Top ten most common (or costly) mistakes when restoring a Karmann Ghia


General Areas:

1. Do the body and mechanical first, the interior last.

2. Do not cut out damaged sheet metal BEFORE you receive replacement panels (cutting an inch too much can be miles of heartache). Some Ghia sheet metal is very hard to find.

3. Paint:

a. Disassembly: Remove all exterior rubber seals, bumpers, lights, molding, chrome and glass. If it is your first Ghia; take a few pictures first, then “Bag & Tag” all related parts together. A simple thing like threading nuts/screws back on the parts they came from will save you hours when assembling.

b. Be sure to remove dirt/pealing paint from under the rear deck lid louvers. Ask the painter to pay special attention to this area. Also the area where the body curves under, particularly the nose and rocker panels (under the doors). Both prep and painting.

c. Inspect your Ghia in general just before spraying.

In Particular:

4. When mounting the Door Glass to the Lift Channel inside the Door, NEVER tighten the upper two bolts (that go through the Door Glass) more than ½ turn past snug or BOOM goes the Glass.

5. The rear Hood Seal only goes ½ way around the bottom of the Rear Deck Lid opening. In there design wisdom, the Germans thought this is the way it should be and never changed it throughout production. The mistake here is that people with cut down the front hood seal to fit the back.

6. On 69 and later Ghias, to remove the “D” gas door handle (under the dash on the passenger side) pull the handle out to open the gas door. In this position grab the coiled wire just below the handle with needle-nose pliers. While holding firmly so it does not spin, turn the “D” handle counter clockwise to unscrew it. If you try this without the pliers, a second wire inside the coil will break from the twisting and a new, rather expensive unit will need to be purchased.

7. Take off the Mud Sills (also known as Hinge Pillar Cover Plates). This is the plate at the back of the front wheel wells. There are two bolts you can see inside the wheel well, and on 68 and later models, one stud that sticks through the back corners of the front deck opening. Behind them you will find rust causing gunk 90% of the time. From here the rust will quickly invade your rocker panels, which are the thin but structurally significant body beams that run under the side doors. Replace with new seals and reinstall.

8. Door Check Strap, Pin & Rollers, need to be in good shape (about $15 a door). This assembly built into the upper Hinge keeps them from swinging too far and causing damage to the Door and/or Hinges. If you can lift up on your Door when it is open and feel a little play, at least one Hinge is bad ($40). You may be able to replace just the bottom Hinge as it usually goes first and then takes the top Hinge with it ($40), which then chews up your striker (holds the Door Latch to the car when closed, (another $40) and then breaks the Latch (mechanism inside the door…$50-$125 depending on year). Don’t delay on setting this area right!

9. Removing the 1/4 window chrome molding Use a little WD40 (or something stronger if you are not worried about the paint) and spray it in-between the chrome molding and the body. Pull/push/pry this piece FORWARD. After it moves forward about 1″, it will lift off easily, the only resistance being the old caulking. Door top Scraper Molding on pre 1960 models also slide forward (with the door open) until they reach an open area in their bottom channel. When you get one off, it will be very clear how it all works.

10. Make sure the drain holes in the bottom of your doors are open. A butter knife is a good tool for this if you do not have the door panels off. Water is going to get in your door. If these 3 holes are plugged, the Door will rust and the upholstery panels will warp.

Got any more of your own to add? I would love to hear from you and save someone else a little heartache.


Scott – “The Ghia Guy”