Lesson Learned: 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Convertible – Sold?

Apr 2020 | Classifinds, Topless Thursday

June 1st Update: We just confirmed the Craigslist ad for this car expired and with no replacement listing found, we’re assuming this car sold.  This one may have got away, but if you have your heart set on something similar, email us the details of what you’re looking for or call Rudy directly at (908)295-7330

April 30th Update:  When we first featured this ’70 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Convertible, our hearts went out to the seller who admitted he was ripped off when he paid $13,000 for the car two years ago.  At the time, the limited pictures provided some clues, which we commented on below, this Ghia was lipstick on a pig.  In this latest update, the seller provides a completely new set of pictures that help illustrate just how badly “restored” this car is.  Not only is this Ghia painted a much lighter shade of green than the original pictures showed, the photographs of the doors tell the real story.  On the left side, note the rust bubbling through from underneath what appears to be liberal use of Bondo on the driver’s door.  The picture on the right is even more telling:  follow the shut line of the door starting at the passenger headrest.  Notice how the gap gets tighter towards the bottom, the body character line doesn’t match the door’s, and the rocker panel appears uneven?  That appears to be another heavy coat of Bondo as work.  The lesson learned:  this is the latest example of why it’s imperative to look at a car you find on the web in person and better still, arrange to have a pre-purchase inspection by a competent pro completed before you negotiate a price to ensure you know what you’re getting into.  Caveat Emptor! (Latin for “Let the buyer beware.”)

Unfortunately, even though the seller is now looking for half of what he paid for this Ghia two years ago, you are likely better off looking at other alternatives such as this ’74 Karmann Ghia project car that while rough, does not hide any sins covered up by a prior caretaker.

Sometimes when you read a car for sale post your heart goes out to the seller.  That’s what we felt when we came across this listing for a 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Convertible on Craigslist in April 2020 in Darien, Connecticut where the current caretaker would like to get $8,500 but indicates he is open to negotiate or even trade for the right van or motorcycle.  Relying on the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool as a guide confirms the private seller has his currently non-running Ghia priced $200 less than the #4 ‘Fair” (Daily Driver) estimate of $8,700.

During its eighteen production run from 1956 through 1974, Volkswagen’s Type 14 or Karmann Ghia remained largely unchanged, save for minor revisions needed to meet changing safety requirements over that time.  The stylish body was actually inspired by an early fifties concept car designed by Ghia in Italy for Chrysler.  When VW hired Ghia to design their new sporty car, the design house relied heavily on the Chrysler for inspiration.  The beautiful body was actually very complex to build, however the costs of that were offset by relying on Beetle running gear to keep the car affordable.

Based on the seller’s description, we feel for them.  They honestly state what they paid for this Karmann Ghia and are now asking $4,500 less.  When we see a price decline like that, we wonder whether he discovered the underbody and pan is actually in worse shape than he thought upon purchase. While the exterior body panels appear presentable, the one picture of what appears to be a rusty section of the floor pan, while repairable, likely has him concerned to move forward.  Its clear from the pictures the overspray on the undercarriage is a clue the car received a lower quality repaint in a darker shade of green than what this Ghia originally finished in.  What has us more concerned is the ratty wiring in the frunk and we can’t believe some used foam around the engine cooling tins to set it back in place.  Also missing from the engine are heat exchangers so as the car sits it does not have any working heat.  On a positive note, there is a disc brake upgrade and a vintage Hurst VW shifter among other goodies.  Its clear the seller has learned their lesson and they just want to move at this point.  Our recommendation is to hire a flat bed and as along as the underside looks repairable, you can probably get a bit more money shaved off the price for the privilege of making this Ghia go away.  Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s original description from one month ago:

“This 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia came into my possession about 2 years ago. I spent several months partially restoring it. Do to other life events, I have not driven the car in the past 18 months. The car is not running at the moment, but with a new battery and oil change, I can guarantee it will start right up.

I bought the vehicle for $13,000 and found myself ripped off. I am hoping to get around $8,500 for the car but am willing to negotiate. Also, I am potentially willing to trade for a motorcycle or van.

