The other night, thanks to a combination of hardly leaving the fucking house anymore and what I thought was gin, I put on the 1983 James Bond movie Octopussy while I folded the mountainous piles of laundry that have come to define the topology of my living room. While I’m not going to say this was the best, or maybe even a good Bond movie, it nevertheless held at least one good automotive mystery.
The movie is full of some eye-rolling stuff, too, like a circular-saw yo-yo and Bond acting like a horny 14 yo dipshit in a 70-year-old man’s body that improbably gets adoring looks from women 1/3 his age, everywhere.
Still, there’s actually a fair amount of good car-content in the movie, including a Mercedes driving on railroad tracks and an Indian auto-rickshaw car chase:
But the part I want to focus on takes place in Germany, where Bond is attempting to hitchhike, because spies have to do all kinds of shit, sometimes. One car slows to make him run to it, then drives away, because, ha ha, fuck you Bond.
The car was a Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia, but it was a strange Karmann-Ghia. Look at the front end:
Woah, woah—what the hell is going on here? That’s a big-ass grille-looking thing there. And yeah, those are strange replacement turn indicators, but I’m most surprised at the grille.
I know Ghias were susceptible to expensive body damage on their protruding noses, and as a result a number of companies made stick-on fake grilles to hide minor nose damage, but those tended to look like these:
What’s going on on that Ghia is much more extensive. It looks like a real intake opening there, and it even looks like there may be an actual radiator behind it—was this Ghia converted to some sort of water-cooled, front-engine power?
I thought maybe, but the rear shot of the car clearly shows the telltale VW muffler and exhausts, so there’s still an air-cooled flat-four in the back. And it sounds like that familiar VW clatter, too.
Oh, also, it’s missing one taillight lens and the other is the slightly larger lens used on the ‘71s and up, I think.
Since it appears to have the rear stock engine as well, maybe a twin-engined experiment? If so that would explain how it could move so sprightly with five people inside:
That’s remarkable alone, really. Have you ever seen the back seat of a Ghia? It’s, uh, not huge.
That whole front clip must be fiberglass, or something. If this was done to cover accident damage, it doesn’t make sense, as this looks like more work than any repair would have been. And, you’d think if the goal was aesthetic, something more than a big, mostly rectangular hole would be the result.
Could this be intake for some kind of oversized oil cooler? A/C condenser? Extreme cabin ventilation? In a convertible? Maybe they routinely kept animals in the trunk that needed to breathe?
I’ll admit, I’m kind of baffled. Were people doing Subaru conversions in 1983? And retaining the stock VW exhaust? The VW Wasserboxer flat-four with water-cooled heads came out in 1983, and appeared on Type 2 Transporters/Vanagons. Maybe this was a rare testbed of a Wasserboxer-equipped Ghia? Even though at this point the Ghia had been out of production for about a decade?
It’s a grand mystery, this one. I’m open to hearing your suggestions! This is not an endoresement to actually watch Octopussy, by the way, but if you do, keep an eye open for the weirdo Ghia.