Sunday, October 24, 2010

"What bugeyedom has lost in the Sprite it has made back on the Karmann"

The 1500 Karmann-Ghia has the honor of being the punchline of one of Henry Manney III's jokes in his coverage of the Frankfurt auto show for Road & Track magazine's January 1962 issue. He isn't too keen on the Ghia's front-end styling and reports that it reminded another reporter of the Schwimmwagen. He likes the rest of the styling, though, and calls the 1500 Ghia "an improvement on the old one."

There's prominent coverage of the VW 1500 introduction in the article, including a feature photo of the dramatic 1500 display ("driverless Volkswagens, neatly executing 4-wheel drifts..."). But Manney is more interested in the NSU Prinz, BMW's 700 convertible and 1500 Neue Klasse sedan, the Porsche 2-liter, and the Fiat 2300 Coupe by 1500 Ghia designer Sergio Sartorelli. He seems a little underwhelmed by the VW 1500s in comparison. He predicts, correctly, that the Variant will be the biggest seller.

I have always enjoyed reading Manney's pieces for Road & Track. His humor and satire made other contemporary automotive reporting seem pretty dull in comparison. He was doing his automotive version of the New Journalism years before his fellow automotive writers got on board.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

No tourist delivery notchback for you

I found this VW dealer postcard while browsing an online Porsche forum. Postmarked December 10, 1964, it's a Spokane, Washington dealer's response to someone who inquired about arranging European tourist delivery of a VW 1500 notchback. The dealer regretfully advises the customer that the only 1500 that dealers could arrange tourist delivery for was the "Station wagen" and that delivery of a notchback would likely be very expensive if they were to try to arrange it on their own.

This is interesting. On one hand it's an example of the lengths someone in the U.S. would have to go to in order to buy a new notchback. Why would VW promote tourist delivery of the Squareback but not the notch? Was it some kind of "viral" strategy to stimulate public interest in the Squareback in the year before its official U.S. introduction? At the same time, American dealers who were unwilling to risk damaging their relationship with Volkswagen of America had to turn away business, while they were undoubtedly aware of other less scrupulous dealers who were dabbling in the gray market and making a nice profit. All they could hope for was the possibility of a service relationship on the tourist's return. It was a lose/lose proposition for dealers and customers until the following year, when suddenly they could have as many Type 3s as they wanted. Yet still no notchbacks.