It Lives! Preliminary Road Test Of The Rebuilt Karmann Ghia Type III

Oh happy day! Nearly 11 months since we first became involved in the rebuild, our pal Scott's 1962 Volkswagen 1500 left the garage. Actually, it was motoring about the day before we showed up to snap picks and drive it. Only we were out of town. Still, and you will agree if have rebuilt a car, that first drive is wedding night bliss after a long, difficult and oftentimes sweaty courtship. And I only did about 0.02% of the work. Still, I knew going in that even if the brakes failed on the way down the hill and we T-boned a Volvo, it would be awesome. And we didn't hit any Volvos.


Besides the total lack of seat restraints, what struck me most, first was how close the windshield is to my face. I've driven a few older 911s and bugs and the sensation is similar. That relatively huge piece of curved glass is just right there. Also similar is how fast that sensation fades and the realization that the upright glass affords you great visibility. Almost as different, but also ultimately easy to adjust to, is the fact that the gas pedal is seven inches closer to the floorboard than the brake pedal. Forget heel & toe. Seriously, just put it out of mind. And the steering wheel is essentially in your crotch.

That said, I had forgotten what a hoot it is to drive a rear-engined car sans power steering. Despite swing axles and wonky tires there is a directness to every movement that just brings a smile to your face. The feeling is so much more fluid than the nose-heavy plodding I'm used to. It's akin to gliding. Scott and I each took a fairly spirited lap around the Silver Lake Resevoir at speeds fast enough to require top gear. We hit some good curves, too. And while picking out your line is a bit on the challenging side, once you're into the apex, the Type III is simply slick. I even managed to ditch a tailgating LR3 in the bends. What a blast, man.


Now, we're saying "preliminary" road test because the Karmann Ghia isn't finished yet. The engine is a bit out of tune, there might be an exhaust leak and the brakes need some TLC. Plus the interior and exterior are going to get a thorough once (or thrice) over. Still, I can't hardly conceive of a better way to spend Memorial Day than mid-speed hooning in a 45-year old ride. And talk about loving a car just for the curve of a hood. Just look at that beaut!


VW+VW1500 [External]

Engine On: Karmann Ghia 1500 Rebuild Update [Internal]

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