Frankfurt International Auto Show (September 1961)

The Frankfurt International Auto Show is held every other year in Germany and showcases the newest advances in automotive design. The 1961 Frankfurt Show was a huge event for VW since it was the first public display for their new VW 1500 models. VW had been extremely secretive of the VW 1500 series program. When the first press photos were released in April 1961 there were no actual cars to see, just the photos. VW wanted to build the anticipation for the unveiling as well as gauge the reaction to this significant change in VWs market strategy. The VW stand did not disappoint the crowds. Mirrored Beetle were high above a track with the new models positioned in a four-wheel drift. Down on the floor there were many VW 1500s for the spectators to touch, inspect up close, and even open the doors & climb inside. The Notchback Sedan & Cabriolet and Variant models were on display in VWs area but there were no Karmann Ghias.

All of the VWs built by Karmann were positioned in the Wilhelm Karmann stand, a proper tribute to the German coachbuilder. The models included the Notchback Cabriolet, Karmann Ghia Type 14 Coupe & Cabriolet, Porsche 356 Hardtop Convertible, and both the new VW 1500 Karmann Ghia Coupe & Cabriolet models. The T34 Cabriolet was up on a circular electric rotating display stand surrounded by metal bars to keep the crowd back. The T34 Coupe was on the floor next to the Notchback Cabriolet & Porsche 356. All the Karmann cars had special KARMANN license plates to confirm their coachbuilt status.

The reaction to the new T34 design was one of excitement, wonder, and controversy. The frontal design was the most unusual of all VW models and the rear treatment had round tail lights. The beltline styling line was relatively common amongst other manufacturers like BMW, Pontiac, Ford, and Fiat. But the engine size was unanimously deemed underpowered compared to other models in its price range. It was placed into the “economy sports car” class due to its engine size & performance, (the reason VW changed to dual carbs in 1964 to provide more power). Overall, however, the press had very nice things to report about the VW 1500 Karmann Ghia by Volkswagen. Road & Track (USA magazine) did a large feature article on the Frankfurt Show and the first two pages were huge photos of the VW 1500 display and the T34 Coupe. The two legends @ Karmann & Ghia (Wilhelm Karmann & Luigi Segre) that were responsible for the T34 development were even seen at this event discussing the particulars of the T34 design & building process (left).