Air-cooled Volkswagens tend to have distinctive looks full of character, but they’re generally not called beautiful, at least by most mainstream standards of automotive beauty. The biggest exception to this are Karmann-Ghias, which are curvy, lovely designs. There’s actually more than one Karmann-Ghia, though: there’s the Ghia based on the normal Type I Beetle, which is the curvy one based on the 1953 Chrysler D’Elegance concept car, then there’s the more upscale Type 3-based razor-edged Type 34 Ghia, which I’ve discussed before. The one that’s currently up for sale on Facebook Marketplace is the Brazil-only Karmann-Ghia TC, which is also based on the Type 3 platform, but is far more rare, and, I think, not just the loveliest Karmann-Ghia made, but, to me, the loveliest air-cooled VW ever made by VW itself. Let’s have a quick look so you can see why.
Here’s a little visual of the Karmann-Ghia family, so we all can picture them nice and vividly:
I think all the Ghias have bags of aesthetic charm, but there’s something about the TC, built between 1971 and 1975, that somehow makes it my favorite. It’s strangely like a mix between a Pinto and a Porsche 911, and even more strange is that the mix somehow seems to work.
Exactly how this lovely Brazilian ended up in Uniontown, Ohio is a mystery, but here she is, in all her citrusy glory:
I’m not sure what happened to the bumpers, but other than that everything looks intact and present, down to the twin-carb 1600cc suitcase-type (as in flat like a suitcase, because the pistons are horizontally-opposed and the cooling fan is mounted low on the crankshaft) engine that makes a ravenous – for an air-cooled VW – 65 horsepower.
Like nearly all Type 3 VWs, the TC Ghia is a miracle of packaging, with the flat engine nestled under the rear floor, meaning there’s a trunk up front and a generously-sized cargo area under the rear hatch. The engine is accessed via a trapdoor under the rear cargo floor, as you can see on the left there.
I get that $23,000 seems a bit steep for a slightly tatty VW from 1973, but these are incredibly rare in America, and seeing one at all is on par with meeting a Sasquatch that was your sister’s ex-girlfriend’s roommate at Brown. They made about 18,000 of these, but just about all of those stayed in or around Brazil, and I think these must be the least-common of all the Karmann-Ghias.
The TC, which stands for Touring Coupé, was actually designed by the famous Giorgetto Giugiaro, while he was working with Ghia, and, significantly but I think rarely noted, this was his first design for Volkswagen, before he and his firm Italdesign would go on to design the Passat, released in 1973 and then the Scirocco and Golf in 1974, all of which came to define VW’s design vocabulary until well into 1990s.
The very straight-edged and rectilinear look of Giugiaro’s liquid-cooled VW designs is a pretty marked contrast from the graceful flowing arcs of the Karmann-Ghia TC.
I have always wanted one of these. Sporty and practical and friendly-seeming and a bit exotic and with VW durability, it’s really got everything, at least to a hopeless old-school VW fetishist like myself. Here’s a bunch in action in Brazil, so you can see how fantastic these look gliding down the street.
I don’t have twenty grand to throw around on a car, even one as potentially dazzling as this, but I bet someone out there is looking for something unusual and yet usable and where mechanical parts aren’t more rare than leopard wings, and to that person, I say check out this Ghia TC.
Just let me know if you buy it, because I’m gonna ask you if we can drive it to shoot a video.
Seems fair to me, right? I’m just happy to see one of these out on our roads.