Volkswagen launched the Karmann-Ghia, a coupe based on the famed Beetle, at the Kasino Hotel in Westfalia, Germany, on July 14, 1955.
The car, positioned above the Beetle, was created to help VW move beyond its plain “bugs and buses” and draw a broader customer base as the European car market recovered.
The Karmann-Ghia went into production in 1955 and hit U.S. showrooms in 1956, priced from $2,395. It was the brainchild of Wilhelm Karmann, who hired Luigi Segre of Italian design house Carrozzeria Ghia to transform his bold idea into rolling metal in early 1953 -- at first without even consulting VW. German coach-builder Karmann had been producing the VW Beetle Cabriolet since 1949.
VW was not the only company seeking a sexy, sporty flagship at the time. Chevrolet had launched the Corvette, and Ford had a hit with the Thunderbird. Chrysler had even tapped Ghia to create a Chrysler dream car, but none of the designs materialized.