Bruce' 1974 Ghia
This is my 1974 Karmann Ghia, in original colors and trim and I have owned it since 2001. It has spent the last 9 years with me on the road at first but always protected in the garage. It has a great history. It all started in Germany, its birthplace, in late ’74. It was within the last 100 or so built. As for design, 1974 offered IRS suspension, 1600 dual port engine, front disc brakes, this has rear window defrost, and the engine was tuned well for emissions. They had perfected its design by this time so it’s a usable car for today’s interstates and roads. So many older cars just don’t stand a chance on the road of today. They can’t handle the corners or ride well on the interstate. These cars perform very well at higher speeds. Longer wheel base than Bugs and much lower to the ground gives an entirely different driving experience. I feel very connected to the road and my surroundings when driving this car. It was shipped from Germany to California, and there it sat, either in storage or on the showroom floor until 1983. It was given some snazzy pinstripes and a Polygel coat paint treatment and sold to some folks in California for $10,145.
They must have loved the car because they paid ½ down and 21% interest!! When I purchased this car, I was handed a file folder that is ½ inch thick. I opened it and found the original window sticker, the original owner’s manual, the financing paperwork, the tags, the emissions tests, etc for the entire life of the car to date of purchase. I was amazed. They owned this car until 2001 when they sold it on eBay to a collector in Orange Beach, AL. I purchased this car from the collector just a few months after he had bought because he “needed room in his warehouse for a Vette he bought.” He had it shipped from CA to AL via transport. My family and I drove to Orange Beach and picked the car up. We made a 3-day vacation out of it and drove the car all over town. It was awesome. He had it tuned up for me and drove it a bit. After 3 days of town driving I decided instead of trailering it back I wanted to drive it. It made the 550-mile trip flawlessly. People were amazed as I sped by at 75 and 80 miles per hour. It handled like a dream. I drove this car for months, not so much as removing a wheel. I did replace the rotor and cap and adjusted the valves. I changed the oil a few times but other than that I just drove. I put about 15000 miles on it in 2 ½ years. It handled better in snow and ice than any other vehicle I owned at the time. I had a Bronco, a Jimmy, and an ’88 924S Porsche and this car was far superior on the wintry roads. I drove it all through winter the first winter loving every minute of it. The heater works quite well contrary to what I had heard of air-cooled bugs and such.
After driving it for a couple of years, I noticed that the windshield and rear window began to leak and the engine was leaking oil. The battery tray needed help and the dash was cracked in a couple of places. The paint was faded in the front and had a couple of scars in the body (previous damage). I invested about 800 bucks in a new dash pad (show quality), OEM rubber for both front and rear windows, side window rubber, new cables for the rear lid release and a new gas tank. I forgot to add that when I got home from that first 550-mile trip, the gas tank was leaking and needed new fuel lines. I replaced the lines and pulled the tank. I put a 9-gallon boat tank that I had from my boat for a temporary and it actually worked so well that I used it for the 2 years that I drove it. It was a perfect fit and worked great. It got about 32 MPG and I rarely needed gas so it wasn’t a big deal, just pull a different cable to fill. When I pulled the windshield, I decided this car has been such a great driver and has had been so reliable that it was worthy of some TLC. I installed the new dash (not too bad a job) with the windshield out to make it easier. It needed some work. The paint was faded badly in the front and had a couple of repairs that were primed. I decided to go all out. I love this car for what it is and how it feels to drive it. I first took it to a body shop that specializes in old cars and hot rods. I wanted a high quality paint job. Factory color is Phoenix Yellow or Rossera Green (not sure which). The paint job cost me $2000. It is very nice. As you can see in the pictures below, I had left my car in reverse so one of the back up light is still on…. this is when I noticed I had a bulb out. I have reworked all the housings, so it must be a blown bulb. All other electrical is functioning. There are a lot of connectors on these cars that need attention after this many years. I repaired or replaced every connection and used dielectric grease to protect in the future. One of the front turn lenses is aftermarket and both headlights have been updated to the Sylvania XRP or something sealed. They are much brighter than stock and inexpensive.
The paint is about one shade more yellow than the original but you can’t see it unless you know. This is not my all time favorite color. When first dreaming of owning a Ghia, I saw myself in a charcoal gray w/ red and black interior lowered to the ground with a huge 200 HP engine. It would have wide wheels and 4 wheel disk brakes. I wanted a hot rod. I bought this car with that intention. When I found out the cool history and documentation I changed my mind and decided to go as all-original as I could. Restoring the original and replacing only what was necessary. So much of the car was in order. The body shop had it for 3 months and did a near perfect job. They installed the new seals for both front and rear windows after paint. The plastic covers over the inner doors were cracked, so I had him repaint that too, as well as the jams. Under the rear seats and front hood looked near new. The body pans are perfect.
