The World's Slowest Sports Car Celebrates Its 60th Birthday

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The Volkswagen Karmann Ghia prototype was shown internally in 1953, on the occasion of the Paris Motor Show. With production starting two years later, 450,000 of these luxury Beetles were made until production ended in 1974. What a beauty.

Volkswagen had a conservative leader in the fifties named Heinrich Nordhoff, which sounds like a bad guy in a Die Hard movie. So when Wilhelm Karmann hired Luigi Segre of Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin to transform his idea for a sports car with Beetle running gear into reality in early 1953 he didn't even consult with chief at VW's HQ in Wolfsburg.

On October 1953, the car was taken to a small garage in Paris and shown by Ghia to Karmann, who had traveled to the city for the Paris Motor Show. Wilhelm Karmann was thrilled, and in November of that year he showed the attractive small car to the Volkswagen chief. He was able to do this because Karmann had been building the Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet since 1949.


Heinrich Nordhoff loved the prototype, and once the pricing was worked out, a decision was made to go into full production, with the convertible version following in 1957.


The upscale Beetle was an instant success, and Karmann built 362,601 coupes and 80,881 cabriolets by the time production ended in 1974. The Karmann Ghia also inspired one of the most honest car commercials ever to hit the screens:

Today, Karmann is gone, but the factory lives on as Volkswagen Osnabrück GmbH and produces the Golf Cabriolet, the Porsche Boxster and Cayman, and the Volkswagen XL1.


I wonder how long before Jason gets himself one...