Weird Looking Pontiac: 1970 VW Karmann Ghia

Andrew TannerBy Andrew Tanner

This isn’t your typical kit-car. In fact, this isn’t a kit-car at all! Reader Pat L. sent us this Karmann Ghia that has been turned into a miniature Pontiac Firebird–sort of. The front clip is a 1976 Firebird clip that has been cut down and otherwise modified to fit seamlessly onto the Karmann Ghia. I’m not an expert on homemade modifications or one-off custom builds, but this looks to have been done quite well! I can’t even imagine the process that was used to make a Firebird front end fit onto a Karmann Ghia. They even put t-tops in the roof! Find this strange but cool little VW here on craigslist in South Carolina with an asking price of $2,900. 

The presentation could certainly be better, but this car could almost be confused for an actual Pontiac at a distance. The fact that someone has seamlessly created a car that has never existed before and made something that doesn’t look awful is truly impressive. I kind of dig it. The creator of this Volkswagen Firebird has put an American twist on a German favorite, for better or for worse. With the correct wheel and tire setup, this could be a slick little Karmann Ghia. Speaking of wheels and tires, the seller states that this car is sitting on 1979 Mustang wheels which confirms my initial suspicion when viewing the ad: these are Michelin TRX wheels. If you are unfamiliar, TRX wheels require special and currently very hard to come by tires that are measured in metric sizes only. For example, instead of a 13 inch wheel a car with TRX wheels might have 315mm wheels, which equates to 12.4 inches.

Under the hood is a Volkswagen engine, which is said to have not run in 10 years. The seller states “Currently it has a standard VW engine which was not intended to be permanent; a high-performance engine was intended.” This means that the seller and I are on the exact same page! If its going to look the part of a miniature American muscle car, this car had better have the miniature muscle to back it up. Though there’s not a tremendous amount of space to work with back here, there is certainly some and the right person will find a way to fit something interesting in this car.

The rear remains relatively unmodified aside from the apparent removal of the tail light lenses. It strikes me odd that for all the work done for the t-tops and mating the Firebird clip to this car that someone would leave the back half of the car unmodified. While its certainly funky, I think some type of modification to smooth out the transition from the Pontiac front to the Volkswagen rear would be in order. Regardless, this car is cool. What would you do with it?

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Comments

  1. Steve65

    I can’t decide if I love it or hate it. It’s definitely well executed, and doesn’t look awkward or half-baked the way most such projects do. The back half should be left alone. Completely changing the lines of the car, but leaving the original greenhouse sticking up always ends up looking ridiculous IMO.

    On the other hand, it looks like somebody cut to completely different cars apart in the middle, and welded the two ends together…

    I’d put a breathed-on VW motor in it.

    7+
  2. txchief

    I wonder if there’s room for an LS motor in the front….

    0
  3. Neil

    Hood fitment looks a tad eskew.

    3+
    • JRATT1956

      The T-tops look even worse than the hood, I will pass on this one. I love my 2006 VW Jetta GLI, but know how these 1970 VWs drive and ride. My 61 year old back cannot take it, lol.

      0
  4. Leon

    Coker Tire sold metrics. Maybe still do

    3+
    • Steve65

      Still do, ranging from $274 to $546 ea. Unless someone is really wedded to those wheels, it would make more sense to find a set of conventionally sized aftermarket wheels.

      Anybody know which size fits those Mustang wheels?

      0
      • John T

        According to LMR.com, the size of the original TRX wheel was 390mm (15.35″) diameter and 150mm (5.90″) wide. Michelin was the only company known to make the tire (size 220/55VR390) to fit this metric wheel. LMR (Late Model Restoration) offers a set of 16×7 look-alike wheels that will accommodate modern 16-inch performance tires for about half the cost of the Michelin metric tire which by the way Coker Tire still sells. Hope that helps!

        6+
      • RichS

        Yup – BMW also used the 390 TRXs for a bit too on their 5 series. Ford used the 390s on the Mustang, Cougar and Thunderbird and 365s on some Escort GTs.

        We used to get these coming in to Firestone when I worked there in the early 90s and it was cheaper to sell the customer new aftermarket wheels and tires than replacing the Michelins.

        0
      • whippeteer

        Depending on whether they changed hubs, or just used adapters, swap the wheels out for Pontiac Honeycombs and go all Bandit!

        1+
  5. steve

    I like it

    0
  6. Chas

    It does appear as though some glasfibre work was dinner to the rear around the license plate mounting area. Not get speaking buy some work was definitely done there.

    5+
  7. Stu

    I’ll assume the owner had a choice of either selling the thing or spending some quality time at the local mental hospital.

    6+
    • John T

      Hopefully a VW Custom Shop somewhere in Southern California will rescue this unfinished project and work the magic to make it something extraordinary including swapping out the apparently original old tired VW motor for a nice new or rebuilt high performance VW modification.

      3+
  8. ccrvtt

    Oy!

    0
  9. DrinkinGasoline

    I’m a big fan of the Karmann Ghia nose so I’m not too crazy about the well grafted Firebird front end but,
    I love the T-Tops !
    It looks to be well done. I’m sure there were folks who said people like George Barris, Gene Winfield or
    Big Daddy Ed “Rat Fink” Roth and countless others should have been committed to an institution but, they went down in history, having changed the custom car world.
    That cannot be denied.

    5+
  10. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    Wow – well done except the market for it is, well, one person. That and it kind of looks like a Vega which is probably not what they were going for.

