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    2015 #KG-AUTO #VW-Karmann-Ghia-Cabriolet / #VW-Karmann-Ghia / #Volkswagen-Karmann-Ghia-Typ-14 / #VW-Typ-14 / #Volkswagen / #Karmann #Ghia

    Some #VW enthusiasts will go to extraordinary lengths to secure the classic of their dreams, and Warwick Wrangles is no exception. His automatic KG cabriolet took over three decades to find, and not even a litany of rust and panel woes would ever make him give it up...

    As a teenager growing up in the late 50s and early 60s, Warwick Wrangles was immersed in Volkswagen’s glory years in Australia.

    Volkswagen had already established a factory at Clayton in Melbourne, and Australians were spoilt for choice with the latest air-cooled offerings from the German car maker. Warwick’s family and friends were among those caught up in the VW craze, with a succession of Beetles and Kombis parked in the driveway and used as the family car and weekend escape vehicle. In 1961 his mum and dad bought a brand new Beetle with the registration HDC-927. The family referred to the bug as Hot Dog Cart, and his father even joked that VW stood for Von Wrangles.

    In 1967 Warwick followed suit and bought his first Volkswagen, an Australian manufactured 1300 Deluxe. Sadly he only kept the car for a couple of years before trading it on something ‘sportier’. Through the 70s and 80s he was without a VW, but he enjoyed the company of friends who were passionate about the marque. A fishing mate owned a Kombi Camper with a wild Webber motor, that had heaps of torque and rescued many a boatie who had backed their trailer off the bottom of the ramp. Warwick borrowed this Kombi a couple of times to go camping, and even though these bricks on wheels proved versatile, it was not the VW model Warwick finally settled on. His fishing friend also happened to own a #Karmann-Ghia cabriolet, and it was the one and only drive of this soft top that made a lasting impression on Warwick. From that day forward a Ghia Cabriolet was the ultimate Wrangles’ VW.

    In 1990 it was not a Ghia, but the original #1961 family Beetle that came into his possession. His parents gave it to him after something broke (Warwick can’t recall what, but his parents did not wish to fix it). The plan was to restore the bug, and with sons of his own, he and the boys began to visit a few VW shows and read every VW publication available at the time. Coincidentally, Warwick also worked in the toy industry, and naturally began to amass a sizeable collection of VW die cast cars and some radio controlled Beetles, a collection which he still has today. The family driveway also began to fill with life-size VWs, with his eldest son purchasing a 1500 Squareback and a #1966 #VW-Type-34 shell towed home for a planned restoration. Unfortunately, both cars were sold for a hot Torana, and the Wrangles’ household were once again VW poor.

    A job change, a move to Qld and a serious accident in 1992, dampened, but did not deter Warwick’s car passion. The planned restoration of the 1961 bug had been quashed when Warwick’s sons decided it would look better as a buggy and was subsequently wrecked (another story). So in 1996 he purchased a stick shift 1972 Superbug that he could drive and enjoy in light of his injuries. The ‘72 performed the daily driver role admirably, but his heart was still set on a Ghia Cabriolet, automatic no less. Did such a rare beast exist? Indeed one did, and Warwick remembers the exact day he spotted the Ghia cabriolet with the VW Automatic script on the decklid - 10th July 1998.


    The Cabriolet was parked outside a Japanese restaurant in Broadbeach, and Warwick left a note under the windscreen wiper asking if the owner wanted to sell it. As luck would have it, the owner rang him back that same day and explained he had just bought another car and the Ghia was for sale. Warwick went straight back to the restaurant car park, took the KG for a drive and settled on a price right there and then.

    For all intensive purposes the Cabriolet looked immaculate, and for some years it maintained that allure, until bubbles began to appear and paint started flaking off. Warwick suspected the bubbles and flaking paint were hiding more than just a quick fix, and with his wife Trish insisting that he have the car fixed so he could enjoy it, he decided the car should be professionally repaired. As an avid reader of VWMA, Warwick was impressed with the work of Alan Agyik and the team at Das Resto Haus, so after an introduction and a visual inspection of the car, Alan and Warwick agreed that Das Resto Haus would take up the challenge. And what a challenge it became.

