Cliffs Karmann Ghia

When I watched the Cliff Booth character drive down Cielo Drive in Tarantinos "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood", I knew immediately that this would be my next project.

The model I eventually built is not an exact replica of Cliffs Karmann Ghia. I took many liberties, but the car from the movie inspired this model a lot. There is also a set of construction pictures in case you are interested.

I am filing this under science fiction, because the movie depicts an alternative history.

Not only is the Karmann Ghia one of the most beautiful cars ever built (IMO), it is also incredibly fun to drive. Although it shares its drive train and the chassis with the legendary Volkswagen 1200 (also known as the Beetle), its RR configuration (rear engine, rear wheel drive) makes it a great vehicle to try all kinds of silly things. Of course you would not do such things these days, the Ghia being a valued collectors item — unless you are Quentin Tarantino, that is.

My first car was a heavily used 1973 Volkswagen 1200, one of the last ones ever built. It had a 34hp engine, topped out at 120km/h, and was more fun than any car I have owned ever since (but that's a different story). I have never actually driven a Karmann Ghia, but if it is half as fun as a Beetle, then it is a really great ride.

Personally, I have never been a big fan of convertibles, because I like it warm and cozy. They probably make more sense in L.A., where the movie plays.

Like the Beetle the Karmann Ghia came in a 34hp, 40hp, and 50hp configuration. I suspect that the one depicted in the movie has at least 50hp. Tuning parts were readily available even back then. Note that I am not talking about the car used to make the movie, I am talking about the car seen in the movie. I have read that the car used to make the movie was heavily modified, but I suspect that you could do the same things with a stock Ghia.

The engine of the Karmann Ghia, being the same as in the Beetle, was dead simple. I am not exactly talented when it comes to car maintenance and repair, but even I managed to repair my VW 1200 multiples times. Expenses for spare parts sometimes were in the range of a pack of cigarettes (like an accelerator cable).

The engine of the Ghia looks familiar, although it had a different air intake and the battery of the Beetle was under the rear bench seat and not in the engine compartment.

The folding roof cover of the model is completely made-up; such a thing probably never existed for the Ghia. It was originally intended as a placeholder, but making it was hard enough, and in my opinion it does not even look too bad.

The interior of the Karmann Ghia mostly looks like the one of the Beetle (except for the dashboard): the same pedals, the same handbrake, the same shift stick, and the same large-size steering wheel. Even the half-baked heating (a source of endless anecdotes) seems to be the same.

The original Ghia did not have any headrests, but the one in the movie did. So does the model. Like quite a few parts of the model they are scratch-built from polystyrene sheets.

More details can be found in the build history.

contact  |  privacy