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Karmann Ghia

Hi all, I inherited my grandmother’s 1964 Karmann Ghia (recently restored to pristine condition) and will soon bring it to the DC area. I’m not mechanical, but very much want to keep it as a weekend ride. Can anyone recommend a compatible, vintage savvy mechanic in the area? Any thoughts on the best fuel to use? And anything else I should be thinking about before it gets here?

Storage. Karmann Ghias do not stand up well to bad weather.
I’d also think about joining a Karmann Ghia club, as wlel as Googling and ordering the shop manuals. This buggy has very different maintenance requirements than modern cars.

And also visit a Karmann Ghia club website. There is a subculture of enthusiasts for these type of vehicles, and they’ll probably be far more help than we will.

There are also VW-specific magazines on the racks. Reading is fundamental.

You might post this on the VW forums (thesamba and vwvortex), bet you’ll find some recommendations. As for gas, I’d keep it treated with fuel stabilizer given the limited use. Just get used to its driving style, slower to accelerate and longer to stop.

Has it been converted to 12v?

Thanks for these initial responses, especially the fuel stabilizer idea. The car will definitely be kept in an enclosed storage space, but has not been converted to 12v. I was just looking up how to charge 6v batteries!

Unfortunately, the Ghia clubs closest to me are 250+ miles away, so while it wouldn’t be practical to use area mechanics they recommend, it probably wouldn’t hurt to friendify their members long-distance :slight_smile:

I’ve looked at thesamba, but hadn’t found vwvortex, so will give them a try too… Appreciate any other suggestions!

OK, so it’s 6V. That means you’ll need to make sure the electrical contacts and connections in the car stay clean and corrosion-free, that’s a major cause for dim headlights and poor starting. Friend of mine has a '62 Beetle and a '65 or so Ghia, the Beetle’s 6V, the Ghia’s been converted to 12V.

If its anything like my 59 bug, I would learn to do my own points and plugs change and valve adjustment. Points had to be changed every 2000 miles without fail or it would leave me stranded. Never had a car as fussy as that. Replacing the generator required pulling the engine. Luckily I had a shop that worked on them and a dealer both places I lived.

Check! Add learning about electrical corrosion and points/plugs to the list… Any recommended resources (books or online) for a beginner approaching stuff like this?

That’s a good question for the VW forums. Also, remember that any old VW club is fine, the Ghia’s basically a Beetle with a different body. All the mechanical stuff’s the same.

Here is one book you do need:

If you want to have any hope of driving it in comfort in the winter, then you need to install a blower in at least one of the heater ducts. A 6-volt blower motor and fan from a '55 Chevy is a perfect fit once you hack and chisel your way through the duct under the rear cargo area. If you are installing only one blower, put it in the driver’s side duct. However, it would be much better to install one on each side.

And, be very careful about where you park it when you do take it out for a drive.
I can tell you from personal experience that the nose of the Karmann Ghia is very prone to damage. Between bumpers that are essentially just for show, and the fact that the nose actually protrudes beyond the bumper’s very meager protection, any vehicle that backs into you when parking in front of you will wind up putting a big, expensive dent in the nose.

I suggest that you narrow the area down a bit. The DC/Baltimore metropolitan area has more than 8,000,000 people, 2 of the largest cities in the USA, 12 counties in MD, 8 counties in VA and even 2 counties in WV. Oh, and the worst rush hour in the USA. Still want to move here? I thought you did. I love it, too.

But seriously, you need to narrow it down to DC, Northern VA, Central MD or Southern MD. I’m sure there are several mechanics that can help you maintain your Karmann Ghia in all these areas.

I was just writing a posting on the book you need, when I noticed it has been suggested by Texases. He is exactly correct. Tells everything you need to know to keep that running, even how to overhaul the motor and which tools you need in the car while driving. Fantastic book, I bought mine in 1973, and have never owned a VW.

I’ve had a lot of air cooled vw’s. Make sure you keep an eye on the gas lines, they need to be changed often. If you don’t change them they will leak and you can have a fire in the engine area.

The advice you’ve received so far boils down to “get a good book” (good) and “be very afraid” (bad). If your Karman Ghia really has been fully restored at no cost to you, consider cashing out by selling it.

Don’t believe the hype about changing the points every 2000 miles or changing the gas lines.

?? Piter, what’s your advice on gas lines? What’s your experience with air cooled VWs? The fact that leaking gas lines (and the resulting fires) are a known problem means what to you, exactly?

Pitar, I’m not sure where you are coming from but back then, the factory handbook called for points at 3000 miles as well as oil changes and valve adjustments. These cars as well as others of that era required special attention to certain items.

By the way, I’d love a restored Karmann Ghia as a weekend toy, especially if it’s a droptop. I know, they were slow as a lame mole, just about as pretty, didn’t stop worth a darn, and crushed like an egg if bumped, but I still think they’re cool. For the record, my first car was a '61 Beetle.

For what it’s worth, any recommendations about changing points every few thousand miles, checking valve lash every 3k miles, and so on are a bit misguided.
Valve lash should be checked every 6k miles, oil changes every 3k, and there is no way on Earth a set of points will be wasted in a few thousand miles unless something is causing that problem. (Bad coil, bad condenser, no cam lube on the dist. lobes, etc)

One thing that will ruin a set of old VW points very quickly is use of the wrong ignition coil. You would be surprised how many people change a coil and use one from a Ford, Chevy, or whatever and assume it will work because it looks the same.
The VW coils have internal resistors built into them whereas the others do not. Use that Chevy coil and the VW points will not be long for this world.

I’ve owned 4 or 5 old air-cooled VWs and never had a contact point problem with them at all.
The Ghias are crude by today’s standards but they’re pretty cool cars and maintenance on them is easy and cheap.

Mechanics that specialized in air cooled VW’s used to be common, but many have retired and they are now getting scarce. As you drive around look for any garage that has a few old VW bugs hanging out around the building. That’s the best clue you have that a old timer that knows VW’s might still be working in the shop. The DC area is large enough that there must be some mechanics in the area but you’ll have to find them and you’d be lucky to find a shop near where you live.

These motors run hot and you need to check the oil level frequently, like every time you take it out of the garage. The motor has no oil filter and only has 2 to 3 quarts of oil in the crankcase. You need to change the oil very frequently, like every 2K miles. It is a very simple process, take out the drain plug to remove the old oil. Clean the drain plug of metal shavings (the plug has a magnet in it to attract the bits of metal), and replace it. Then refill with 2 quarts of oil and check the level and add a bit more to reach the full mark. A VW bug oil change takes all of 5 min.

Last time I had a car with points…I had to change the points about every 10-15 thousand miles. Plugs about every 20k miles…

With Electronic ignition…no more points…and plugs were set at a wider gap and lasted 2-3 times longer then plugs with points.