A VW platform retains everything required for operation even when the body is unbolted. Here’s what some clever minds conceived of using the VW platform.
A series of bolts located around the perimeter of air-cooled Volkswagens is all that holds the body to the nearly independent platform. A friend, a couple of wrenches, maybe a can of WD-40 and an afternoon in the garage is all that’s required to pull them apart.
Our examples here aren’t like the usual backyard Volkswagen kit cars for sale built on the the top of a mundane rolling chassis, but vehicles that were either mass produced using Volkswagen components (in many cases purchased directly from Volkswagen) or one-off prototype designs created by some of the most talented craftsman in Europe. These VW kit cars impressed the bosses of Volkswagen so much that many of these vehicles are on display at the Volkswagen museum in Germany.
If replica kit cars are more your thing and you’re looking for a Porsche Speedster replica, an improvised Ferrari Testarossa, copycat Porsche 550 Spyder, or a poor man’s Eleanor Mustang, then you should check out this list of our favorite replicars instead. However, if you can turn your attention away from those alarmingly affordable Shelby Cobra kit cars, home built Ferrari kit jobs, and easy-to-assemble hot rod and street rods, then perhaps this list of Volkswagen kit car models that are more like small batch production vehicles made by real car manufacturers might interest you!
1972 – 1976 Volkswagen do Brasil SP2
The SP2 was a two-seat rear engine sports car manufactured from 1972 to 1976 by Volkswagen do Brasil as a replacement for the Karmann Ghia specifically for their domestic market. Import duties favored locally produced goods so VW do Brasil was given leeway in developing their own sports cars. There were 11,123 SP2s produced, all powered by a 75 hp 1.7L engine good for a top speed of 100 mph, with several examples having since been imported into the US and Canada.
1957 Volkswagen Ghia Agile
Carrosserie Ghia S.A., Aigle was a Swiss automobile design and manufacturing company, originally operated as a subsidiary of Carrozzeria Ghia of Italy, later becoming autonomous. The design in the photo above was constructed on a Karmann Ghia platform.
The car was unveiled at the 1957 Geneva Motor Show. Besides the new all-steel body kit, the car was updated with a supercharger and Porsche 356 speedster brakes. It’s currently on display at the Volkswagen museum in Germany.
1961 Volkswagen Type 34 Convertible
The Type 34 or Type 3 Ghia was the bigger brother to the Karmann Ghia that was so popular in the US, but never officially sold here. Based on the Type 3 platform with a 1.5L engine, the most well-known of the Type 34 Ghias is the coupe, which individuals have imported as many as 400 into the US.
Far rarer still is the 1961 Type 34 convertible, of which just a few dozen special edition hand built prototypes were produced for the auto show circuit. That was the end of the Type 34 cabriolet as cost overruns scuttled any plans for mass production. The ones that did get imported have become very sought after classic cars, these days.
1970 – 1976 Volkswagen Ghia TC
Ghia didn’t give up with its coupe concept after the Type 34 Karmann Ghia’s lack of success. In the late 1960s, they approached Volkswagen do Brasil, which was run as a fairly autonomous operation, with a design by then employee Giugiaro. Based upon the smaller Karmann Ghia, the design was a roomy classic car 2+2 named the Volkswagen Ghia TC (for Touring Coupe).
Underneath, it was similar to the VolkswagenBeetle, the main difference was the Ghia TC was fitted with a 1.6L flat-four instead of the 1.2L motor of the Beetle. The engine produced 65 hp, enough for a top speed of 86 mph. Between 1970 and 1976 18,119 TC models were produced and sold in South America and wasn’t exported elsewhere. There is a prototype Ghia TC on display at the Karmann museum in Germany, which frequently stars in car magazine centerfolds because of its unique nature.
1957 – 1961 Rometsch Lawrence Coupe
Karosserie Friedrich Rometsch was a German coachbuilding company founded in 1924. After WWII Rometsch wanted to build an affordable alternative to the expensive sports cars then available and the Volkswagen Beetle chassis was chosen as the starting point. The Rometsch Volkswagens were entirely hand-built over a steel frame with wood pillars covered by a lightweight aluminum skin that was skillfully designed to fit the new shape. Production began in 1950 with two models: a coupe and a convertible, both designed by Johannes Beeskow.
The updated model, which was introduced in 1957, was designed by Bert Lawrence. A furniture designer by trade Lawrence’s version was heavily influenced by the American styling trends of the era. The Lawrence model was available as a coupe and convertible, with production continuing until 1961.
1967 – 1986 Puma Coupe and Convertible
Puma was a specialist manufacturer located in Brazil, building sports cars utilizing platforms and engines purchased from Volkswagen do Brasil. High import tariffs made ownership of foreign-made sports cars a reality only for the rich, and while several companies veyed for the middle-class market, Puma was by far the most successful.
Production of the VW based cars began in 1967, with a convertible version added around 1970. Over the years, the car was modified to fit the engines and chassis that VW was producing, along with styling changes to keep the appearance contemporary. From a peak production of 400 units per month, the 1980s recession in Brazil dropped sales to less than 100 a month, with a fire and flood at the plant the final straw – Puma filed for bankruptcy in 1986. While there have been various attempts to restart the brand, none have succeeded. If you can find this car for sale anywhere, don’t think twice: just buy it!
1951 – 1957 Dannenhauer and Stauss Cabriolet
German coachbuilders Dannenhauer and Stauss hand-fashioned most of the cabriolet bodies they fitted to VW chassis. Workers pounded out the main body by hand over wooden forms—just the doors, engine cover, and front cargo lid were pressings. The styling definitely made it look more like a Porsche 356 Speedster kit, but certain details remained like the rear fender arch and the suicide front doors like those found on pre-war VW prototypes. Given all the handwork involved, the cars were expensive so few were made: estimates range from 80 to 135 with 18 known survivors.
1949 – 1953 Hebmüller Volkswagen Type 14A 2+2 Cabriolet
Desirous of a broader product line than just the Beetle, Volkswagen Managing Director Heinz Nordhoff selected Hebmüller and Karmann to build cabriolets for Volkswagen using as many Type 1 components as possible. Hebmüller was to build the 2+2 cabriolet (known as the 14A), and Karmann the four-seat cabriolet. Nordhoff ordered 2000 production versions of the Hebmüller cabriolet to be sold and serviced by Volkswagen through its dealers.
Hebmüller started production in June 1949, mechanically the Type 14A was the same as the Beetle but The Heb differed in having the decklid and trunk lid of a similar size and shape. The Beetle bodies were delivered to Hebmüller with the roofs already removed.
After a devastating fire at the Hebmüller works production of the Type 14A ended there in 1952 and was moved to the Karmann factory in Osnabrück. Production ended in 1953 with a total of 696 units produced, including 3 prototypes and 1 pre-production model. Around 100 are believed to have survived, although many convincing replicas have been created over the years.
The Meyers Manx Dune Buggy
One of the most famous kit cars of the 20th century were the Meyers Manx dune buggies. These cool beach buggy machines shared the same floor plan, engine and transmission, and other components from Volkswagen Beetle models but they’ve been converted with a short wheelbase and a custom fiberglass body. Throughout the 60s and early 70s, this kit car manufacturer managed to make a big impression on the coastal communities up and around Newport Beach in California, but due to tax reasons the company was forced to close.
Unlike other kit car makers of the era, like Classic Motor Carriages, Meyers Manx has been revived and once again trades today. The modern incarnation of the company is based out of northern San Diego, and their new line of products include conversion kits and complete kit cars for sale, though they aren’t based on the original Beetle anymore.