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1965 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia (Razor Edge)

I bought this car back in 1991, as only the second car I ever owned. It’s not something I have to point out to my wife very often but occasionally I have to remind her where the priority lies as I’ve had it longer than I’ve been married. I happened upon it quite by chance when an old bloke sauntered up to a friend of mine at a show, who also owned a Razor Edge and said he owned one just like that, in exactly the same colour. By my reckoning there are only thirteen Type 34’s in New Zealand, so the chances of some bloke having a Razor Edge in his garage and in the same colour combination are as likely as finding rocking horse poo. It’s usually a dilapidated Rover or something equally decrepit that some old boy has and he’s too far gone to know the difference! Except this time he was right. And it had just 60,000 dry miles on it, no rust, everything was original and it came with a huge history file, so buying it was a no brainer.

The wedding photos are from 1966 when it was used as the bridal car for the owners’ daughter.

The car is quite special in that it was built as a factory 1600cc in February 1965, a full eight months prior to VW putting the 1600cc into production in the Type 3 range. It featured dual carbs and wide-five drums, as well as a host of period performance parts installed by the owner in 1965. These included the array of gauges, a FRAM oil filter, and a servo for the brakes. It’s still all original except for the mechanicals…

Razor interior

I used the car regularly, sometimes as my daily driver and always with the same passion and purpose as the original owner. Two national rallies proved the cars worth as a Grand Tourer, albeit one that needed more power. One the second rally the car dropped an exhaust valve, shattering a piston, munching a cylinder head and bending a conrod. Fortunately we located a factory-trained mechanic in the depths of the South Island of New Zealand, who hurriedly repaired the motor. Wim Henk is dead now but I’m eternally grateful to him for repairing it (he made me promise I wouldn’t refer to it as ‘rebuilt’ as we only had a Sunday morning to replace the shattered parts before we got back into the rally).

When I shipped the car to England in 1999 the engine and gearbox were tired and the brakes needed rebuilding. I decided to embark on a mechanical refurbishment and to continue the hot-rodding of the car as the original owner had intended, only in a more comprehensive way. When Ian Clark had finished the car had been transformed into a proper GT – I think it’s the car VW should’ve built in partnership with Porsche. The engine is 2110cc, with EMPI 88mm Slipper Skirt pistons and Mahle barrels, a SCAT 80mm Superlite crank, Jeff Denham ported heads, Joe Hunt magneto, 46IDA Weber carbs (yes the ultra rare 46’s…), and CSP Python exhaust and heat exchangers. The gearbox is still swing-axle but has been converted to a Gene Berg 5-speed and features Sway-A-Way race axles and torsion bars, as well as an original EMPI camber compensator. Adjustable Koni’s and CSP 911-specification disc brakes all round finish off the upgrades.

Razor engine rebuild 2

We decided to do shakedown testing at Goodwood. A damp and cold track with little run off and a tyre wall just a short trip over the grass was not an ideal place to find out how the car handled, but we figured it was as good a place as any to find out how it performed. Two memories highlight how good a day we had: pulling out the way to allow a Renault Clio Cup car to overtake after the chicane, only to find it a spec in the rear view mirror at the end of the main straight, and going round the outside of a 1972 911 2.4s at Lavant who was trying pretty hard (his inside front wheel was off the ground waggling as they do when pushed) with the engine pulling hard in third gear before seeing the needle wind itself all the way around the 100mph speedo before it bounced against the stop. We also had a bit of fun dressing up in period kit for a magazine feature…

Razor at Goodwood

Since then the car has been spanked down the drag strip at Chimay… and been driven in all weathers across England and Europe, with it’s last major outing being a road trip last year down to Italy, covering 3,500 miles in nine days.

Razor outside Ferrari

Razor at Reims

It’s never let me down, dropped a spot of oil or had anything break. Testimony to Ian’s build and German engineering.