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Rare 1959 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Low Light Convertible

Sometimes many hands make the best cars: the Karmann Ghia was based on the Volkswagen Beetle platform, its body was designed by Carrozzeria Ghia, and it was constructed by German coachbuilder, Karmann. From 1955 to about 1960 the cars were handbuilt. After that, mass production reigned until 1974 when the model was succeeded by the Scirocco. During its production run, the Karmann Ghia was subject to minor styling changes, some of which have resulted in very large valuation differences facing collectors today. Here at Hemmings is a 1959 “low light” Volkswagen Karmann Ghia convertible, with an asking price of $85,999. The car is located in Los Angeles, California. “Low light” refers to headlights set low on downward curving fenders, making for a delicate, vintage appearance. Alas, to satisfy new international regulations in 1960, the Karmann Ghia’s headlights were raised 45 mm and set farther forward on the fenders. Thanks to its rarity and looks, a low light car will command a premium in the marketplace – the convertible even more so. We have PRA4SNW to thank for this tip!

Not only is this car a rare individual, but it is also in beautiful condition. The ad does not say if restoration work has been performed, but we do know the car has a rebuilt 1.2 liter motor which should generate about 36 bhp. (VW celebrated the 30 to 60 horsepower rating of its 2+2 over time, running an ad at one point showing a Karmann Ghia decked in racing stripes with the caption, “You’ll lose.”) The car also was upgraded to a 12-volt system, received a 30-PICT-1 carburetor, and has a front disc brake conversion. The transmission is a four-speed manual.

The interior is as nice as the exterior, with the Spartan accouterments typical of the VW. We are told that the car retains its original bumpers, emblems, moldings, vintage ski rack, and rims. The seller mentions that the tires are original, so while the whitewall look is great, I would think about replacing those!

The trunk is equally clean and comes with a jack and spare tire kit. The seller has an owner’s handbook to go with the car. The one thing missing is history and as mentioned, a narrative regarding work performed and/or receipts. At this price, I would want to know something about the car’s past ownership. I can’t decide how I feel about the non-original items. On the one hand, seems a shame to change it from stock, but on the other hand, I do understand upgrades that make a car easier to handle in traffic. What do you think?


  1. Cadmanls Member

    Upgraded the brakes but left that old rubber in the rims, what? Nice car but I can’t wrap my head around that price. It’s a VW and these were cheap cars. No frills basic almost sporty transportation. It is like stepping back in time but at that cost? Good luck to the seller.

    Like 12
    • Cadmanls Member

      On the rims

      Like 1
    • Bob McK Member

      There is a guy in our club that has one. He was offered 85K and turned it down.

      Like 2
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Always thought the raised headlight requirement enhanced the VW’s look compared to almost all the other cars. Can’t be a lot of the low headlight cars around these days. Nice to see one in this condition.

    Like 3
  3. alphasud Member

    Thanks Michelle for the low light definition. I have heard the term used with the older Ghia’s and actually thought it referred to the glass size.

    Like 6
  4. rustylink

    For that kinda scratch I’d go ahead and invest in a 356.

    Like 9
    • Bob Enderle

      Uh, you’d have to put a “1” in front of the price for a 356

      Like 4
    • Doug

      As long as you don’t mind a coupe. It would take a “2” in front for a Roadster or Speedster. It is a beautiful KG though.

  5. Bo

    I’ve always thought the Karman Ghia looks better as a hardtop than a convertible.
    The low-light hardtop is one of my favourite cars.
    The price on this one seems super high.

    Like 7
  6. StephenB

    86K is an insane asking price for a VW (of any year and condition). Even half of the asking price is asking way too much. Unbelievable what people want for these cars nowadays.

  7. Jonathan A Green

    Saw an exhibit years ago at the Toronto Science Museum about cars. They were showing a bunch of ads, and the best was for the KG. It showed the car racing along, and the narrator says “The Volkswagen KG is the most economical sports car you can buy….”, at which time you then see a paper a full screen paper banner, and on the other side, you assume is the car is about to tear through it, but it keeps getting stopped. You hear the car back up, and try to break through again and again. The narrator then says “….it’s just not the most powerful…”

    Like 5
  8. Margaret A. Soucie

    When I was first driving, I longed for one of these cars. While chasing parts at a dealer, Gaston Andre in Watertown, Ma. I would walk out into the showroom and look at the cars. A Saab 96 could be had for $1200., a Karmann Ghia convertible, just under $1500. ! Unreal. But, I bought a trashed ’66 Mustang convertible for $250.. Thus, cementing a lifelong love for American Muscle cars, while leaving a quiet respect for small European sportscars. Knowing how little these cars started out costing, I have trouble imagining paying $85000. for any of them. Good luck and may the car gods smile upon all.

    Like 5
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I remember that dealer, so I searched for it. There is still a classic car dealer by that name in the area.

      Like 1
      • chrlsful

        funny, as a teen’n twenty something I pulled 1/2 doz cars (alfas) outta “Goldie’s” to restore w/GA parts (Braintree & Watertown).

        Like 1
  9. Kurt Member

    Uh, nope to that asking price. Nice car though.

    Like 1
  10. matthew grant

    When will this bubble burst? The price of this car is just stupid.

    Like 1
  11. Diego

    What tires are those?

  12. Al camino

    I still like the kg that had the viper motor in it,probably cheaper than this one

  13. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Wow! The stuff you learn on this site. I never knew of a “low light” Karrmann Ghia. After taking a good look at it, I can see the difference.
    Way back when I was around 14 or 15, I vacationed with a friend of my fathers from the war. This gentleman married a German woman, who brought with her a Ghia, newer model, but it had those extra “driving/fog lights” next to those little “grills”. I personally like those. She let me drive it one night. Very cool car!

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