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Homepage. This page: The noisy 1953 VW makes way for a Minor Traveller, and then a Karmann coupe.

Minor Traveller & Karmann Ghia coupe.

By this stage of Don's motoring career, he was tiring of the 1950s Volkswagen saloon so replaced it with with a Morris Minor Traveller, and then later replaced that with a rakish, and temperamental, Karmann Ghia, which managed to destroy its engine on numerous occasions, while the coachwork dissolved before his eyes ...

"Summer 1968. The noisy Beetle was really starting to make my head hurt driving 40 miles to Whitstable and back each day. A colleague provided transport on alternate days but the Beetle was making his head hurt as well.

Enter the Morris Minor Traveller: I bought the car cheaply as ‘in need of some attention’ and it proved to be my first real restoration. I rebuilt the engine completely, polishing the ports and fitting a larger SU Carb’ (to give a little more performance,) a re-spray and a few odds and ends turned it into a smart reliable little car. I was sad to see the Beetle go, but needs must etc.

My daily trip to Whitstable was now almost comfortable and the Traveller proved useful for carting stuff about, camping trips etc. The memsahib learned to drive in it. Passing her test while eight months pregnant, she swears the examiner only passed her because he didn’t want her turning up for a test the following month.

Enter the 1964 VW Karmann Ghia coupe.

Karmann Ghia car
November '69 I was changing jobs; my new job entailed driving around the country inspecting, sometimes installing machinery, so a car with ‘longer legs’ was needed. I could just about run to a new medium family saloon but fancied something different, and what could be more different than a Type 3 VW Karmann Ghia 1500s? (Low mileage and only a few years old).

Before I could take delivery they had to service it and do a small bodywork job, I really should have looked closer at what they were doing but told myself “VWs don’t rot”, words that would come back to haunt me over the next few years.

It was a very nice car and would do an indicated 100mph (after I had replaced a piece missing from each carburettor) but I was a little worried about a scraping sound from the brakes? You’ve guessed, they were down to the rivets and no service had been done before purchase. I didn’t like the look of the bodywork repair either. The dealer’s excuse? They were selling the car on commission for a client and there had not been the margin to do much work on it. They then bodged the brakes and re-did the body repair where rust was showing. I also suspected it had been ‘clocked,’ but with the pressure of my job I hadn’t time to check.

The car was reliable and comfortable, the wife liked it, my friends admired it, but no one was fonder of it than the tin worm.

Apart from the steady munching away of these pests the car had done nearly 100k before the first serious problem. It dropped a valve (if that term can be used for a horizontally opposed engine) resulting in a totally destroyed head and piston. It was unthinkable that I should take it to a garage for repair (didn’t trust the bu****s) so I located a s/h head and piston and did the repair myself, having devised a single-handed way of removing and replacing VW engines without equipment, other than a short plank and a few bricks. Three months later the same thing happened, on the other head, taking not only the head and piston, but the con rod as well.

I removed, repaired and replaced the engine over a weekend; leaving for Devon on Monday morning with a worrying tap as the piston ring fought with the wear ridge at the top of the cylinder. Fortunately by the time I reached Torquay the piston ring had won and the engine was quiet again.

Two changes of job later, in 1973, the Ghia finally suffered terminal big end failure: the cap came off and visited every part of the crankcase. The car had been thrashed mercilessly for four years, had re-sprays, numerous treatments to keep the tin worm at bay, and was worn-out and rotted. My brother wanted to refurbish it, leaving it forlorn in his garden for a couple of years until I pinched the seats for a Beach buggy (Angle bug) project, and the poor thing went ‘unloved’ to the breakers."

Various stories of motoring mishap and adventure can be found in the motoring memories section at oldclassiccar, including more tales from Don.

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