1969 VW Karmann Ghia

Shawn Fitzpatrick

I have an old college buddy who deals in the world of buying and selling boats, cars, and such (storage units and the like). Where the Ghia originated, I don't know, but it ended up in Lake Havasu with my buddy. He knew I was looking for a Bug to play with, so when he obtained the Ghia, he gave me a call and offered it to me at the cost for which he purchased it. As I live in a 1950s, Long Beach, CA house with a one-car garage on a cul-de-sac, I declined because I simply didn't have room for it (I have a truck and my wife has a car and there's only so much parking space available). My buddy kept making the offer (monthly), and I kept declining, though, I really did want the car (I owned a '71 Ghia when I was in high school but foolishly sold it for pennies on today's dollar).

There came a time when my family and I made a weekend trip to Lake Havasu for unrelated reasons, and during the drive home, we stopped by my buddy's house just to say hello and hang out for a bit. It was at this time that he informed me that the Ghia was still sitting in his garage and told me to go check it out: The body was solid, the interior was solid, the mechanics looked good, and the floor pans, understandably, needed some work. For the price he was asking, it was a pretty good deal, but I just did not have room for it.

Long story short, while I was in his garage, under the car, and checking out the pans, my wife and child (both inside) decided it would be a good idea to purchase the car. After checking everything out, deciding that it was a good deal, but still not willing to purchase it, I walked back inside and my buddy told me, "Congrats! You are the proud new owner of a 1969 VW Karmann Ghia!" Since that time, I have been enjoying various restorations (or de-restorations, which is what I am currently doing) in my one-car garage for the past 5 or so years.

The photos are sort of a weird/reverse before and after, which is to say that I am currently and intentionally working to make it patina with forced rust (vinegar, peroxide, and salt), at which time, I will lay a top coat of boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits. This topcoat, then, needs to be reapplied about every 6 months or so. When completed, it will be a combination of paint spots, primer spots, first coat paint spots, first coat primer spots, rusted and bare metal spots, and unfortunately, some previous Bondo spots. It will then be rubbed in the aforementioned low sheen and protective top coat.

The Lake Havasu sun/heat probably saved the body, but did no favors for the paint or the glossy topcoat, thus, my current project. At worst, when done, it will be a one-of-a-kind Ghia, and most of the pre-paint manual labor will be done, so if I change my mind, a new paint job will be that much more simple, however, I think I'm just going to roll with the patina/rust look.