Wilhelm Karmann Jr
The creator of the Karmann Ghia coupe, Wilhelm Karmann Jr, has died, aged 83. When his father passed on in 1952, Karmann Jr took the reins of the eponymous Osnabruck company which had been founded in 1901 and turned into a manufacturer of car bodies for the likes of Adler and Opel.
Karmann Jr qualified as an engineer in the ’30s, working for the body manufacturer Ambi-Budd for two years before returning to Osnabruck in 1939 to help convert Karmann production to military equipment. He joined the army in 1941, was captured by the Americans and returned to Osnabruck in 1945. By 1949, Karmann had sealed its future with Volkswagen, production of the Karmann-built Beetle cabriolet starting in 1949.
But as post-war Europe began to rediscover glamour and style in mass-motoring, Wolfsburg decided it needed a stylish sibling to the dour Beetle. Karmann was called in, and after four proposals had been rejected by Volkswagen, he approached his friend Luigi Segre, president of Carrozzeria Ghia. When Karmann explained his problems creating a stylish car within the confines of the Beetle chassis, Segre quietly went to work.
The result thrilled Karmann, and when the Karmann-Ghia coupe was presented to the VW brass, they gave the green light. An iconic shape, the Karmann Ghia would enjoy a production run of nearly 20 years. Gavin Conway