Guest contributor: Marc Wöltinger on his 1967 Type 34 Karmann Ghia
By accident (or, the car that found me)
I’ve been into cars since my earliest childhood. Cars used to be my favorite toys, favorite subject to draw, favorite everything. My mom actually wanted to take me to a child psychologist because I was so obsessed with them. Even from an early age, I had my indisputable favorites. As there were always quite a few American cars around in Switzerland, I soon fell under the spell of Detroit iron. The throaty rumble of the V8 in conjunction with the spectacular design made a big impression on me.
As I approached driving age, the all-important question started to come up: what car was I first going to own? In Switzerland, you can’t get your driving license until the age of 18, so there’s plenty of time to take this matter into careful consideration. But there was one important fact that was limiting my options: money— or rather, the lack thereof. So, that 1972 Stingray wasn’t really an option. Neither was the 1965 GTO.
By accident, my car passion went in a completely new direction. My neighbor offered me a VW bus from the late ’70s. It was a former Swiss army car and thus, meticulously serviced and with only 17,000 kilometers on the odometer. The idea of using it as a camper and having a dependable and fun daily driver at the same time seemed tempting. The price was unbelievably low, so I became the proud owner of an olive green VW Kombi. I enjoyed it for two years and discovered the colorful world of the aircooled VW scene. Soon I realized my late-’70s bus was too modern for my taste and I replaced it with a 1966 VW Beetle. I lowered it and had a lot of fun with it but another two years on, I started getting tired of it. I wanted something more extraordinary— but still from the aircooled VW family.
I had always liked the Type 14 Karmann Ghia, the elegant sister of the quirky Beetle, but they were rather hard to find around here. So, I told all of my VW friends to look out for a nice example of a Ghia coupe. After only a few days, I got a phone call from a friend. He told me about a Ghia coupe that was for sale at a Renault dealership. It was a trade-in that was sitting in a dark corner of the workshop, not getting much interest despite being for sale.
When my buddy sent me the first picture I was struck: I remembered having seen this very car in front of that dealership and even having walked around it in amazement, checking out this strange VW I had only seen in magazines but never in real life. So, it was obviously not a Type 14 but rather a much rarer Type 34 Ghia.
The Type 34 Ghia, often referred to as the Razor Edge Ghia, is the slightly larger Karmann Ghia model, because it’s based on the VW 1500 S, also known as the Type 3. At the time I had seen it for sale, it had a hefty price tag behind the windscreen— probably the reason why it hadn’t yet sold. Now the price was reduced by almost half as the dealer clearly wanted to get rid of it.
I went to the Renault dealership to check it out, a 1967 model with an ultra rare sunroof option. Only seven percent of the Type 34s were equipped with the electronically (!) operated steel sunroof. The car had a tasteful two-tone paint job in volcano grey and ivory with a matching ivory interior. My buddy who had accompanied me checked out the car’s condition in depth while I concentrated on the more general look and feel… and instantly fell in love. So, by accident once again, I bought a car I never actually planned to own.
Driving it for the first time made my heart jump. It was so different from the driving experience of a VW Beetle— much more mature, comfortable, sophisticated. The only thing I didn’t like was the speedboat stance with the nose of the car sticking high up in the air— a common sight on most old VWs. But thanks to the torsion bar suspension, the front was quickly lowered. I also added a set of period correct Empi Sprintstar wheels and enjoyed it in this form for five years while I drove it on many trips all over Europe.
That is, until the summer of 2005, when my Type 34 sat in an underground parking facility during the heaviest rainstorms Switzerland had seen in a century. The whole underground level of the building had flooded, including my Ghia. After three days, the parking facility was finally accessible again and I could inspect the damage in detail. The whole car had been submerged in muddy floodwater.
But luckily, there were no dents or scratches in the bodywork. We trailered it to a friend’s place, removed the interior and all the trim pieces and the bumper, and hosed everything down. It didn’t look so bad anymore, but I knew that a whole lot of work would be necessary to bring her back to running condition. But due to a temporary lack of motivation, the Ghia would sit in storage at my friend’s place— for two years.
In 2007, we finally decided to tackle the rebuild. We disassembled the drivetrain and replaced the old 1600cc engine with a souped-up 1800cc engine with twin 40 Weber carburetors. The transmission was left in place with only the oil changed. The whole interior had to be redone. I purchased a new carpet set in Germany made from German square weave material. And by a stroke of pure luck, I scored a nice set of used seats in the original ivory color on eBay for the massive sum of €80. The door panels were reproductions from the US. And while we were at it, we modified the brake discs and drums to the Porsche 5×130 bolt pattern in order to mount a set of period correct Porsche Fuchs.
With that, my Type 34 was on the road again, and just in time for Europe’s largest aircooled VW festival.
My relationship with my Type 34 is now eleven years long and counting. I recently replaced the slightly worn 1800cc engine with a stout 2 litre with 48 Webers while the original gearbox was removed in favor of a freshly rebuilt and reinforced Rancho transmission— the perfect combination for discovering those fabulous roads and passes in the Swiss Alps, and another reason why I’m never going to part with my Type 34, the car I found by accident. Or the car that found me.
The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34 debuted in 1961, the year VW introduced the 1500 S model (Notchback and Squareback). It’s based on the same chassis (Type 3), the way the smaller Karmann Ghia Type 14 uses the VW Beetle’s Type 1 chassis. The Type 34 Ghia never gained the popularity of the Type 14 and was only produced until 1969. 42,505 Type 34s were produced (coupe only), versus 466,856 Type 14s (coupe and convertible).
Words and images: Marc Wöltinger