Shocking Germtalian: 1963 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Type 34 Electric Conversion

Volkswagen’s Type 34 Karmann Ghia coupe was the lesser-known cousin of the Type 14 (otherwise known as the Karmann Ghia that everyone knows and loves…and just what the heck is this angry looking thing?). Based on the Type 3 platform, the Type 34 was a slightly more evolved version of the idea of an aircooled Volkswagen that looked like a sports car, even if it still drove like a Beetle. But what if you could drive one without the requisite VW emissions guilt? Who will fill the market niche with an all-electric Type 34 Ghia?!? Fear not – we found it! Check out this 1963 Volkswagen Type 34 electric conversion for sale in Durham, NC for $7,000 via classifieds.

Far from Elon Musk’s worst nightmare, the converted aircooled Volkswagen has been around for years as a cheap electric car. My father is a physicist at a US Navy R&D facility and has a co-worker who has been commuting in a Beetle with a forklift motor and hundreds of pounds of lead-acid batteries since the ’70s or ’80s…so this is not a new idea. What IS unique is the fact that whoever manifested this…this, thing…thought to use the beautiful, rare, and never sold in the US Type 34 Karmann Ghia chassis as a donor.

Precious little details are given about the petrolectomy uh, voltification of this Italo-German rarity. At only about 10% of the “regular” Karman Ghia production, something around 40,000 of these cars were made in the 1960s. Ostensibly, a company/dude called MendoMotive in rural Mendocino County, CA removed the pancake aircooled engine from this Ghia and installed some manner of electric motor…and hundreds of pounds of the finest lead-acid paperweights. Through some google-fu and a page on I discovered that this was likely a 50hp, 100-mile range setup with an “Italian ZAPI controller” capable of 115hp regenerative braking. Pretty advanced for mid-’90s homebuilt stuff. And I can tell you that Mendocino County produces excellent beer and other natural plant-based substances.

How did this thing end up moving from Northern California across the country to North Carolina? Dunno, but with some digging through the NC seller’s linked iCloud photo album, we find interior photos showing sporty bucket seats that are decidedly not stock, and some blurry/grainy photos of electrical bits and controllers. The batteries were seemingly squirreled away in every available orifice, including the frunk, the area formerly known as the back seat, the empty spaces on either side of the former engine bay, and somewhere else I’ve missed, surely. What I can say for certain is that this thing must carry tremendous weight vs. the original lightweight, aircooled, gasoline powered configuration.

If this thing isn’t a total rustbucket (which it doesn’t appear to be), $7k or best offer seems like a fair starting point for a good looking and rare classic that was never sold in the US. Part of me wonders how good this could really be if the ancient batteries were replaced with modern LiPo packs, and perhaps that forklifty motor could be substituted for something more…brushless and powerful. As the owner of a Traxxas Slash VXL electric RC stadium truck, I can say that doing bumper wheelies with a rear-motor electric vehicle is entertaining in scale form but would be FAR more life-changing in 1:1. How about hydroplaning in a ’60s Volkswagen? Power density coupled with instant torque is an amazing combination.

Oh yeah, this thing doesn’t currently run, so bring a…battery charger…electrical engineering degree.

Photo from, accompanying builder Stephen Heckeroth’s words
This looks like a scene from one of the Back to the Future movies, or maybe Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein

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