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keiser31

Saw this Karmann Ghia the other day....

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Saw this up the street at a local pizza place. Cool little cars and Ghia was VERY influential in a lot of Chrysler dream car designs.

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Posted (edited)

It was the other way around. Chrysler had Ghia build show cars and prototypes to their designs and drawings because they could build them faster and cheaper in Italy than union labor in Detroit.

The Karmann Ghia was copied off a Chrysler show car they had built a few years earlier. Ghia never denied this, although they didn't exactly brag about it either.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)

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11 minutes ago, Rusty_OToole said:

It was the other way around. Chrysler had Ghia build show cars and prototypes to their designs and drawings because they could build them faster and cheaper in Italy than union labor in Detroit.

The Karmann Ghia was copied off a Chrysler show car they had built a few years earlier. Ghia never denied this, although they didn't exactly brag about it either.

Thanks for the lesson. I knew they had some kind of relationship. A friend of mine owned this Chrysler Ghia bodied car....for some reason, he removed the gunsight taillights and installed 1963 Riviera taillights in the rear panel.

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Either way, it just goes to show the depth of the old car hobby.  There are so many options, I sometimes wish there were NOT.  It has been the bain of my hobby existence, moving from one focus to another.   I have often wanted a Karmann Ghia, and Opel GT, and many other interesting cars, but passed.  Now I may be too old. 

 

Thanks for posting that car.  and the historical information.

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Hey Keiser31, did you remember that Ghia did the Pantera bodies too ?  Mine had a small Ghia badge on the right front fender.

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30 minutes ago, John Byrd said:

Hey Keiser31, did you remember that Ghia did the Pantera bodies too ?  Mine had a small Ghia badge on the right front fender.

They also did the Mustang II....that one was not one of my favorites.

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I have never owned a Karmann Ghia, I have always thought they were a good looking design. I think the Isabella coupe, is a good looking design as well. They both have nice roof lines.Image result for borgward isabella coupe

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Posted (edited)

The Karmann Ghia was copied off a Chrysler show car they had built a few years earlier. Ghia never denied this, although they didn't exactly brag about it either.

 

I'm not sure this is correct at all, in fact the truth is more likely the "other way around". The initial design concept for the Karmann-Ghia began in 1952 by a freelance designer associated with Ghia wanting to put a small sport-type body on a standard VW chassis. It took him about 1.5 years to convince VW leadership to approve the design concept for eventual full production starting in 1955. In the mean time, Chrysler design folks had become aware of Ghia's body-building expertise and hired them to body their Chrysler show car in 1953 (about 1 year after the initial KG design had been prepared) and I attach a photo. Note that this car has little KGG resemblence, but later Chrysler-Ghias adopted more of the look of the Karmann Ghia, as seen in photos earleir in this thread. I have not found any info indicating that the '53 Chrysler-Ghia design was penned solely by Exner/Chrysler, but was more likely a joint effort. Personally, I see little design similarity between the 2, one being a small very rounded & streamlined sports car, and the second (the 1953 Chrysler-Ghia) being a boxier full sized personal luxury car. The rear fender treatment is somewhat similar, but that bump-up/bump-out motif was common on a great many models of the era. My 2 cents worth.

 

My first car was a 1960 Consul when I was 18, but in 1965 (at age 19) a friend offered me his 1959 Karmann Ghia for $100. Couldn't resist that wonderful style. In addition it had been fitted with a Corvair engine, raising HP by about double. a real pocket rocket, it really was unsafe at high speed as the front end got very light! Kept it until 1969 when engine needed re-doing. Wish I had kept it longer.   

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Edited by Gunsmoke
added photo and more detail (see edit history)

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The first car Ghia did for Chrysler was the XX 500  on a Plymouth chassis. It served to demonstrate the Ghia company's ability to make custom bodies at low cost. This led to Chrysler having a series of  show cars made by Ghia to drawings and specifications provided by Chrysler's styling studio beginning in 1951.

 

Exner is reported as saying that “I had this car, the D’Elegance, being built over in Torino in the Ghia shops. Of course, we had prepared a very detailed plaster model for them to work from. At the time, they were working on prototypes for VW for what would become the Karmann Ghia. They had done two or three and Karmann was still not satisfied. This plaster model of mine came in, and lo and behold, when the Karmann Ghia came out, it was a scaled right down to the fraction.”

