First Look: Matchbox Volkswagen Type 34 Karmann Ghia…
We have been waiting for this one for awhile. When the Matchbox team announced the T34 Karmann Ghia last July, we were not alone in wondering what the T34 was. Well, we googled it, and we saw that it was just a beautiful car, and one that was not as well-known as the T14.
So with that in mind, we have brought in the foremost expert on the T34, Lee Hedges. Lee lives in San Diego, California and has been the leading force in the T34 scene for over 25 years. He runs the T34 World organization and publishes its magazine with the goal of helping T34 owners around the world source parts to accurately restore their T34s. Coincidentally (but not surprisingly), he owns a restored 1962 Ruby Red Cabriolet replica and a Cherry Red & Black 1965 RHD Electric Sunroof.
We have been chatting back and forth with Lee for the better part of a year, and he is as excited as anyone that the Matchbox version is finally here. So we asked him to give everyone a little background on the T34. If you want to learn more, or get in touch with Lee, just head over to the site he helps run, t34world.org. Now on to Lee’s article… (Thanks Lee.)
The Karmann Ghia is a combination of the famous Carrozzeria Ghia design firm in Turin Italy and the coachbuilding expertise of Wilhelm Karmann in Osnabrück Germany. The first version of the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia is known as the Type 14, and it was first released in 1955. It’s 20-year production ran through 1974 with 445,000 units built. In 1961 the second version of Karmann Ghia was introduced, known as the Type 34 (T34. It was based on the VW 1500 (Type 3) series with flatter larger engine, squarer design, and fitted with many more standard features. The T34 was the most expensive Volkswagen model available during its 8-year production from 1962-69 and only 42,505 units were built, 10% of the T14 production. T34s were never officially exported to America. A Cabriolet version was designed in 1961 and 15 units were built in October-November 1962 but VW quickly shut-down the production. Only six of the original 15 have survived today, all living in Germany. An electric-sunroof option was offered (2% of production) and it was the second vehicle ever to be fitted with an electric sliding roof. It’s styling was considered cutting-edge in 1961 with its unique front nose design, tiny pillars, & huge greenhouse cockpit. Today there are estimated to be 2500 T34s that have survived of the original 42,000. Rust is a common issue with the coachbuilt body design and the lack of spare parts makes restoring one extremely difficult & expensive. The international organization for T34 owners is T34 World (www.T34World.org) and they celebrated its 50th Anniversary in Germany with 154 T34s participating in the weekend events, setting a new world record the most T34s at one event.
The Matchbox 1:64 scale Type 34 Cabriolet model is the newest one for owners & collectors. It was chosen to complement the T14 Cabriolet design from 2009. For Mattel designers to have chosen the Cabriolet over the Coupe is interesting, since the Cabriolet had limited production & public awareness. But the Cabriolet model allows enhanced visibility for the interior and makes it an instant collectible. The design is true to the original with the four headlight design, beltline crease all the way around the body, the round tail lights, and the thin top boot design. The solid black interior makes it difficult to see the details. The light blue exterior paint mimics the Pacific Blue used on 1962-64 T34 models. And the chromed bumpers with integrated bumper guards and front turn signal lights give it a polished appearance.
What about the details? Are there any features that are not true to the original design? Interestingly, the Matchbox Cabriolet top design was based on a handmade Cabriolet and not the original one, evidenced by the lack of inner top frame design which resulted in a thinner rear seat design. This model also features dual side mirrors, of which only the driver’s side was standard equipment. The tiny door locks molded into the rear armrest pads were used in 1967-69 models, previously the locks were integrated into the inner door pull lever. The headlight detail is interesting as well, featuring separated “projector-type” beams with separate chrome rings. Although difficult to produce in a $1 model, the side mirror was originally an aluminum head, not painted to match the body in this model.
There’s no doubt that the new Matchbox T34 Cabriolet will be customized based on owner’s personal cars. For T34 model collectors there have been two T34 Cabriolets built over the past 50 years. The first was a zinc white metal kit by DUE based on the Corgi model in the 1987. The second was a cast resin version by Serata in Japan in 2005. And of course there have been many personalized Cabriolet conversions of the Coupes, especially the Minichamps models due to their extremely detailed interior design. A colorful variety of scale T34 Cabriolet models are below, from Lee Hedges’ personal collection.
In-scale models of T34s are rare, however there are over 200 different models produced from 1963 to 2013. The largest scale models are the 1:18th scale plastic ones built by Struxy in Germany. The slightly smaller 1:21st scale tin Coupes were made by Ichiko & Shimazaki, and are most often seen in police colors. Minichamps has been offering a 1:44th scale model since 2001. The 1:47th scale models were built by Corgi and featured die-cast metal body with opening front & rear hoods and a clear engine lid. The 1:61st scale models were built by Siku in a zinc casting with opening doors & rhinestone headlights. There are several HO 1:87th scale models including the plastic kits built by FM2, Praline, & Busch. For a complete archive of the known T34 models you can visit http://www.leehedges.com/t34/puret34/toys.htm