CC Capsule: 1973 Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia (Type 14) Cabriolet – Wie K-G In Frankreich

I know, it’s a pity this couldn’t be a little older. Those stupid big bumpers and oversized rear lights are kind of disgraceful. As is the interior, frankly. But despite all those outrages, catching one of the timeless Type 14s is still cause for celebration, particularly in stock form and in a nice colour. They tried, but the design was not ruined. Well done, Ghia. And you as well, Karmann.

I encountered this lovely K-G in the south of France last summer. It would be hard to imagine a better vehicle to putter about the rural roads of Provence than this. Imagine wafting about the winding mountain roads, basking in the warm air, the familiar thrum of the 1.6 litre flat-4 in your wake. No worries, no hustle.

The German expression “Leben wie Gott in Frankreich” (living like God in France) captures this sentiment pretty aptly. It conveys the idea of a carefree life lived in a place of abundance and fair weather. Quite the idiom, isn’t it? Whatever sayings any country has regarding a neighbouring nation is usually negative. German culture bucks the trend.

Volkswagen also pleasantly surprised everyone with the K-G, dressing up their proletarian Beetle to mingle with the coachbuilt crowd. With its genius blend of Italian design and German engineering, the Karmann-Ghia is a potent cocktail of grace and solidity. Hard to resist.

OK, as mentioned in the first paragraph, this very late model does lose a few points on the grace front due to the extra bits VW saw fit to slap on that gorgeous mid-‘50s design. Luckily, this unfortunate uglification took place in the early ‘70s and did not go further. Imagine what the poor K-G would have looked like by 1980 with blacked out chrome and plastic wheel covers…

If I could wave a magic wand to turn something back to the earlier cars, it would have to be the interior. What a drab and dark décor for such a bright and happy automobile. The steering wheel looks especially wrong. The inevitable march of “progress”…

By the early ‘70s, the Karmann-Ghia was a 20-year-old design, so the fact that it sailed through two decades with very few changes was a feat in itself. The first coupés were made in 1955, with the convertible joining the fray two years later. I never realized until I looked into production numbers for this post, but the coupé outsold the drop-top four to one.

It makes sense – the coupé is undeniably gorgeous, and convertibles are more niche by their very nature. Still, over 80k units of the cabriolet were made until 1974. And they weren’t exactly giving these away.

The undeniable bonus point about these final edition Karmann-Ghias is their 50hp motor. Being that they are a bit heavier than Beetle cabriolets, I can’t imagine the early cars, pretty though they are, to be very user-friendly in present-day traffic – even in a place where 2CVs and Renault 4s still roam the network in decent numbers.

“Living like God in France driving a Karmann-Ghia cabriolet” has a certain ring to it.


Related posts:


Curbside Classic: 1970 Karmann Ghia – The Fairest Volkswagen Of Them All, by PN

CC Capsule: 1967 Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia – The Perfect Curbside Classic for the Crunchy Granola Set?, by Jim Grey

In-Motion Outtakes: 1970 – ’71 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia – Grape Creamsicle, by Joseph Dennis

COAL: My Karmann-Ghia Obsession, Part 1 and Part 2, by RetroJerry