The tires wear perfectly. The bumpers are not perfect. The front is missing an upright but I am looking for one to replace. The rear has a couple of waves in it but in all very decent. I replaced the rear light lenses with the Euro style (yellow turn lens) I think they look better. I restored the housings and used new seals. I restored the license light assembly with all new wiring, reinforced and installed new seal (very difficult to install this seal). All paint under the hood below is the original paint. It was in perfect condition so I repaired the center with the coating.
I drove the car on Father’s Day 2008 for the first time in 3 years with a new paint job and new dash etc. The steel fuel lines had clogged from sitting in the garage for 3 years and not running. It took a can of carb cleaner and a fluid evacuator to suck the clog out. I drove it 60 miles that day. I noticed it didn’t want to idle all that well but ran fine on the top, I figured the carb would need cleaning. When I returned, I shot the engine with a temp gun and it was over heated. It was covered with oil and goo and wasn’t worthy to be in the car any longer. I pulled the engine and tore it down. The oil leaks were coming from the push rod tubes. The heads had 3 cylinders that had cracks between the valve seats and showed wear on the valves. I purchased rebuild heads and bought a 1650 cc heavy-duty big bore kit. The crank was perfect and the cam looked new. All well within tolerance. I blasted the block and painted, installed new pressure relief valves, installed new bearings, original crank (cleaned and polished), original cam, new oil pump, I intended on flashing it up and buying chrome tins but after looking, reading, and talking to people who know, I decided to restore my tins and keep as much original as I could. I restored every component on the engine. The intakes are blasted and clear coated, the intake manifold blasted and painted; all original tins I blasted and painted. The doghouse rebuilt and thermostat in place. I made sure to reinstall and adjust all sub-systems that were factory installed.
Volkswagen did a pretty good job with the air cleaner and carburetor set-up and it starts and idles with the first attempt of the key and drives very well when cold or hot. Performance is almost unaffected when it’s cold so I meticulously restored the entire engine and air systems to maintain that reliability. The air cleaner is oil bath and element style which is high maintenance but very effective. I wanted to keep it original but found a couple of things that could be improved like the vacuum lines to the canister. I built new lines and rerouted to clean up the engine compartment. I rebuilt the canister with new charcoal media (front and rear). The tins alone took a week or two to complete the blasting and finishing but they turned out awesome, I think better than new. I protected everything that could corrode with clear coat engine paint or plated. I had to replace the original coil (I dropped it on the ground) with a pretty blue Bosch coil. I rebuilt the carburetor with a new kit. I removed the EGR circuit and made a small block off plate for the manifold. I installed new wires and plugs of course. I used lock nuts and studs on all case and head nuts. I used SS pan head screws for the tins. It all turned out very nice.
Then I repaired the battery area by cutting out the bad metal and replacing it with a plate that was fit around the inner fender and welded the seam all the way around to ensure seal. I found some speckle trunk paint that had turquoise fleck in it and used it to finish the job. I used a scuffer to prep and then base coated black. The trunk paint looked great. I blasted and restored the hood latch and used SS bolts to attach. I installed a new engine seal. I noticed the wire to the alternator had been hot and the other wiring looked terrible. I repaired all connections and replaced anything that was suspect. I replaced the backup light relay with new. I decided to install a couple of extra grounds to the engine to insure proper circuits. The heat exchangers were blasted and coated with new return springs and bushings. I installed a GT style exhaust so was unable to use the small upper heat exchangers. I wrapped the header pipes with exhaust wrap and installed new fresh air ducts. I noticed that the inside of the engine lid had some peeling paint so I used the fleck paint on it and it turned out great. I restored the rain gutter panel and installed new tubes. I installed a new engine compartment seal. The engine started for the first time after rebuild with one press of the accelerator and a turn of the key. I was grinning ear to ear. I installed new hubcaps and restored the brake system.
I replaced the master cylinder, lines, rear brake cylinders, and rebuilt the front calipers. I installed a new flywheel and clutch so it was like butter when I took off. I installed a tach that was intended for my drag car but never used… a bit much but works great with the shift light and lights up the inside of the car at night. I ran the engine in as recommended. I cleaned up the under hood area up front and is original paint. I installed new side molding with new clips.I plan to carpet when I do the interior. The interior is nearly all-original. I installed a Blaupunkt stereo and rear speakers, so now it has good tunes. All the gauges work as well as the rear window defroster. Every light is new and socket cleaned with dielectric grease used. I plan to replace the carpet and upholster the seats but still look good for now. The headliner was decent but never got tucked back in under the new seals. I purchased a new headliner but haven’t installed it yet. I am enjoying driving it and have put 400 miles on it since the rebuild without an issue. I am going to have the windows tinted (I had the back window tinted before it was installed into the new seal after the paint job). I keep the bra on it to protect that nose. The doors fit perfectly and I’ve serviced all internal mechanisms to perfect working order. These cars need a lot of lube. This has been a fun project for me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. I hope to own this car a long time as it really is a great car and it turned out so well.