Too Orangey for Crows – 1969 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Words by Clarence Beeks & Photos by Chris De La Marsche – Originally Published in Hayburner Issue 25

Phil Jarvis is no stranger to these pages. The bus-racing Chip Foose look-a-like has been a lover of, fiddler with and, most importantly, frequent driver of a wide variety of Volkswagens from the moment he could reach the pedals. While many of you will be familiar with the Fire Bus, his recently finished Terracotta 356A Outlaw has been turning heads so much there has been a dramatic increase in pedestrian whiplash injuries in the Wolverhampton area – (the posh bit, mostly). We think it’s fair to say Phil loves driving old Volkswagens, and uses them throughout the year and in a manner that many people would think twice about. He says they are meant to be driven and is a great ambassador for not wrapping the things up through the 362 days of gloom we are blessed with in the UK.

Phil has been responsible for some very cool and well received restorations, so it came as a bit of a shock when he turned to the dark side and started looking for a more patina-inspired project to get his teeth into. And with the UK currently undergoing a mass awakening to the ways of the Karmann Ghia, it was inevitable that the ‘Year of the Ghia’ had another participant in the making.

Phil wasted no time and soon spotted a 1969 Karmann Ghia Coupe, freshly imported by Steve Walker, in Surrey.  Now, Steve had brought the car to do himself, but the L20 Amber paint was enough to get those Jarvis Orange senses tingling and Phil was soon on the phone asking about the car.  Steve told him “it’s a really solid and original survivor car. Used as a daily driver for many years by a guy who maintained it impeccably but, was also a moron who had put a significant dent in every panel and tried to tart it up with a scattergun aerosol attack in a colour which bore no relation to the original”  Steve was busy swearing at his Kabrio (featured in this very issue) at the time and, as a result, suggested Phil pop down and check the Ghia out if he liked.

True to his word the car was the super solid US-spec Coupe you see before you. All be it, with a lot more dents, stock ride height and some wayward home improvement touch-ups. To many, this is the Ghia to have after a Lowlight. Early bumpers, nipple indicators and banana rear lights but with the IRS rear suspension – it ticks all the boxes before regulations forced repeated changes to the model. The car ran fantastically with an obviously new 1500 engine and due to daily-use did not need any attention to the brakes or other typical issues found on imported cars. This suited Phil as he wasn’t looking to lash out on a restoration – Simply create a useable and visually stunning car based around the unique patina and salvageable paint. The car was a no brainer, and even more so when Steve revealed the wheels he had been saving for the Ghia –Superior Turtlebacks in the original unrestored finish.

With a couple of Mexican blankets thrown in for good measure, Phil bought the ‘Cool Car Kit- requiring assembly’ on the spot. The plan was simple – Slam it, register it and enjoy it! The car was left with Bobby at Milk’n’Two who knocked up a 4” narrowed beam fitted with dropped spindles and fresh steering components then fine tuned the ride height after fitting the Turtlebacks with 145 and 165 Firestones. He also sorted out a major program of dent removal with a local old school metal maestro who straightened out the car in a traditional manner using skill and hand tools to an amazing standard, and all with minimal paint disturbance. 

Bobby also sourced and replaced the cracked windscreen, located a brace of Ghia only parts and ensured the car had a fresh MOT. The whole process was turned around in barely a week. Which co-incided nicely with the UK registration arriving at Chateau Foose. With the car home, Phil turned his attention to the aerosol touch ups on the car and after a couple of days on the thinners, came round to see the results before you. While a lot of the patina was evident originally, the hard work had revealed some nice ageing and some lovely original paint. In fact, the car is predominately nice original paint which really makes you wonder what was going through the original owners mind when he went all Picasso on the thing.

The interior speaks for itself. Basically all original but with modifications by time and regular use. It could easily be restored, but could easily be a lot lot worse. It sits perfectly with the rest of the car and so it should as they have aged as one. We think the car looks great, and with a bit of vision and a touch of good fortune shows you don’t have to spend a lot of time, money or head scratching to create a cool and fun ride. In many cases – It’s not what you know, but who you know that can get the job done.

The Ghia probably caused as many pedestrian whiplash injuries in Ninove this year as his 356 does and it certainly looked awesome rolling down the E30 heading home.

Now, Phil is an industrious chap. It won’t be long before something else is tingling his Orange senses. We don’t know if it’s genetic or just coincidence but with the Fire Bus, 356, 912 and this Ghia are examples there is a good chance it will be Orangey.

Phil offers thanks and praise to Steve Walker, Bobby Wilcox, Paul Lippet and whoever invented thinners for the car you see before you would not be here without them.

*too orangey for crows …..  those of a certain age will remember the Kia Ora advert of our youth. Anyone curious should Google those very words for a blast from the past and a lesson in subliminal messaging that has stuck with a generation.

1969 VW Karmann Ghia Coupe - Full Gallery