Following a drab period of austerity in the 40s that stemmed from a post-war world, the 1950s and 1960s saw a sudden boom in sports cars growing increasingly popular among drivers looking to add a bit of colour and excitement into their lives. The automotive industry at the time realised that they could truly embrace the possibilities of the future, and ran with it. Subsequently, you’d see all kinds of different shapes, features, and colours on the roads, not at all unlike some kind of domed spaceships on wheels.
In a world growing increasingly vibrant and ambitious after decades of economic uncertainty, the industry figured that bold design and performance went together like cookies and milk, and really began to push the boat out.
The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia was introduced in 1955 and quickly became a beloved classic sports-style car. Its design was a collaboration between the German automaker Volkswagen and the Italian design firm Carrozzeria Ghia. The project was overseen by Luigi “Gigi” Segre, the head of Ghia’s design department, and Wilhelm Karmann, of the German coach-building company Karmann. The result was a unique and timeless design that combined elements of both Italian and German automotive design.
But we’ll tell it how it is – the Karmann Ghia was not entirely a sports car. It was a daily driver in a sporty suit, kind of like a sexy Beetle, and for that we love it.
In this post, we’ll compare the Karmann Ghia to other iconic sports cars of its era.
1953-1955 Triumph TR2
The TR2 was a popular British sports car that was similar in styling to the Karmann Ghia, with its curved edges and intricately welded panels. However, the TR2 had a more powerful engine than the Karmann Ghia, producing 90 horsepower compared to the Karmann Ghia’s ~40 horsepower. Despite this, the Karmann Ghia’s unique design and Volkswagen’s reputation for German reliability helped it stand out in the crowded sports car market.
1953-1962 Chevrolet Corvette
Another iconic sports car of the era was the 1953-1962 Chevrolet Corvette. The Corvette was a more powerful and larger car than the Karmann Ghia, with a V8 engine producing up to 250 horsepower. However, the Karmann Ghia’s smaller size and compact design made it an easy handle, making it a popular choice for drivers looking for a more nimble sports-style car.
1966-1994 Alfa Romeo Spider
The 1966–1994 Alfa Romeo Spider was another popular sports car of the era. The Spider had a similar design to the Karmann Ghia, with a sleek and aerodynamic body. Think, a Karmann Ghia but a little sharper, and a little more boxy.
However, the Spider was a more powerful car than the Karmann Ghia, with a four-cylinder engine producing up to ~120 horsepower. The Alfa Romeo Spider was built for high-performance driving, with a focus on power and speed. The Karmann Ghia, on the other hand, was designed for a more comfortable and refined driving experience, with a focus on elegance and style.