The last car that Bill Mitchell designed at General Motors was a lot like he was, brash, stylish and more than a little over the top. Built in 1977, just before Mitchell retired after four decades shaping American cars (and American culture). It was called the Phantom, it hearkened back to the days of glamorous cars with sweeping, flowing lines, and it never really had a chance at going into production as Mitchell’s power in GM was fading as the Phantom approached completion. As a matter of fact, when Mitchell tried to display the Phantom at a Proving Grounds show of potential products held for the GM board of directors, GM executive vice president for product planning, Howard Kehrl, ordered it off the property. Mitchell fumed but in his remarks about the Phantom it was clear that he knew that his time had come: “Realizing that with the energy crisis and other considerations, the glamour car would not be around for long. I wanted to leave a memory at General Motors of the kind of cars I love”.
Aaron Severson does his usual bang up job over at Ate UP With Motor on the history of the Porsche 914. Go read that post and then come back and enjoy these photos of a very clean 914 at the 2014 Vintage Volkswagen show. Why a Porsche at a VW show? Because originally the 914 was going to be marketed world wide as a Volkswagen, with the six cylinder 914/6 sold as a genuine Porsche. As a matter of fact the 914 was sold as a VW-Porsche 914 in Europe but Porsche managers thought that strategy would hurt the brand in the U.S. so the four cylinder car was also sold as a Porsche in the U.S.
Most people don’t associate this look with the Karmann Ghia. The Type 34 was based on what was, in the early 1960s, VW’s new platform, the Type 3 Squareback and Fastback mini-wagons. Unlike the original Karmann Ghia, which was based on a Virgil Exner Sr. design for the Chrysler D’Elegance show car, the Type 34 was an in-house design by Ghia engineer and designer Sergio Sartorelli, with some assistance, ironically, from Virgil Exner Jr., who by then had graduated from college and started his design career in Italy working for Ghia. It was never embraced by consumers, selling just over 42,000 units from 1961-1969.
This 1971 VW Karmann Ghia was simply stunning, perhaps the nicest car at Ypsilanti’s Vintage VW show.
It’s from the side view that you can best tell that Giovanni Sovanuzzi of Ghia borrowed more than a little bit of Virgil Exner Sr.’s Chrysler D’Elegance show car.
VW Beetles were well made cars and the Karmann Ghias may have been even better made, as the bodies required a bit of hand finishing.
Most of the Karmann Ghias at the Orphan Car Sow were in very nice shape, including this dark blue one with an ivory interior.
I have a post going up at The Truth About Cars concerning how the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia was styled after a Chrysler show car called the D’Elegance. The D’Elegance was one of the Virgil Exner Sr. concepts that Ghia fabricated for Chrysler and when the head of Karmann approached Ghia about building a sporty coupe and cabriolet on the Beetle’s chassis, Ghia engineer and designer Giovanni Savonuzzi more or less scaled down the design. This 1968 Karmann Ghia convertible appears to be a bit of a restomod, unless leather upholstery was offered them.