Introduced in 1955, the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia (designed in Germany by coach builder Karmann) looked like a squashed Beetle. The Ghia’s smooth lines and curves were constructed from hand-shaped alloys (English pewter) and fancy welds to give it a distinct look and subsequently a heftier price tag. It was Volkswagen’s flagship model at the time and made the bolt-on Beetle look even more utilitarian. The Bug did get the Karmann design treatment though with the Convertible/ Cabriolet line.
There is a wonderful French film by Jacques Tati called Trafic (Criterion DVD out-of-print!) that is filled with colorful cars and characters. It’s the story about a car designer (Tati resuming his M. Hulot role) trying to get his latest vehicle to an Amsterdam car show. If you’ve seen any of Tati’s films starring his alter-ego Monsieur Hulot, you’ll know that they have numerous sight gags, precision comic-timing and very little dialogue. I highly recommend all of them especially this one and Playtime. Here’s the trailer for Trafic.
Jacques Tati stated in an interview on French television that his films sometimes tell a story through hundreds of details: “I try to bring a smile to familiar everyday situations. In Trafic, it’s automobiles.” I hear you Monsieur.
For my car series I don’t like streets with even the slightest bit of a grade to them but I made an exception here. I couldn’t pass up this late 60′s VW Beetle against that yellow background. Note the optional mudflaps and fender splash guards for protecting the finish from the harsh winter rain and snow. I noticed that the Finns like to paint their buildings in warm tones to remind them of the sun. It’s a nice touch that you immediately notice walking around the city. I visited Helsinki during their warmer months and loved it but I can’t imagine what its like during the winter with extreme temperature drops and a handful of daylight hours. No wonder bears hibernate. For a look at what Helsinki looks like during the winter (of 1966-67) check out the Michael Caine film Billion Dollar Brain. Helsinki is also used as the location for many films set during the Cold War-era and doubled for Moscow in Gorky Park.
Finnish Lesson #1: The street signs in Helsinki (and most other signage) can get quite confusing because they display the names in both Finnish and Swedish. One street was marked Johanneksenrinne/Johanneksentie/Johannesvägen. Quite amusing. I’m sure Johann (John) is happy though.
The first car I ever owned was a gold Volkswagen Beetle or “Bug” as it was more commonly known. I had a few minor wrecks but I could easily replace a dented fender or two myself since everything bolted on to the frame.
This image contains everything I like: interesting car, good colors and an uncluttered background.