided transportation, and some fun driving, for very little money and I have good memories of it for that. But if you have driven only front engine / water cooled cars for years as I have, then jumping into an early air cooled Porsche definitely brings back memories of the Beetle. There are differences of course, but other than looks there are more similarities than differences. The sounds, the ride, the shifting, the steering, even the close windshield are all pretty similar. So I can understand why someone would say they would consider a K-G as a cheaper alternative to an early air cooled Porsche.

    As for this K-G, the body looks pretty rough, unfortunately. But the seller has ended the auction so maybe it’s been bought already.

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  11. rick

    Living in NW Washington State most of my life, nearly every pre-70s unrestored Karmann Ghia I’ve ever seen has been a rust bucket. Seems like the only solid early ones are in S. Cal.

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  12. dave

    what did it end up selling for since it says it sold for a 1.00 on ebay

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    • Horse Radish

      as I (kind of) said in my comment:
      that will remain the secret between buyer and seller, since this was done outside of E-bay.
      More likely to the sellers satisfaction.

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  13. Don Andreina

    VW made a very funny ad for the K-G taking the mickey out of its lack of power.


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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Haha, that’s a good one!

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    • Dolphin Member

      So many of the VW ads back in the day made fun of these cars. Put out of course by VW of America, and done so you couldn’t help but laugh when you see them. And then guess what? VWs started to sell and multiply all over North America. It was brilliant advertising.

      And now….VW Group is a contender for being the largest carmaker in the world.

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  14. Sid Member

    I have owned a 73 911, a 93 911 RS America and currently own a 911 track car plus a newer 997. I am not a 356 fan and would prefer a karman Ghia if I were choosing between the two. I think any car with “Ghia” in the name will only go up in value. That being said it would be a joke to make any comparison between a Karman Ghia and even the simplest and basic 911 or 912. Not even close.

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  15. Joe K

    Not to add fuel to the fire, but there is little commonality in the engineering, castings , and metallurgy between a 356/912 and a VW flat four. Having worked on both , I have found there a precedent for the Prices on Porsche pieces, irrespective of the Collector market influences. I find that the Mania over the values of all Vw air cooled has reached near lunacy, having followed the Porsche parade go into the Stratosphere.
    Witness $95K for mint 23 window busses, and even my buddies 52 standard beetle with cable brakes (unrestored) nearing 30K. Ghias are jumping into the fray at serious appreciation rates.
    Even my ’84 Mk1 GTI has me doing double takes these days..

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  16. GlenK

    I have have had a love affair with VW/Ghia all my 60 odd years on this earth. Body for body the 356 and Ghia are I feel are both well made hand built cars. What the real difference in the 356 is the running gear. The 356 was made to handle and go fast. The Ghia was set up as a cruiser with an economic drive line. With little trouble today it is not difficult to modify the Ghia without losing much reliability into a car that will handle as well as a 356. As for power it is not hard to get 80 to 90hp. out of a VW engine today and at a fraction of what it would cost to rebuild a 356 engine. With Porsche prices I feel out of control the Ghia can be a similar and good alternative to the 356.

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  17. Dave Wright

    It is not that I don’t like Gihas, they just don’t compare with a 356. They were always underpowered even compared to a standard bug because of the weight. I used to love it when a hot rod VW would pull up next to me on a Southern California freeway while driving one of my 356’s. I know many of them made twice the power my little 1600 normal did. I would simply drop a gear and pull away from them……they had no legs. It was rare in those days to find a hot rodder that understood chassis or gear design. Anyone remember all the T roadsters with 500 HP, stock suspension and no front brakes…….still brings the hair up on the back of my neck……..

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    • Nicky P

      Dave you bring up an interesting point. It doesn’t matter how much you spend. What matters is what the car was designed for. Sometimes that gets lost in these comparisons. I never drove a Ghia (or even that many rear engine VW’s for that matter). VW went outside to get a body design to utilize their existing technology. Porsche’s mission was to build sports cars. Those Socal tuners had personalized VWs – still VWs. Like Dickie says, its the seat of the pants that determines what does it on that day for any of us.

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  18. garm

    and….. gone. That was fast. Wonder what the offer was.

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  19. Chris A.

    VW hit the market niche with the K-G; the second “sporty” carfor the suburban family/wife who wanted the VW reliability but didn’t want to be seen in the “bug”. Very pretty economy car with high build quality. Wasn’t cheap. Not a Porsche for sure, more like a VW wersion of a 190 SL. Lots of HS girls learned to drive a stick with K-G’s and looked good doing it. I liked it as a commuter car as it was a lot quieter and more stable than the family VW convertible, especially on the freeway.

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  20. Catfish Phil

    Uh, that’s Doctor Porche… :)

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  21. Brian

    As a Porsche owner and vw fan i would love a carmon ghai to restore i have helped a frend with one and fell in love with them and still love them over the porsche any day

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