Junkyard Find: 1972 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

After seeing this 1986 Volkswagen Quantum GL5 on Tuesday and this 1980 Volkswagen Dasher four-door hatchback on Thursday, it’s only fitting that we should wrap up this week’s Junkyard Finds with yet another old VW: a seldom-seen-in-self-serve-yards 1972 Karmann Ghia.

Air-cooled VW Beetles show up in these high-inventory-turnover yards all the time, because 979 trillion of them were built and they tend to linger under tarps in yards for decades before finally getting junked, and I don’t bother photographing them (except for this ’73 Super Beetle). It’s not that I hate Beetles (I’ve owned a few), but I don’t think they’re of sufficient interest to shoot in the junkyard. A Squareback or Transporter, maybe, and a screaming green Karmann Ghia will make me take out the camera most of the time.

This one is just about completely picked clean, which seems a shame because the body is so non-rusty by Volkswagen standards (i.e., there are some areas with no rust). I shot this car in Denver, which isn’t a very rusty place, but air-cooled VWs manage to rust in places like Albuquerque and the Atacama Desert.

In stock form, the Karmann Ghia was slow even by the standards of its time; such underpowered sports cars as the MGB and Fiat 124 Sport Spider took on a distinct reddish color from the point of view of a Karmann Ghia driver, due to Doppler redshift effects, as they pulled away in a drag race.

Look, a Beetle in the very next row!

Volkswagen’s marketers didn’t try to hide their sports car’s somewhat limited power (60 horses in 1972) in their TV commercials.

The lack of a back seat was also presented as a plus.

Elsewhere in the world, however, the car’s alleged performance got more prominence in TV ads.




Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • ManxSR ManxSR on May 29, 2015

    It's not a 1972 Karmann Ghia - it's a 1970-1971 vintage - these 2 years had tail lights larger than the 1969, but smaller than the 1972-1972 cars. 1972-1974 KGs also had a sheetmetal indention in rear quarter panels where the bumpers tucked up against body. The '72-'74 KG & 1970-1973 Type 3 cars shared front & rear bumpers...

  • ManxSR ManxSR on May 29, 2015

    It's not a 1972 Karmann Ghia - it's a 1970-1971 vintage - these 2 years had tail lights larger than the 1969, but smaller than the 1972-1974 cars. 1972-1974 KGs also had a sheetmetal indention in rear quarter panels where the bumpers tucked up against body. The '72-'74 KG & 1970-1973 Type 3 cars shared front & rear bumpers...

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