The Type III: Rarest of Karmann-Ghia VW's
by Dave Weber
images by Remco Natrop

With the growing popularity worldwide of the VW Karmann-Ghia coupe and convertible on the standard Beetle body in the 60's, Volkswagen decided to manufacture a larger sports model body to be placed on the larger 1500 series chassis from the Hatchback/Squareback series. This car was called a type III Karmann-Ghia and showed no resemblance to the smaller chassied model.

The Type III was only produced between 1961 and 1969 and was never marketed in the US during that time. Of the approximate 40,000 to 50,000 cars made available, a few did end up in the US, possibly imported by military personnel or tourists returning from a visit to Europe. The rear of this car resembled and may have been copied from the rear end of the Chevrolet Corvair. The front of the car had dual headlights slanted to fit under a curved lip; best compared somewhat to the rear-end design of the 58 Chevrolet Impala. The engine, a pancake 6 cylinder unit, was situated in the rear of the car and was called the predecessor to the Porsche 914/6, which VW subsequently produced. The body was an enclosed 2-door coupe. No convertibles were ever produced. I recall observing 1 or 2 back in the 60's and 70's, but the Type III cars were quite rare in the US. It wasn't until about 6 years ago that I came face to face with one of these cars.

My son in his freshman year at the University of Delaware had been a VW fan for a few years and located one of these cars. He had to have it! It was a 1967 model and was in need of much restoration work and expense. The body, absent of all chrome was in gray primer where the rust had not continued to corrode. Portions of the body had been "Bondo" puttied. The interior was gutted, although most items, such as seats, door panels, etc. were stacked inside. The engine had become frozen and required major overhaul and rebuilding work.

Needless to say, one weekend this car ended up in my garage to sit for about 4 years. Although the engine was subsequently rebuilt and ran smoothly, nothing was ever done with the body before it was sold. The last I heard was that it was to be shipped to Puerto Rico, but I have no idea whether or not it still exists.

While this car was in my garage, I started looking for model representations of it. Following a diligent search, I was able to come up with only 3 such models. None of these were made in the US. The smallest and most recent was produced in plastic 1/87 scale by Praline of Germany #5811. The only approximate 1:64 scale model I have been able to locate was made by SIKU, also of Germany, from 1965 to 1969 (shown right). It carried model #V248 and was identified as being 70 MM in size and 1/60 in scale. Both the passenger doors open. The interior is red plastic surrounded by an off color white diecast body. The model shown belongs to, and images were provided courtesy of, Remco Natrop.

Last and the largest of these model cars, is identified by Corgi Toys as a VW 1500. It is an off color orange body with a yellow interior. It carries model #239A and was also issued with a cream or gold body from 1963-1968. It measures 90 MM in length, which seems to be slightly less in scale than 1:43. Both the rear engine hood and front trunk lids open. The rear lid protects the casted 6-cylinder engine as described above. This casting was manufactured in Great Britain.

It is a shame that this unusual styled car didn't succeed like its smaller sibling did on the Beetle classics. On wonders why the US VW dealers were never allowed to import this car to sell in their showrooms during the production years. But at least we can be thankful that a few toy companies have provided models for us to place in our miniature car collections.

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