Should I Buy This Karman Ghia?
December 10, 2003 9:23 PM   Subscribe

I've just moved out to san fran and feel like i need a convertible. found a sweet little Karman Ghia for 5 grand. Has anybody had any experience with these good/bad/ugly?

oh, and how long has ask metafilter been here? (pretty damn cool)
posted by NGnerd to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
My Dad, who is 75, still raves about the sweet little yellow Karman Ghia he had when he was courting my Mom 40 years ago. He loved that car! (My mother remembers it less fondly, in manner of Fred Flintstone car that you powered with your feet through the floorboards.)

AskMe is about 2 days old.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:39 PM on December 10, 2003

We had a beautiful 1971 Ghia in the family between ~1987-~1990. Never any major problems, if I remember correctly. Fun, easy to work on, just don't expect to go fast.
posted by anathema at 9:42 PM on December 10, 2003

They gots the same old air cooled VW engine as the bug and bus, right?
posted by Hackworth at 9:50 PM on December 10, 2003

$5k seems high. Is it totally redone?
posted by mathowie at 9:52 PM on December 10, 2003

Yes, rear-engine, air cooled.
posted by anathema at 9:53 PM on December 10, 2003

My fave kind of car but I've never owned one. (Never owned any car.) Oddly, I was going to post a very similar question to see if they were as great as they look.
posted by dobbs at 10:39 PM on December 10, 2003

I'd hit it, NGnerd. They're at least an extra 2k here in Europe. Beautiful car. An English friend of mine has driven a '69 for almost 20 years now. As long as it's all original. Oh heck, even if it isn't. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:39 PM on December 10, 2003

A Ghia is basically, AFAIK, a Beetle with a different body. (Same goes for a Thing, but they're even rarer.)

They're beautiful automobiles. Never owned one, though. Was about to buy one when I was in high school, but one day the owner started it, and the engine caught on fire and molten metal started dripping out the back. I decided to abort the prospective purchase.

But many Beetles run forever -- they're pretty simple mechanically. As ana said, don't expect speed or power, but they're certainly pretty cars.
posted by Vidiot at 10:40 PM on December 10, 2003

I would suggest checking out VWvortex's air cooled forums. Also poke around for more air-cooled forums/message boards. There are a lot more auto enthusiasts out there that are becoming more active on the web. When I was doing research on a few of the older cars I've wanted to own I've always found helpful people out there with answers. Also drop by the boards at Classic Motorsports Magazine. There are plenty of knowledgable people over there as well.
posted by asterisk at 11:15 PM on December 10, 2003

The best help when you're thinking about buying a classic car is to find an owner's club for the make. One that I found is Click on the Buyers Guide link for a quick summary about what to look for.

I looked at a '71 convertible this past summer, the guy was asking around $4k for it. It wasn't terribly ratty, but a couple of red flags were inclusion of a fire extinguisher because "they'll always catch fire once or twice" and the owner wouldn't let his 8 year old son ride in it because it wasn't worth the risk.

Keep in mind that it's been almost 30 years since the car was manufactured and unlike wine they don't particularly get better with age. Soft fabric and rubber bits on the car get old and start falling apart, and depending on where you find it the metal bits can get pretty rusty.

Still, a neat car if you can find the right one.

If you're looking for a fun to drive car that can be purchased at a reasonable price and have a huge cool factor, you might want to check out an Alfa Spider. These were imported to the states into the '90s so you can still find one in pretty decent shape.
posted by SteveInMaine at 11:47 PM on December 10, 2003

I think those older model VWs came out of the factory with cracked rubber. Every single one I've ever seen had that "feature."
posted by anathema at 1:10 AM on December 11, 2003

A VW is a car you can worlk on, and you may have to, such as bleeding the brakes, if you know how. Find a knowledgeable guy to go with you and check it out. My brother's VW Fastback (also with the Beetle/Ghia drivetrain) had that cool feature common to many of them, the rusted out hole in the floor through which you could see the road (or jettison contraband when the red lights flash).

Check under the mats, NGnerd.
posted by planetkyoto at 2:58 AM on December 11, 2003

Freakin' rust buckets. Run away... Unless the car lived in Arizona all of it's life, you'll have to spend major dollars restoring it in a few years to get your money back out of it.
posted by machaus at 7:21 AM on December 11, 2003

I've always wanted Karman Ghia myself, they are great looking little cars. The closest I came was a 1973 Porsche 914. It's really more of a VW, 1.7L air cooled mid-engine car with a removable Targa top. The car was great fun and great for learning about car maintenance. It was too expensive to bring it to a shop to get fixed so I did most of the repairs/maintenance myself including a complete brake system overhaul (new disks, rebuilding calipers, new master cylinder, and new brake lines). Fun, but took me a month.
On the Karman, braking would be an issue for me. If it is all drums I'd say stay away. Disks in the front at least, would be preferable; also they are easier to service/maintain.
Anyhow, I think you would enjoy the Karmen but think you could probably get a 914 for the same money (however, not a full convertible). If performance is an issue there are plenty of after market parts for either.
One other note. You could certainly get a used Miata for that price. Maybe not as ‘classic’ as the VW but if is a fun/reliable car. My gf has a 1990 with well over 100K miles and it is a joy to drive/maintain.
posted by evilelf at 12:17 PM on December 12, 2003

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