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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.

Amazingly, it’s the grand Master,Giugiaro, who is responsible for the design of the TC 145. To my eyes, it seems the car never made it past the unfinished prototype stage.

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!

This advertising picture is probably taken in its homeland. At least the beach looks pretty.

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.

The original incarnation in all its serene beauty.

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…?

While Mexican isn’t my strongest attribute, I presume the text reads something along the lines of “It’s here.” followed up with a “But why?”

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.

The updated Karmann Ghia Type 34 from 1961.

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?


11 Responses

  1. Niels V

    Claus I think you have misunderstood something, it is a Touring Coupé not a sports coupe, hence the TC letters, it was meant to be good looking (which it is) but not necessarily sporty. It was a leisure vehicle a bit like the MB 190 SL

  2. Tony Wawryk

    Good looking car, but very (and I mean VERY) similar to the Glas GT, to the point where it surely can’t be a coincidence?

  3. Flemming Nielsen

    Why not?
    eh Claus, and ‘mexican’ is what language?
    Think they usually speak spanish there, but portugese in Brazil.

    So the text in the ad would be this:
    and why not

  4. Anders Bilidt

    Hmmmm… I struggle to see the similarities between the Glas 1700GT and the VW TC145. One is elegant, delicate even, and beautifully proportioned. The other… not so much.

    Whether the TC145 is a sports coupé or a touring coupé doesn’t change that it looks decidedly awkward to my eye. If I were to add a Karmann Ghia of any sort to my garage, it would have to be a Razor Edge Type 34 – such a distinctive and sharp design. I’ve always really liked it. As for this Brazilian abomination, I would actually much rather own an ordinary VW Type 3 Fastback. Sure the TC145 beats it on rarity, but this is only proof that rarity is not always the-all-be-all. At least the Type 3 Fastback has a well-balanced and coherent design.

  5. Tony Wawryk

    @anders-bilidt I know I need glasses to drive at night these days, but I’m surprised that the similarity between the Glas and the TC doesn’t seem apparent, especially in profile and the front end. True, the Glas is cleaner, and doesn’t have the slightly flared haunches of the TC, but other than that…maybe I’ll just ask them to start training my guide dog now…

  6. Niels V

    @tony-wawryk I do see the similarities, with the Glas, but it’s funny how people’s taste is different.
    I find the Glas flimsy and disproportionate, with a too tall roof ans way too much glass area when compared to the low body, furthermore is the body work sort of shaped like a parabola, with the nose and rear way to low.
    I quite like the TC145 and to me it looks more like a seventies angular restyling of a 911 in 2+2 configuration.
    it’s interesting how @anders-bilidt and Claus compare it with car designes 20 and 10 years older, and not it’s contemporary?

  7. Claus Ebberfeld

    @niels-v , what puzzles me the most is why the TC145 was deemed necessary or at least production-worthy in the first place.

    Regarding its styling I still think it looks more like a dog doing its thing than a Glas 1700. Which I actually quite like (the Glas…), although I agree on the glasshouse being a tad to tall.

  8. Niels V

    @claus-ebberfeld using that analogy then this looks like a dog dragging its ass across the floor…..

  9. Niels V

    And the reason for a redesign. The first model Ghia was a pretty car in the fifties and stil nice in the early sixties, but it was still in production until 74….. cars begun to look like this at that time. Pretty as the Ghia was, it was terribly outdated so a replacement was needed


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