    After a strip and blast (which included unpicking the chassis from the floorpan which had been welded together), the Ghia revealed every panel was either riddled with rust or had been subjected to poor repair work. The Ghia had also been a left hand drive originally, and the conversion was poorly done. Added to this was extensive accident damage to the left rear and front right. The body was teetering on the edge of a basket case, and the bill to repair it would be quite substantial. After discussing alternative strategies including starting with a better LHD shell from overseas, Warwick took a leap of faith and asked Alan to work with what he had brought him. And so it began.

    Brad Condran and Barry Thompson were given the task of repairs, with Brad largely doing most of the fabrication work. A cabriolet always presents an extra level of difficulty due to the additional strengthening panels and sections used to reinforce the body, and the blast revealed that most of these inner, hidden strengthening sections would either need replacing or repairing. The list included, but was not limited to the lower sections of both doors, the bonnet (badly warped from previous repair work), left hand side rear quarter, inner guard and engine bay surround, both inner and outer sills and B-pillars, left hand c-pillar, heater channels, both front guards, especially the right guard, along with both headlight buckets, wheel well, rear cargo floor and firewall and both pan halves replaced. The right hand drive conversion also had to be improved. In total well over 70% of the Ghia needed new, fabricated or repaired metal. The Ghia was essentially a new car.

    There were times during the metal and rust repair work when even Warwick doubted his original decision, but the work that Alan and his teamed performed on the Ghia is nothing short of remarkable. The Ghia is now perfectly aligned and all the gaps are uniform and correct tolerance. Most of the repair work is better than from the factory, and Warwick can rest easy knowing that the Ghia will last well beyond another Wrangle generation. To celebrate the re-birth, Warwick chose not to stay with the black at the time of purchase, but rather paint the cabriolet in the original colour L20E Signal Orange. This colour certainly announces its arrival wherever it goes.

    The 1600 twin port engine and semi-auto transmission were both rebuilt, but remain stock, although the muffler and heater boxes were ceramic coated for longevity. All the running gear was refurbished, with the stock width beam receiving adjusters and the brakes swapped for new items with Porsche 5x130 stud pattern to accept chrome Porsche 911 alloys, 15x4.5 and 15x5.5 front and rear respectively wrapped in Yokohama Blue Earth 185/65 R15 rubber. Resetting the height was a slight challenge, as the KG comes factory with double IRS spring plates. Alan had to fabricate a spring plate adjusting tool to allow him to reset the rear torsion bars one spline.

    The sensational interior was the work of Willem Roozendaal of Platinum Trimming. The seats and door cards are wrapped in Austex Pellan Ultimate in a colour called Mondo. Accented by orange stitching the seats are almost too good to sit on. Toast Bake carpet creates a wonderful contrast, and the Oyster Hood came from Robbins in the US and was trimmed by Willem to fit perfectly. Willem also created the custom gear shift boot which incorporates zips so that, if needed, access to the auto stick shift electrics is made easier. The steering wheel is the original, as are the gauges, but Warwick has plans to refurbish the gauges when time allows. A new loom with some additional custom wiring was plumbed in.

    Not that Warwick meant to count the days, but as the Ghia continued to throw up unexpected challenges, the whole process from strip to street took 2 years, 10 months and 8 days. The bank balance also took a hit, beyond what the car could ever be sold for, but Warwick has no intention of parting with his auto treasure. Hindsight being what it is, Warwick admits changing tack after the sand blast may have been the better option, and even though Alan believes this KG hates him, the final product is beyond his wildest expectations. There was a lot of pain and anguish to present the Cabriolet in all its Signal Orange glory, but when the VW Automatic script was eventually returned to its rightful decklid place, the joy of driving his lifelong obsession quickly surpassed what had gone before. It was worth the effort.
    What had they started..? ..the one and only drive of the KG set Warwick’s mind...


    // Find the full resto photos at #Drive-My Cars Clubs //
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    Eric Richardson
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