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https://www.allpar.com/history/mopar/ghia-specials.html

 

 

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Aaaaw, Mr Exner himself is taking all the credit for the KG design, how modest. I find it interesting that none of his earleir or later exercises showed any similarities. European builders were using the "bubble top" design very early, and I have little doubt that Exner was heavily influenced by the KG exercise and perhaps other Ghia concepts. Let's call it a draw (pardon the pun). 

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, keiser31 said:

They also did the Mustang II....that one was not one of my favorites.

Remember, Ghia was owned by Ford for a time in the 1970's.  Even some Ford products that were NOT designed by Ghia such as the North American Ford Granada had a 'Ghia' trim package.

 

Craig

Edited by 8E45E (see edit history)

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I did a bit of further checking because of the ask relating to Volvo P1800. There was early on a friendship developing between Luigi Segre of Ghia and Virgil Exner of Chrysler, partly because Segre could speak fluent english and Chrysler wanted Ghia to build some show cars.  Segre had begun work on the KG concept about the same time Exner was doing concept work for Chrysler, including the Chrysler d'Elegance in 1952. Historians have not been able to attribute the design influence of one on the other, as they were working collaborativly on the d'Elegance at same time the KG was in design. Clearly some elements of the d'Elegance (in particular the curved coupe style rear quarters) are also on the KG, but whether those were Segre's ideas or Exner's is for debate. Suffice to say both cars evolved at same time, and Segre and Exner were close friends as well as concept designers. The P1800 Volvo was a "later sister project" coming out of the Frua/Ghia design group, starting with a mid-late 50's prototype and eventual; production in 1961. Volvo's own designer Petterson had a role along with Segre and others from Frua/Ghia, thus the common elements. In this snapshot of "design influence" of one designer on another, the results are not dissimilar to the sharing/stealing/influencing/etc that has gone on for decades in automotive design.  While some unique car designs seem to come out of nowhere (the first Beetle for example) or appear to be revolutionary in shape (late 40's Hudson/Packard), most cars evolved from the gradual adoption of features appearing elsewhere, 1950's Fins being a glowing example. 

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9 hours ago, Gunsmoke said:

Aaaaw, Mr Exner himself is taking all the credit for the KG design, how modest. I find it interesting that none of his earleir or later exercises showed any similarities. European builders were using the "bubble top" design very early, and I have little doubt that Exner was heavily influenced by the KG exercise and perhaps other Ghia concepts. Let's call it a draw (pardon the pun). 

Ghia did show cars for Chrysler starting in 1951 and they had a strong family resemblance to the D'Elegance and to the Ghia.

There were a number of more stylish body designs built on VW floor pans by independent body companies like Rometsch and Dannenhauer and Staus in addition to VW approved convertibles from Hebmueller and Karmann. That is what motivated VW to commission their own design from Ghia.

As for Chrysler copying Ghia, they must have been very clever to copy a 1955 design in 1951. I never knew Virgil Exner had a time machine.

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 Cool little cars and Ghia was VERY influential in a lot of Chrysler dream car designs. This is poster's opening phrase.

Rusty, I'm not trying to solve a question of who may have influenced whom and in what measure in this 3-4 year period. The many articles written explain at length the business and friendship relationship Virgil Exner developed around 1950 with Luigi Segere and Pablo Boano, the owners of Ghia. The articles also make it clear that Exner drew cues and ideas for his d"Elegance design from design exercises he had seen at Ghia, including sketches from Boana, Segre and others. The same cues were contemporaneously being fused into the Karmann Ghia and some other concepts. While Exner may have been first to actually combine those cues/ideas into a "built car", that does not mean he gets the design credit for similar cars being created in the same shop at the same time. Remember that although the KG production began in 1955, it's design concept began 4 years earier. The long lead time was a consequence of several actors being involved, Ghia (as designers), Karmann (as body builder), and VW (as end client). Since historians at the time were not able to attribute the Karmann Ghia overall design concept to any one individual, I don't think we should either. 

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