The Karmann Ghia naturally tips its hat to the coach builder who built it; but although making up 50% of the car’s name we may forget the beautiful lines of the Volkswagen coupe were penned by Italian styling house Ghia. We take a look at another VW classic which was styled by one of the most legendary designers in the automotive industry.
Pininfarina are probably most famous for penning Ferraris but did you know they also plied their trade on the Volkswagen Type 4? Yes, the “ugly duckling” of the aircooled VW stable was styled by the same designers who brought the world the 250 GTO, arguably the prettiest car ever made.
To be fair, the iconic 250 GTO started its production 6 years earlier than the Type 4 and a lot can happen with fashion and style in that time. An over inflated super car would of looked cool, but a little out of place in the local Volkswagen dealer; and of course the Big VW needed to have an identity in keeping with the rest of the VW range. The Type 4 clearly meets that brief from where we are sitting, but we are still wondering what could of been!
We had to take at look at what else Pininfaria was responsible for during those years, with a hope to justifying their styling choice.. Here’s what we found.
The Fiat 130 Coupe was produced between 1969 and 77, and whilst it may be a little more attractive, we expect most examples have long since rusted away; according to howmanyleft.com the Type 4 outnumbers it in the UK 74 to 20. Alongside it, the Alfa Romeo Giulia (62-78) whilst a little less sporty carries its boxy shape well, and almost doubles the number of the VW left on Britain’s roads; well it was made for 12 years longer!
The Lancia Flavia (61-71) clearly shares a similar headlamp design and a “kick back” rear side window, the profile of the flanks are not a million miles away either. Perhaps it is the Type 4’s closest non VW relative? A quick check online shows 75 still alive in UK, in some sort or another. The Peugeot 504 coupe (68-75) keeps the typical 70’s look, and is not dissimilar to the Fiat 130 above, take the badge off the front, and you’d never guess its maker.
It’s fair to say, when assessing its Pininfarina stable mates, things could of been better for the Type 4 in the looks department.
But we don’t want this article to the knock the 411 / 412. The car has its own place in VW history, and after a life in the shadows of the Beetle it was always going to be tricky to “succeed” on many levels. Whilst its production was short lived, even having to compete against the K70 (1970-74) on the forecourt, it helped VW recognise the need for a family car, and paved the way for the Passat, which is now over 40 years old, and still available at the dealerships today.
So, if you want a piece of Pininfaria design sat on your driveway, with out the price tag of a ‘Prancing Horse’, you’re in luck! The VW Type 4 is never going to win a beauty contest, but it has real design pedigree, and you could pick one up for peanuts in comparison to a 250GTO!
The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of VW Heritage