A Supercharged Karman-Ghia

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Sir,

So much has appeared in your excellent journal during the last five years in unstinted and no doubt justifiable praise of the VW that your readers might be interested to hear that the car, like all good human beings, can be fallible.

I bought my Karmann-Ghia on January 1st, 1960, second-hand with about 2,000 miles on the clock. It was apparently a specially constructed r.h.d. model for the 1959 Motor Show. (I had previously owned a standard VW from new when in Germany in 1955-56 and this gave, as far as I can recall, about 20,000 entirely trouble-free pleasurable miles of motoring.) I remember thinking at the time that no-one could possibly damage a VW in 2,000 miles, but perhaps I may have been wrong. Anyway, on the drive home I was a little uneasy to find that its maximum indicated speed was 68 m.p.h. and that even for a standard engine the acceleration was none too brisk.

After 1,000 miles it had consumed a pint of oil and the windscreen washer had failed. I decided, having pointed out these shortcomings to the agent, to have it supercharged. If there was a weakness in the engine the blower would surely show it up; also it went against the grain to travel around like a tame sheep in such formidable Wolfsburg clothing. The MAG blower certainly gave the necessary boost but while still running it in on the way to visit my son it seized solid on the Hog’s Back at 35 m.p.h. in a snowstorm, severing the drive belt. I struggled on to Winchester and back with a hopelessly rich mixture and a maximum of 40 m.p.h. with acceleration to match. It was a nightmare journey in those conditions.

The blower was repaired free and at Easter I travelled to Inverness-shire and back. Just past Doncaster, on the return journey, at about 55 m.p.h. there appeared that ominous hesitation. I de-clutched, coasted and waited. The oil temperature gauge (fitted at my own request when supercharged) was normal. On starting up a horrible clatter came from the engine, but I managed to continue to London, trailing a truly naval-type smoke screen.

I was most tremendously impressed by the repair facilities, courtesy and service at St. John’s Wood. The engine had picked up on two cylinders and was rebuilt free of cost despite:

(a) The car being secondhand.

(b) It had covered more than the warranty mileage.

(c) It was supercharged.

All went well until, passing Gatwick Airport at about 70 m.p.h. in July, the cockpit suddenly filled with smoke and the oil-pressure light started winking. I was towed into Crawley and the oil cooler was replaced.

Since that time the following has happened to date:

The front brake-drums went oval, due no doubt to the increased performance. I now have a spare pair and skim them and change them over as necessary. The linings are still all right at 17,000-odd miles.

The seal between the body and chassis failed, thus letting in water and ruining the carpets. This was quite expensive, and so was the failure of the windscreen wiper and a clutch cable. But in fairness to this last the commercial type plate is fitted to the clutch to counteract the increased torque due to the blower.

With the onset of winter and cold, damp days much trouble was experienced with icing in the carburetter. This was overcome by fitting a modified form of air intake as fitted to the current model, whereby hot air is vented from the heating system to the air filter.

And now at last I believe the car has got over its growing pains. It uses no oil and with about 57 b.h.p, in a nicely streamlined shell is no mean performer. It does an overall 27 m.p.g. and on one occasion I have had the needle about an inch past its maximum indicated of 90, although normally I do not exceed 80.

It is not, of course,a sports car, but it is easy on the eye, beautifully finished and fun to drive. It has given more trouble than the average VW by far, but at no time has it been out of my hands for more than 48 hours.

I am, Yours, etc., W.J. Boddington.  Harlow