And here’s his latest description where he decided to leave out the last sentence from above:

“This 1970 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia came into my possession about 2 years ago. I spent several months partially restoring it. Due to other life events, I have not driven the car in the past 18 months. The car is not running at the moment, but with a new battery, a new tank of gas, an oil change, and a carburetor overhaul, it will stat up and drive. All driving components are in working order. The paint quality is not very good, it seems like a previous owner repainted it at home. The rust condition is pretty good for its age and location. There is a patch of rust in the corner of the driver door, along with some rust of the rocker panels. Floor panels do not have any rust holes. The frame and driving components are pretty clear of rust.

I am hoping to sell the car for $6500 but am willing to negotiate.”

Do you have a Karmann Ghia story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!

3 Comments
  1. Analog Man

    Karmann-Ghias are breathtakingly beautiful cars that are delightful to drive. They were under-rated for many years, but have taken off in value as people have come to appreciate them. Better looks and similar performance to 356 Porsches plus less expensive parts makes them an appealing package.

    BUT, floor pan rust is the Achille’s heel of all air-cooled VW cars. I grew up with these cars back in the 60’s, and owned a bunch of them in the 70’s and 80’s. Depending on what part of the country the car was in, back then the common knowledge was that in salty areas, a VW could get seriously rusty after only 5 years or so (which is why dry west coast ones were always sought after). Imagine the oxidation that could take place on a car like this after half a century.

    Before buying ANY air-cooled VW, I think a potential buyer needs to put the car on a lift, and carefully, thorough go over every inch of the bottom with a screwdriver or ice pick (gently of course!), and every inch of the body with a magnet. It can save a lot of heartache and expense, like this seller is probably learning to his dismay and cost right now. Floor pans can be replaced in their entirety and new metal can be welded into a body, but it’s neither easy nor cheap to do it right. So many of these cars have had backyard home-brewed rust “repairs” over the years – I’ve seen things that will pop the eyeballs right out of your head. The listing doesn’t show much of the floor, but the pop rivets peaking out in one of the pics suggests to me that this car is going to need a lot of money put into the bottom before it’s right.

    Caveat emptor.

    Reply
    • Guys with Rides

      Well said, Analog Man! Your comments are always appreciated! If you haven’t seen it before, the ’69 Squareback we featured last July from Mecum was another example, especially in the frunk. While the pictures don’t highlight it, check out the video of the fiberglass cloth used to cover rust in that spot.

      Reply
      • Analog Man

        WOW! Thank you for the link Rudy! That was a great video and story about the VW Squareback! A terrific example of why it’s risky to buy an old car without checking it out in person.

        I have seen (and owned, learned the hard way) so many cars over the past 50 years that turned out to be not what they seemed. The rare exception were cars that were as good as described. Most of the time, they just aren’t.

        I once saw a VW Beetle with a similar pop-riveted patch in the floor as you showed in the Squareback – the donor metal was a highway “Do Not Enter” sign, spray painted over (which turned out to be an appropriate metaphor to not buy the car). A friend once bought an early 60’s Mercedes. The floor and frame didn’t quite look right to me. When I probed a bit, it turned out that someone had simply taken several layers of folded up aluminum foil (!!!), ‘molded’ it to the shape of the frame and floor, ‘glued’ it in place with something gooey, and sprayed a heavy layer of undercoating over everything. It ‘looked’ like metal, but my finger easily went through much of the frame and floor (my friend was absolutely thrilled when I showed this to him). I once drove a long way to see a Ford Falcon where WOOD was used to replace missing sections of the subframe (the seller cheerfully responded, “well, at least the wood won’t rust anymore!). I once bought a VW Van where the lower 18 inches of most body panels was solid bondo. Literally 18 inches of bondo filler over wads of newspaper, balls of wire mesh, and other garbage (it was one of the expensive lessons of my misspent teenage years).

        This is why I just can’t bring myself to buy a car without seeing it in person. Especially an older car. Everything looks great in on-line photos, and there are so many listings that are very tempting. The unfortunate reality is that it’s always much cheaper and faster to do a half-assed bodge job than to do work properly. So much can rust and other things go wrong over decades of time. Paint and undercoating can cover up almost anything, and even ‘detailed’ photos might not show telling things (like the door in the Squareback). As you said and showed very well, *see it for yourself before buying*.

        Reply

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