    2+
  11. John T

    A Vega with a VW engine would be a significant improvement!

    3+
  12. Richie Rich

    Didn’t Pontiac make a Vega clone in Pontiac drag that had a similar front end? Would be about the right size without alot of cutting and fitting – may be where this Frankenstein started.

    3+
    • John T

      It was known as the Pontiac Astre and was sold in Canada only in 1973 and 1974. It was available in both the United States and Canada starting with the 1975 model year until both it and the Chevrolet Vega was eventually discontinued after 1977.

      2+
  13. boxdin

    Isn’t the pontiac part plastic, and the KG part metal? How did he join them?

    0
  14. Chebby

    This VW has me thinking of the letter between X and Z.

    3+
    • Oily Dick

      Why?

      2+
  15. Benjamin

    Hey, why not throw another brand on that thing, and shove a Subaru boxer 4 in it. Would give it more than enough get up an go, and adapters can be had to mate the new powerplant to the VW gearbox. As far as looks go, i have had uglier.

    5+
  16. JimmyJ

    I just puked in my mouth a little bit….

    0
  17. redwagon

    Would have enjoyed it more without the t tops. Some how they break the design.

    After having written that I realize it means to me that the grafted on front end was done fairly well!

    3+
  18. dougP

    These cars have been up in value. why ruin such a nice car.

    0
  19. Rabbit

    The lenses are off because the taillight housings are probably shot. These don’t have conventional sockets, they’re integrated into the housing, & they corrode like nobody’s business. They sell aftermarket chromed ones that stand up pretty well. As for the rest, Mom always said “If you can’t say something nice…..”

    3+
  20. whippeteer

    While there was a company making kit cars to turn your VW into a Camaro, they weren’t anything as well designed as the look of this front end. http://cdn.chevyhardcore.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/28/files/2010/11/vwmaro1.jpg

    1+
  21. whippeteer

    The Bandit is now on a budget.

    2+
  22. whippeteer

    In some weird and warped way, I like it.

    1+
  23. Rock On

    Needs the shaker hood scoop and mini screaming chicken decal to be complete!

    3+
    • Milt
      1+
      • King Al

        Jawohl, mein heir! I like it. Needs the scoop and bird. Probably was too tired to modify the back, but needs to be done with rear spoiler and proper wide tailights. Then, polish it off with a front spoiler and matchng air deflectors in front of each wheel.

        0
    • whippeteer

      My sentiments exactly!

      0
  24. dan

    No, no, no !!!!! A Karmann Ghia is a work of art. This totally destroys a truly beautiful automobile. Give me 5 gal of petrol and a lighter and I’ll fix it.

    2+
  25. Jubjub

    Hahaha! A German eagle on the hood!

    So weird and wrong on so many levels…but so right. The Mustang wheels need to stay.

    I mean, I’m looking at it thinking of what I’d wear driving it. I’d need accessories and a haircut too.

    2+
    • whippeteer

      Nah, it needs Pontiac honeycomb wheels! @Jubjub, you’d need a mullet!

      0
  26. ROTAG999

    My Karman was lacking punch so added a Poncho front end…..!

    0
  27. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    To me……..it looks like a Vega/Astre front end, what do the VEga people say?

    Actually I like this one too, not as much as the Panhard.

    0
  28. rustylink

    that’s a lot of sins to commit to one poor Ghia…

    0
  29. Bill McCoskey

    Painting a car white is one way to hide “unusual” body lines and less than perfect surfaces. Look closely at the rear engine cover on either side of the license plate area. lots of waves in the body lines.

    1+
    • boxdin

      I was wondering if he wanted to “fill out” that area to make it look more substantial than KG metal or change for the sake of change. After all the front end exceeded all….. all ….. boundaries of common sense.

      0
  30. Fran

    I am surprised that so many comments like it. I got one word. Horrible.

    0
  31. geo

    thats just wrong

    0
  32. SO-LO-TUS

    I love Carman Ginas, (that is what we used to call ours) but I think this is cute too.

    You would definitely garner all the attention at the VW meets.

    1+
  33. RBatsch

    What a f*cked up mess IMO…why…just why?

    0
  34. Jason

    I’m selling this thing for my neighbor, so if any of you would like to own this peice of German / American coolness feel free to email me . And I can get you any kind of pictures you woukd like . Sublime681@aol.com

    0
    • Andrew Tanner Andrew Tanner Staff

      Very cool! Not for everyone but I think it’s cool, simply as a departure from what we normally see! Hope y’all find a buyer for it!

      0
  35. BMW4RunninTundra Member

    “Body by Bondo”
    (you see all the bubbles in the l/f fender area – as was mentioned previously, the rear deck lid has cut lines and waves)
    I would not shut either “hood” very hard! No telling what you will have left if you do!

    0
  36. Ward William

    This one is best left to rot back to dust.

    0
  37. Casey Jones

    Pretty damn amazing job I think! No doubt it was done a while ago. Not many people would to this to a Ghia today.

    For the purists and on the fence: let’s face it how often. Do you find a Ghia that hasn’t had a nose job at one time or another? Like a 70’s Vette 90% of these got wacked from parking or someone backing into it.

    Sadly many of these were total losses due to the nature of the repair work involved. I imagine this is a very likely reason this was done. Hey don’t we have a firebird around here somewhere?? Hmmm I wonder if…

    Love the T-tops as well! Crazy!!!

    0

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