Tests the new
by Karl Ludvigsen
Interior is luxurious and roomy compared to the standard model
THE “word” on the
Volkswagen has long been: “It’s a great
car, if you don’t mind the way it looks.” Even the most devoted
admit that the standard car doesn’t exactly appeal to the womenfolk. No
been more aware of this, of course, than the manufacturer, and a
step is being taken to relieve the situation. Surprisingly, the
solution only seems to have made matters more critical.
paragraphs have in part answered the “sport
car?” question, but it might be interesting to leave the matter open
look over this svelte version of our old friend. Whether or not it is a
thing, the Karmann Ghia looks like a sports car. Its clean lines need
emphasis, and the slim top is very well done. Construction is
the fenders firmly welded to the main body. The Karmann shell is bolted
slightly wider than standard Volkswagen backbone-reinforced platform
;The front and rear deck lids fit neatly, and, when opened by interior
pull-knobs, they are supported by counterbalancing springs. One
suitcase would go in the front “trunk,” and there is additional room in
nose bulge forward of the vertically-placed spare tire. Accessory
probably soon supply a lining to make this space usable without
with the horns placed there.
Abrupt drop in rear deck lid interferes slightly with routine checks but not overly so. Lid is held open by tension hinges.
High “hood” line make for slightly less forward visibility than is the case with slant-nosed Porsche or standard VW.
Clean lines of the car indicate the Ghia design influence on otherwise strictly Teutonic Volkswagen.
As in both VW and Porsche, the forward compartment houses spare tire and fuel tank with little spare room.
tire pressure almost invariably brings an increase in cornering power,
counts as another measure to make the notorious VW back end stick in a
long as the front end. Purely an added dividend is the much lower
gravity of the new car, which, with the same suspension, should reduce
moment and thus, the resulting roll angle.
As usual, I then
tried the car with
pressures increased all
around by six pounds. With this help, it handled very well indeed. Roll
reduced and the tires were dead quiet, the Karmann-Ghia slicing neatly
on a neutral line. Rather higher speeds were also obtainable before the
at the back required attention, and there was an additional gain in
line stability. Unexpectedly, the higher pressures didn’t seem to
ride much, the all-independent Volkswagen chassis seeming to depend
suspension than tires. The short wheelbase produces a certain amount of
and some bumps can be felt, but the ride is still better than that of
comparable car, except, perhaps, the Porsche.
There remains some hope for the top end of the range, where the lower frontal area of the coupe may help out. This is not a wind tunnel job, though, and the regular VW is pretty clean, so miracles are not likely.
Getting into action, the flat four starts quickly from cold and similarly when warm if an understanding throttle foot is used. Idling is regular enough but not smooth in a mechanical sense, the engine already showing its desire to run fast. Low speed response to the throttle is sluggish, probably due in part to the long inlet pipes. Again, it jumps much more quickly at higher speeds, where the engine smoothes out and feels at home. When accelerating it emits a purposeful rumble, and seems to make less thrashing noise than the standard car. The only marked flat spot in the speed range comes just after a leisurely shift from second to third.
Actual acceleration figures are about what could be expected of a brand new car, ranging as they do from a little slower than standard at low speeds to better than par at the top end. Terminal velocity is three or four miles higher than the VW, and half a second is lopped off the standing quarter. In spite of these improvements, the data are not outstanding on an absolute basis, and the Karmann-Ghia has revealed itself as a car that makes searching demands on its gearbox ratios. These, fortunately, are well spaced, second and third being very useful in reaching a speed which the overdrive top gear can maintain.
Only change in
the engine is the use of the Transporter air
cleaner layout and a #195 air correction jet.
improvements have been made to increase the road
The ‘main change is the use of a torsion anti-roll bar to connect the front trailing arms (left).
The rear suspension (center) is similar to standard VW. Frame is beefed up (right).
The spindly shift
lever has a long longitudinal and short
lateral travel, a push-down latch-out being provided for reverse.
“feel” is adequate but not direct. The Borg- Warner synchromesh on the
three speeds is foolproof, the lightness of the gears helping to make
nearly instantaneously. If this is done under full throttle, though,
will slip rather than grab. This is to be expected of an otherwise
smooth touring unit, which heated up and tended to judder slightly
large and clearly marked, that job on the
right being a very accurate electric clock and not a 12,000 rpm
speedometer, reading to 90 instead of the standard 80, is festooned
warning lights for oil pressure, charging rate, bright headlights, and
directional signals. Both dials are readily visible through the wheel,
flanked on one side by the choke and twist-to-start ignition, and by
control and switch for the self-parking windshield wiper on the other.
good instrument light is supplied, but cannot be used because it is
on the windshield directly in the line of vision — another opportunity
suitable accessory. The glove box is wide and deep, with an awkward
push-to-open catch, and it is supplemented by map pockets in the doors.