Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Type 341 convertible top parts list

Depending on which version of the story you believe, the VW 1500 Karmann-Ghia Cabriolet (a.k.a. Type 341) was either aborted just prior to production or the production run was halted after fewer than 20 cars were built at the beginning of 1963. Either way, it has to be considered one of the rarest models in VW's history, which is what makes the printed matter for it so interesting. A discussion of early Type 3 parts books on the Samba Type 3 forum led to Neil Mast generously scanning the section of his early copy of the VW 1500 Parts List devoted to the Ghia cabriolet's convertible top (which can be downloaded here).

The convertible section of the Parts List is a supplement dated March 1962. The fact that parts book pages were printed and distributed (in multiple languages no less) is evidence of how close the 1500 Ghia Cabriolet came to a real production run. There's even a page with 1500 Ghia production milestones that lists January 1963 as the date 1500 Ghia Cabriolet was (or rather would be) introduced. It seems like they were really ready to go and only pulled the plug at the very last minute. Speculation on the reason has centered on the car being too expensive for its class, problems with torsional rigidity, and worries about sales competition with other VW convertibles. It was probably some combination of the three. Too bad for us.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

VW 1500 Karmann-Ghia ad, August 1965

This one's for all the Type 3 fanatics in the Low Countries.
From the August 1965 issue of Gute Fahrt.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Windshield and sheetmetal arrive

Larry Edson and Dave Whitaker dropped by on Saturday to deliver a new laminated windshield for the Ghia. Larry had generously volunteered to coordinate the shipment of a crate of new windshields from Lars Neuffer in Germany, and as if that wasn't enough he then set out from San Jose on a road trip to deliver the new windshields to owners up and down the California coast, with Dave riding shotgun. Tom McCaughey also drove up from San Diego to pick up his windshield, some sheetmetal, and other parts Larry brought for him. It soon turned into an informal swap meet as parts started changing hands.

It's great that new laminated windshields are available again. Like a lot of independently imported Type 34s, mine has always had a tempered windshield, which is not only dangerous but also completely illegal in the US. Now I won't have to worry about a rock shattering the windshield into a million pieces while I'm on the freeway.

In addition to the new windshield Larry also brought down a rear clip he had on hand. I have always known my Ghia had been rear-ended many years ago, and recently while working on the engine I discovered a rough spot under a thick coat of bondo at the right rear corner that would probably be best repaired with some replacement metal. I've been on the lookout for a relatively clean rear clip and the piece Larry had seemed like it might do the job.

Something about the clip looked really familiar.

I realized it was from the same car as a rear fender I bought from Lee Hedges in San Diego just after I bought the car in 1994. Now they're back together again after spending more than 12 years 400 miles apart, and I definitely have the sheetmetal I'll need to put things right.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Testers Have the Word, 1961

This 20-page brochure from late 1961 is a collection of journalists' driving impressions of the VW 1500. It uses the modern typography and high-contrast photos of the Volkswagen + VW 1500 campaign, but surprisingly no yellow ink.

"Don't take our word for it," VW seems to be telling us, "listen to the nice things the pros have to say."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Reproduction stickers from BerT3

Bert Van der Jeught (BerT3) has done a great job making reproductions of the various silver foil stickers found on VW Type 3s. He's made a paint code sticker for virtually every Type 3 color offered from 1961–73, as well as for the oil filler location, premium fuel warning, tire pressures, 12-volt system, etc. He spared no expense producing them and paid a lot of attention to the details, so the quality is better than VW's original stickers. He even had them die cut so the paint code stickers have the correct rounded corners. Nice. I ordered paint code and oil filler stickers, so now I have another incentive to get going on the bodywork and paint.

Go to BerT3's website for all the details.

Early VW 1500 publicity photos

High resolution scans of some great early publicity photos were just posted over on The Samba's Type 3 forums . This one of four 1500s on the banked curve of a test track is a classic. The others are shots of prototypes with some odd features that were discontinued before production started. Check out the forum thread and join the discussion.

