The ordinary and well-known Karmann Ghia is widely acknowledged as one of the prettiest Volkswagen’s ever produced. Even so, this Brazilian variant underwent heavy cosmetic surgery both front a rear – but why?
There are certain things within automotive history which are decidedly difficult to explain or find any logic in. To me, this particular VW is one of those: It’s full name is the Karmann Ghia TC 145, and they built more than 18,000 examples of them. But if you (like me) had never previously heard of it – let alone seen one – then that probably comes down to the model only being intended for the Brazilian market. According to Volkswagen, only a handful or so ever made it to Europe. Among them of course the example they have in their own museum.
The name TC 145 sounds so promising: My biggest complaint when it comes to the shapely original Karmann Ghia Type 14, is the utter lack of engine power. And in stark contrast, a TC 145 must surely be a twincam engined car with 145 horsepower, right? Furthermore, seeing as VW didn’t have that kind of boxer engine on their own shelves, it’s clearly going to be an exquisite Porsche-derived powerplant. Maybe the legendary Fuhrmann engine?
Ehrm no. Not even close!
Even though the TC 145 delivers almost double the power output of the original Type 14 Karmann Ghia, it’s still nowhere near enough. After all, double up on waaaay too little, is still too little. So the Brazilian TC 145 still manages to under-deliver on performance. Its rather humble 65 horsepower couldn’t possibly suffice for something pretending to be a sports coupé in 1970.
But then there is at least the beauty make-over to make things good again, right? Well, wrong again! In my opinion, no one managed to update the original Karmann Ghia concept better than VW of Wolfsburg themselves, when they created the crisp Type 34. It was of course based on the bigger VW Type 3, while the original from the fifties was naturally based on the old Beetle. So the sharp-edged Type 34 – or Razor Edge Karmann Ghia as it was better known – was both bigger and more powerful than the shapely Ghia. In fact, while the TC 145 used the same platform as the Type 14, it borrowed its drivetrain from the Type 34 and even benefitted from a little further engine tuning. But dear me – that design…?
Even equipped with my most rose-tinted glasses, I still fail to see how the TC 145 did anything for the original Karmann Ghia – other than perhaps lend it an air of modernity at the front but a rather unfortunately shaped booty at the rear. Even that modernity seems somewhat pretentious, and pardon my French, but the rear lends it the general look of a small dog taking a crap. Should you be in any doubt: That’s not a good thing!
But how could it possibly go so wrong? Brazil – the epicenter of pretty booties. They – the Brazilians – more than anyone else, should have nailed this one. There’s just no excuse for it…
These three Karmann Ghia models were – at least for a short period – all available at the same time. In Brazil of course. The classic Type 14, the crisp Type 34 and then the awkward TC 145. And that’s why I simply don’t understand the Brazilian contribution to the Karmann Ghia family.
At least not in period. Because today, as a classic car, I totally get it. Believe it or not: I would, based on its rarity and obscurity, chose it over either of its German Karmann Ghia counterparts.
But the fundamental issue is of course still that it is utterly underpowered. But surely with that fat booty, there’s enough space to shoehorn something bigger and more powerful into it? A Porsche engine of sorts would be the obvious choice. But there are also boxer engines from both Alfa Romeo and Subaru to play with. Granted, that would of course make it a true bastard child, but at least it would finally offer decent performance. And just like a bit of cosmetic surgery seems terribly popular these days, so do heart transplants. So after the Brazilians doing their bit back in the day, perhaps the next logical step would be a modern day restomod treatment?
But what say you? Are we simply dealing with a footnote of a car which hardly deserves column space on ViaRETRO? Is there no saving the TC 145? Or would a restomod treatment bring new life to this oddity? Or, will the purist swoop in and save the Brazilian in the name of rarity?