This Type 34 Karmann-Ghia Is As Sharp As A Razor
Photography by Ted Gushue
As promised, we’re going to be working through the eclectic collection of our friend Matt Jacobson. Just a few weeks ago we profiled his all orginial (including rust and dents) 23 Window VW Bus, and now he’s taken the cover off of this absolutely stunning Type 34 Ghia. There are so few of these in America that when he told me that he had one I had to genuinely pick my jaw up off of the floor.
Ted Gushue: Tell me the story of your Type 34 Karmann-Ghia.
Matt Jacobson: I always loved the car. It’s so elegant, it has this look of an Italian sports car of the era with all the VW underpinnings, and that extra foot, or however little bit longer it is than the regular Karmann Ghia platform. It’s very well-proportioned. The rear end is evocative of a round tail light BMW 2002. And, it has this bubble top roof that sits on very narrow B pillars that make it look like the hardtop of a Mercedes 300SL Roadster.
I had been looking for an original or mostly original example and since the car was never originally imported to America, very few were around, and, most of the ones I did see had been lowered and modified. Petrolicious actually has the most complete write up on the Type 34 and while there is a small community of Type 34 collectors online, the details are pretty sparse. ISP West in Carson, is owned by Alex Pagado, has really done the most to build interest in Type 34 VWs.
He knew I was looking for a Type 34, and didn’t want to show me his personal car that was hiding under a cover in his shop. He loved it and didn’t want to sell, but we ultimately figured that out. Without Alex’s VW knowledge and inventory, I wouldn’t have been able to put together such a great collection of early, unrestored cars.
TG: Why wouldn’t you seek out a regular Karmann Ghia? Is there something you have against those?
MJ: As a kid, there were a lot of Karmann Ghias around, and they just never spoke to me. I have a greater appreciation for them now, but they lack the lines of the Type 34. The Type 34’s are often referred to as “razors” because of that sharp crease around the beltline. I think it just makes it so elegant and beautiful, and the regular Karmann Ghias don’t have that. I’m starting to look at Karmann Ghias differently. I’ve seen some great ones around, but they just haven’t done it for me.
TG: You said BMW 2002. What other designs channel into this car?
MJ: Yeah. It’s kind of Corvair mixed with 2002. It has that kind of pancake look that a Corvair has, and the tail lights definitely remind me of 2002, although it predated the 2002. To me, the most beautiful part of that car is that big wrap around rear window and the really, really thin pillar that holds the top right behind the driver. The integrated side vents behind the front passenger are pretty great. I also love the Nutria brown paint topped by the cream top and interior. It’s a great package.
TG: What’s the driving experience like?
MJ: It drives great … that extra length … it’s like the difference if you’ve ever driven a 450SLC Mercedes, which is about 14 inches longer than a 450SL. It just has this touring car feel to it. I don’t know that the Type 34 really feels like a touring car, but it feels just more substantial on the road. The drive is much different than a Beetle or standard Karmann Ghia.
TG: What do you have under the hood?
MJ: It’s a little warmed over stock motor. I think it’s an 1,835-cc, that looks bone stock, but it’s been built, so it definitely moves. There are some accessories on the car that are interesting. It has an original stainless Abarth exhaust. It’s really well-tuned and sounds great. It’s got the early 914 steering wheel which the Porsche guys get jacked up about because it’s the first generation 914 steering wheel with a Wolfsburg logo on it, rather than the Porsche logo. It’s a super collectible wheel. It also has blanking plates where the side markers would go that say Karmann. The period-correct Marchal headlights and yellow lens fog lamps really add to the beauty of the front of the car.
TG: How do people react to it when you roll up to a VW meet or a cars and coffee?
MJ: A lot of people have never seen one before, right? People talk about Type 34s…You see them in Europe, and they’ll be slammed super low and have all the badges removed. That’s not my look, I love them as stock as possible. This car is stock height, and it has this weird look to it where it’s almost a little bit higher in the front than the back, which I normally would hate, but I think it’s kind of cool on this car.
Type 34 Ghias are kind of like the Yeti. It’s often talked about, rarely seen. There’s just not that many people that’ve ever seen one.
TG: What would you change about it if you could?
MJ: I wouldn’t change much. I’m on the search for a set of beauty rings that are this kind of X pattern, almost like a wire wheel beauty ring. That’s really the only part I’ve been looking for. I love that car has a factory stereo radio in it. Most Volkswagens at the time didn’t even have a radio. I’m thinking about doing a rally next year, and this is the car to do it in.
I’m really just happy that people are rediscovering Volkswagens which were so purpose built, form following function to a great extent, except for the eccentricities of this car. It’s a stretch, but the Type 34 is kind of like what Volkswagen did when they introduced the 12-cylinder Phaeton. It was so out of the box for them when they introduced this car, the way it was designed and the way it was made, and it was longer and more expensive. I like that Volkswagen was doing that in the mid 60s. These cars are special.