Addendum: I posted this just hours before The Great Samba Crash of 2007. The images and discussion were lost in the crash, so here are the additional images (at much lower resolution):

[photos: collection of Envious, courtesy of The Samba]

Thursday, February 8, 2007

VW 1500/1600 Ghia postcards

The visual narrative in this one seems to involve a love triangle between a man, a woman, and a '62 1500 Ghia.

A 1600 Ghia at speed, looking very much at home on a mountain highway.

And a family of four and their large dog having what must have been a much-needed leg stretch while on a Mediterranean road trip in their 1600 Ghia.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

VW 1500 Karmann-Ghia at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, August 1963

No, not another hair-raising act of hoonery like the '70s video that's been making the internet rounds (on Charlie's blog and elsewhere), but rather a 1500 Ghia parked in the infield along with other VWs, Fords, Opels, Fiats, a Renault, a DKW, and an Isetta. I don't know if I could stand to watch a 1500 Ghia snuff film, let alone post one.

[from the August 1963 issue of Road & Track]

Koni Special "D" shocks for the VW 1500

I've decided that my 1500 Ghia restoration will have a vintage performance theme, so I've been collecting performance-oriented accessories -- things the owner of a new 1500 might have bought in the first few years of ownership to enhance the car's performance. This includes a set of Koni shocks, as recommended in Auto Motor und Sport's road test of May 1962. Their damping rate can be adjusted and they're said to make a dramatic difference in handling. The ad below, which ran in the February 1963 issue of Road & Track, makes the case for Konis:

No doubt the Corvair Lakewood station wagon pictured in the ad needed all the help it could get -- it would have had all the handling problems of a swingaxle VW, only more so. The price of Konis at the time was $20 each -- a steep price for shocks in 1963. Konis for the Type 3 are still available new, but they'll set you back over $100 apiece now.

In a year or two of looking I found a few old pairs:

The four shocks on the left are all old stock Type 3 front shocks from an auto parts warehouse in the Southeast. The very clean center pair (80-2023) is for post-1968 Type 3s with IRS rear suspension; the rougher pair on the far left (80-1505) is for the early 1500s. They're NOS, believe it or not, but had been sitting in damp storage for years. Luckily Konis are rebuildable. The rear shocks (right) are used but in good condition. They're stamped with a VW logo and part number, so I suspect they're the version that was available as a factory option:

I plan to send these and the rough pair of front shocks to Koni for a rebuild.

One of the pairs came with this Koni brochure that explains the adjustment procedure.

Koni also made a steering dampner for the VW Type 3, as seen below on Paul Colbert's incredible '63 Ghia [image from Paul's restoration site]. I'm keeping my eyes open for one.

Love that old winged logo.

Friday, February 2, 2007

VW 1500 Karmann-Ghia ad, February 1963

From the February 1963 issue of Gute Fahrt.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Road & Track road test, February 1963

The February 1963 issue of Road & Track features a mostly positive road test of a '62 model VW 1500 Karmann-Ghia. The title reflects the magazine's editorial policy of crediting the coachbuilder over the manufacturer. The reviewer, Hansjörg Bendel, had a couple of gripes, but he really wanted to like the car. He accepted it on its own merits and focused on pointing out details that could easily be improved -- most of which in fact were in subsequent years. You can tell he was impressed with the car.

Don't let the glacial 0-to-60 time fool you -- the 1500 Ghia was the fastest model in the VW lineup at the time. He erroneously reports that the cabriolet version was already in production at Karmann, and that the VW 1500 4-seat cabriolet would join it on the assembly line soon. This is probably the latest mention I've found of the VW 1500 convertibles, which ultimately never made it beyond the prototype stage -- evidence that VW and Karmann hadn't completely given up on the idea of producing them until sometime in 1963.

More early carb trivia

Amongst the seven pages in my copy of the VW 1500 Workshop Manual devoted to the many changes to the Solex 32 PHN carburetor is this:

My car would have originally been fitted with one of these plastic links, but it had the later version when I bought it. Since they were discontinued so early in production (May 1962) and were probably replaced in many cases during routine service it's not surprising that the plastic links are all but extinct, but Type 3 guru Jason Weigel, a.k.a. Notchboy, actually found one in his '62 1500. No doubt one of the few surviving examples on the planet.

[photo: Jason Weigel via The Samba]