Why the Karmann Ghia Type 34 Is Collectable
Photography by Rémi Dargegen for Petrolicious
The Collector is a weekly series produced in association with Gear Patrol, where we discuss the car, and Gear Patrol discusses the essential gear inspired by the car. (Click here to see the rest of The Collector Series on Petrolicious.)
Virtually, everybody, the world over is familiar with Karmann Ghia. But it’s because of the VW based Type 14 (you know it, it’s the sleek, Italian-styled 2+2 running on a VW platform with an air-cooled, four-cylinder out back). Less well-known is its bigger stablemate, the Type 34. Instead of being based on the VW Beetle platform (as the Type 14 was), the Type 34 was based on the Type 3 platform. When it was released late in 1961, it was known by a variety of names depending on what country you were in but regardless of your location, just like the Type 14 it was styled by Ghia in Italy. At the time, it was the most luxurious and expensive Volkswagen and was the second car ever fitted with an electrically-operated sliding sunroof.
In fact, it was so expensive that in some markets it cost nearly as much as two Beetles! But it was packed with features including an electric clock, three luggage spaces, built-in fog lights, round tail lights, upper and lower dash pads, door pads, and long padded armrests. The relatively high price tempered demand and thus it didn’t sell as well as the Type 14. However, production was strong in the first few years but began tapering in the mid-sixties as other VW models became more powerful and gained features. By the time production ended in 1969, about 42,500 units had been built of which only about 2500 survive today.
The Type 14 is a fun, sporty car. But the Type 34 is more stately and, as mentioned, is certainly more rare. But it’s also far roomier than the Type 14 with more luggage space, as well. In contrast to what you might expect, the Type 34 is actually faster than the Type 14 too! You see, the Type 34 was fitted with a 1.5L engine, whilst its sibling made do with a smaller engine until 1967.
Which is one of the reasons that it’s collectable today. Due to their scarcity though, Type 34s are hard to value. Strong, show-winning examples easily top $20,000, while parts cars be found for less than a month’s rent in most large cities. If you’re interested, look for early examples with the television-style pushbuttons.
Thank you to owner Mike Zanella for allowing us to photograph his 1967 Karmann Ghia Type 34.
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VW had planned on producing a cabriolet version of both the Type 34 coupe and sedan after a rave response when the Type 34 line bowed at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 1961.
But not long after, VW realized that Karmann wouldn’t be able to produce the cabriolets at a cost that would be competitive. As with many convertible versions, there are structural challenges, and the Type 34 was no different. Overcoming these would send the prices higher than originally planned, so even after disseminating marketing materials and issuing pricing info, the cabrio was scrapped. Sadly, they never got street time, and the handful of handmade cars that were built for shows remained prototypes. There are only a couple of models left today, resting precious and alone in the Volkswagen and Karmann museums.
Written by Amos Kwon of Gear Patrol