For its final model year, the vestigial rear seat was deleted for North America models, as it had no provisions for seatbelts; both coupe and convertible for 1974 were marketed strictly as two-seaters. From 1962-1969, Volkswagen marketed the Typ 34, with angular bodywork and based on the Type 3 platform and mechanicals.
Wilhelm Karmann and Luigi Segre often encountered each other at international automobile shows, and after an initial discussion prompted by Wilhelm Karmann, Segre secretly obtained a Volkswagen Beetle to use as a basis for a prototype â the Type I's were difficult to come by and Gian Paolo, Maoro Boano's son, purchased one in Paris and drove it back to Turin. Ghia customized its platform, designed the initial prototype and in five months constructed the model. Segre secretly presented the model to Wilhelm Karmann one year after the initial discussion â late in 1953, in Paris, at the Societe France Motors factories (Volkswagen's dealership for France and the exclusive European dealer of Ghia-built Chrysler models). When Wilhelm Karmann saw the coupe, Karmann he said, "I'd like to build that!" As the head of Ghia, Segre singularly directed the project through conception and prototyping, delivering a feasible project that Willhelm Karmann both wanted to and could practically build â the project Willhelm Karmann would in turn present to Volkswagen.
Segre and Virgil Exner became close professionally and personally, eventually traveling Europe together. Peter Grist wrote in his 2007 Exner biography that when Exner in 1955 eventually saw the Karmann Ghia, which cribbed heavily from his Chrysler d'Elegance, "he was pleased with the outcome and glad that one of his designs had made it into large-scale production.” Chris Voss, a stylist in Exner's office, reported in 1993, that Exner considered the Karmann Ghia the ultimate form of flattery. Segre in turn sent Exner the first production Karmann Ghia imported into the state of Michigan, in gratitude.
In contrast to the Beetle's machine-welded body with bolt-on fenders, the Karmann Ghia's body panels were butt-welded, hand-shaped, and smoothed with English pewter in a time-consuming process commensurate with higher-end manufacturers, resulting in the Karmann Ghia's higher price.
In 1970, larger taillights integrated the reversing lights and larger wrap-around turn signals. Still larger and wider taillights increased side visibility. In 1972, large square-section bumpers replaced the smooth round originals, and tail lights were again enlarged. For the USA model only, 1973 modifications mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) included energy-absorbing bumpers. A carpeted package shelf replaced the rear seat.