Tuesday, October 27, 2015

VW Karmann Ghia: Sexy secrets at 60 years old

This white 1966 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia project had a price of $1800 on the windshield.

Secrets? What kind of secrets could the wholesome guys at Junkyard Life have? Dirty little secrets, that we don’t want anyone to know about, that’s what! An innocent appearing lady that stole our hearts and risks our dignity. 
  A woman named Karmann, that we didn’t want to tell you about. She just turned sixty-years-old and she’s still sexy.
  Oh, the pangs.

This orange 1972 Ghia needs a new home. I would like to offer up mine.

Everybody wants one?
  Karmann Ghia was a proud product of Volkswagen. The first 1956 models, introduced in August of 1955, were the stylish combination of Italian design (Ghia) and German coach building (Karmann). Thus, the Karmann Ghia was born. They were built a bit more costly, therefore increasing the sticker price, compared to the mass produced Beetle.
  Ghias sold well, despite their higher cost. Even now, demand for the VWs with the Porsche-like styling is high. Every one of the Junkyard Life affiliates that we have befriended wants one. Except me (Ron). I want two.

This Karmann Ghia coupe (we’re guessing 1970-74 era) was a service vehicle, judging by the faded paint on the doors. That’s how you know you called the right place!

 Rebel without a cause
  ’Tis true, ’tis true – we love the Porsche-like styling, reminding us of James Dean and the wheels for which he died. We know Karmann Ghias are not Porsches, but who can deny the relationship between the two? How can anyone look at this car and not see a late 50’s Porsche? 

Pretty maids all in a row. I just stood there.

No foreign objects followed us home
   Unfortunately, we did not bring any of these home (yet). We happened upon this vintage Volkswagen dealer in Georgia. Most of the cars in the inventory did not fit into our Junkyard Life – but then, there they were. All in a row. As if waiting for me to adopt. How could a closet Ghia fan casually pass by this cavalcade of Karmann treasure?

Ron Kidd 
— Junkyard Life 

My future Amber colored 1972 model parked next to a beautiful Adriatic or Pastel Blue 1970 Ghia. My pictures did not turn out on that one. Going back for more pictures will only increase the chances of it coming home with me. You can’t expect me to separate them, can you?

This white 1966 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia project had a price of $1800 on the windshield.

Ron’s Karmann Ghia Fun Facts:
  • These cars are cool. We want one.
  • Sometimes referred to as “Beetle in a sports coat” or “The poor man’s sports car.”
  • Even though the throwback design on the New Beetle has been a huge hit with Baby Boomers, VW has no plans to re-introduce the Karmann Ghia design with modern touches.
  • Drivers of Karmann Ghias haven’t changed much as far as the fun and practical crowd that they traditionally attract.
  • Production numbers for Karmann Ghias reached a total of 445,238 cars during their 1956-1974 run
  • 80,837 were convertibles, labeled as “Cabriolets”. Even though it can get very cold in Germany, they still love the drop tops.

Vintage photo of my uncle Ted’s Karmann Ghia, circa 1968. You don’t suppose his car is still laying around here anywhere, do you? Just checking. Never hurts to ask.

Junkyard Life has discovered some VW mystery colors. The red paint, on the Ghia on the right, looks closer to Sunset paint than it does the Cherry Red color, which makes more visual sense. This (whichever) red 1968 Ghia was found next to my future 1972 Karmann, which Volkswagen called Amber in their paint listings. (Ron Kidd note: Amber is the color of your energy.)

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Tips for our projects? 
Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Project car update: Golden Olive 1973 Grand Am engine drop, now what?

Pulling an engine means discovering all the tiny things that stay connected and prevent you from pulling an engine and transmission.

Remember Olive? She’s the Golden Olive 1973 Pontiac Grand Am that we scored on a Junkyard Life adventure. This car earned mucho bonus points because none of us, weirdo, Colonnade-era fans, had ever laid our adoring eyes on a ’73 Grand Am wearing Golden Olive paint. So, add in the bonus points for an odd color, then add double points from me (Ron), because that odd color is green. Triple those points because, Junkyard Life brother, Anthony, and I, shortened our “short list” cars in the same year. Anthony’s hankering for a 1973 Grand Am and my appetite for a 1973 Grand Prix. Score! Score! So, what has become of Olive?

1973 Pontiac Grand Am known as Olive for her Golden Olive paint.

  Some of you may remember “Olive” from a story penned by Junkyard Life brother, Keith Lively, who told of an adventurous tale, cursed with unrelenting weather, and mechanical issues. At one point, Keith could not see out of the car due to fog, moisture, and tons of engine smoke. Those following in a rescue vehicle, wondered how they could see out to drive. Keith tells us they really couldn’t. Pictures prove he wasn’t kidding. 

Antifreeze spills onto floor and makes a big mess even if you drain radiator. A lot of fluid is housed in these old engine blocks.
Bad News: You never get all the water out of a system before pulling an engine, so expect a mess. Good News: As Ron was building an ark, Anthony notes that the color of the water/antifreeze mixture was really healthy! That is good news discovered during a big mess.

I fall to pieces
  We delivered “Olive” to our Top Secret Undisclosed Storage Facility, hidden away from the public (our wives and their accountants), where we could begin disassembling the Grand Am.
  First off, Anthony and Jody removed the front clip to address any issues that “Olive” may have with rust. We did learn that there are places in these cars that will indeed harbor leaves, many, many leaves, and thus, moisture. 
  We also found 2,000-feet of wiring and 700 switches that GM did not include during assembly. I am convinced that a Thomas Dolby-wanna-be wired “Olive” to become a high tech Batmobile, and wound up with a low-tech, spaghetti party. (Editors note: Once again Ron composes a phrase never before used in a Junkyard Life story. “Low-tech spaghetti party” will now go into history and perhaps pop culture infamy.)

Anthony Powell and Ron Kidd strike a pose after a greasy day of wrenching on “Olive”. Nothing like relaxing behind a 1973 Grand Am after a successful engine pull. So now what?

Stop, drop, and roll
   Anthony and I yanked the 400-cube engine out of its appointed nest. It’s a run-of-the-mill Pontiac V-8, 2-barrel set-up, that had a smoking problem. We don’t know if it is valve seals or piston rings, nor do we care. The engine is out of there now. The three of us have different ideas as to what occurs next. What should we do with “Olive”?
  1. Anthony’s idea: Bigger engine. Not opposed to a completely different motor going in the GA. Cubic inches are yet to be determined, but it will not be weak. The two-barrel and intake will take a spot on a shelf because it is not going back under the hood.
  2. Ron’s idea: Punch it! I want the original block punched .030 and a stroker crank installed. I want a set of aluminum heads and a cam profile from Butler. I want it mild mannered and torque on demand. I also have a habit of smoking my friends tires for them and the aforementioned suggestions would help.
  3. Jody’s idea: GM 3.6L twin turbo-V6. These babies make 420-hp in Cadillac applications. Dropping a junkyard engine from grandma’s totaled 2014 Cadillac CTS would be a scream.
For those wondering what happened and is happening to some of the cool cars we, at Junkyard Life, have rescued – look for updates coming soon. 

Now back to the garage!

Ron Kidd 
— Junkyard Life

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Tips for our projects? 
Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at