Karmann-ghia Lowlight Registry

ID-418: VIN 1353396

CoupeYear: 1956

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VIN Number: 1353396
Body Number (behind the spare tire):: 11182
Karmann Tag Number (56,57 & some 58s): K01011/: 11217
Engine Number: 1622008
Date_of_Manufacture: 20 November 1956
Original Destination: Portland, USA
Current Location: St .Paul, MN.
Body Color: Trout Blue
Roof Color: Trout Blue

Full Description: M 020 MPH speedometer
M 128 White wall tires
M 138 Sealed beem headlights and red indicator light
M 018, M 067, M 950 cannot be identified

1956 Karmann-Ghia with sound bodyand only slight surface rust. Engine and transmission were in good working order when previous customer started his tear-down retoration. He replaced the tires with new ones and the car still has both front bucket seats although the passenger side has many small stains. The front door glass and regulators are in the door, however the rear glass and regulators and the windshield are missing along with the rear seat.

This car was taken in on a trade from a previous customer at a VW Dealership in Yakima, Washington and sold at auction on 9 August 2010. More General 1957 Karmann-Ghia information.

The car is named Christiane after the wife of Wilmhelm Karmann. It now in Saint Paul, Minnesota undergoing restoration.

(1957 August--Karmann-Ghia convertible production begins. Fuel gauge and elaborate Ghia-only horn ring introduced. Vinyl replaces cloth door panels. Roller accelerator wheel replaced with treadle pedal.

A Sight for Sore Eyes
During July 1955, VW introduced the sensuous auto to the European press. The coupe's press preview, claims Dr. Karmann, "was a world sensation," but the car "still did not have a name." Italian monikers were considered. Eventually, Dr. Karmann suggested Karmann-Ghia--a delicious sounding name that everyone liked.

Two months later, VW's new coupe appeared at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It received accolades for its "purity of line and perfection of proportion that almost takes one's breath away." (Autosport, February 15, 1957)

It was luxuriously aerodynamic without cliches. Indeed, American industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague selected a Karmann-Ghia for his list of the world's most beautifully designed products.

Americans got their first glimpse of VW's Italian beauty in late 1956 when Science and Mechanics (October, 1956) tested an early model. Austrailia's Wheels' (April, 1957) "Ghia-Karmann [sic] versus the Volkswagen" comparison revealed that "Ghia looks better, handles better, outshines the Volkswagen on the road," while America's Road and Track (April, 1956) was less sanguine when stating, "the overall performance improvement, we feel, is negligible. For nearly 1000 dollars more than the sedan, then, the customer is acquiring a very pretty body."

Science and Mechanics said, "the ladies asked for this one." Yet, an editor's wife disagreed. Her sidebar said this might be correct "were it not for the fact that every Ghia I have seen...was being driven by a man!" Nevertheless, she and 485,983 (Karmann's official production total) future owners were "sold on the Ghia's looks."

Beauty is More than Skin-Deep
VW's coupe was technologically advanced. All of the car's windows were curved--even the side glass. Moreover, the door and side-quarter windows were frameless. Finally, the car's low profile and carved out-of-soap shape required sophisticated production techniques.

The packaging was also unique. By putting a coachbuilt body on a Beetle chassis, VW found a niche for an exotic-looking economy car. Eventually, other automobile manufacturers borrowed VW's recipe.

Even the ads were different. Although early sales literature used artful illustrations, during the '60s, VW's ad agency--Doyle, Dane and Bernbach--discarded tradition. They turned lampooning "normal" advertising into a sport.

The agency's soft-sell ads were hip. Instead of herds of horses or scantily clad women , an early Ghia ad admitted, "This ad is six years late." It was a thinly veiled attack on planned obsolescence and false advertising claims. For instance, its copy faux confessed that what the car people thought was an Alfa Romeo or a Ferrari was "Brace yourself...a Volkswagen." It warned, "Sorry we can't do anything about strangers who think it's a $ 5,000 car. You may still find bellboys... expecting bigger tips. But nothing's very perfect is it?"

Another ad's cutline below a Ghia with racing stripes admitted, "You'd lose." But, "it might comfort you to know, you'd be driving the best-made loser on the block." VW even suggested the Ghia was "for people who can't stand the sight of a Volkswagen." Then, it revealed that the photogenic car shown was a fancy wrapper; it covered the Beetle's "strictly functional chassis." Its beauty was "more than skin deep."

In an era of dueling muscle cars, an ad mocked racy cars and their owners. Its cutline asked, "Can you spot the druggist from Toledo." Photographs of viral well-attired men with their equally fancy European sports cars are shown. One "playboy," however, was an impostor who drove an ordinary Karmann-Ghia.

Finally, there was a TV spot that spoofed the Shell's Platformate commercial. In this ad, the Karmann-Ghia is shown heading toward a paper barrier. When the car hits it, the barrier merely budges and then car bounces backward. A voice-over says, "The Karmann-Ghia is the most economical sports car you can buy...It's just not the most powerful." Rosser Reeves, the assertive advertising man who pushed "unique selling propositions" had a coronary.)

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Listed by: jmanz

Info: If Stradivari can be named, then so can unique, hand crafted vehicles. This one carries the name Christiane, after the wife of Wilhelm Karmann who brought this line of cars into production.