Importing a Karmann Ghia, a club guide

Disclaimer: Information published here is to be used as a suggested guide when importing a Karmann Ghia, the club cannot be held accountable for the accuracy of any links or external adverts on these sites.

First find a suitable Car?

With the advent of modern communication and technology, searching for a car has never been so easy. Most cars these days are imported from the States. Bear in mind all USA market Karmann Ghia’s were left hand drive only.  When looking at a car from America it’s better to focus your search in the dry states, such as California, Arizona or Texas. There may be evidence of rust, but this is often surface rust. Cars from the East Coast, so from New York down through to Florida have a lot more moisture in the atmosphere and so the corrosion is more akin to the corrosion we experience here in the UK.

Good sites to check are, but remember if it’s too good to be true it usually is!

When using the CraigList Site, you have to specify a US state for each search submission.
In recent years there has been a slight surge in cars coming over from South Africa which are Right Hand Drive (even Australia, New Zealand and even Thailand!). The cars from here are generally dry, but bear in mind the kind of life a car may have had in South Africa they may have been through, which may be a little tougher than one from the States.

In both cases, you can buy a car at a reasonable price, but often you are buying a car unseen unless you decide to jump on a plane and view it in person. This can present a few challenges that need to be overcome before you feel confident enough to deposit thousands of dollars in a strangers account.

Buying from a dealer is an easier option than buying from a private seller as at least you can check their website, but the most important thing you need to do is build up a rapport, so either Skype, WhatsApp or telephone. If you decide to telephone set up an account with a telephone discounter such as Telediscount who charge 1p per minute (at time of publication) to call a mobile or landline in the states whilst using you free minutes on your UK mobile provider.

Here’s a link to their website but there are several other discounters out there.

When speaking to the seller, prepare the questions you want to ask in advance. Ask about the condition of the floor pans, the heater channels, the heat exchangers, does the heating work? Ask if there are any noticeable areas of damage or rust? Is there a lot of bondo (filler) in the car? Whats the bright work (Chrome trim) like? Is there any pitting or rust? Ask about the steering, if there is over or under steer, what condition the ball joints are in? Ask for the engine number and Chassis number. Check to see if the plate under the bonnet riveted on the inner wing is still there.

Get as many photos as possible, and make sure you ask for one of the chassis number (found under the rear seat where the central column widens) and the engine number (under the dynamo/ alternator stand for a type 14 and on the engine case beneath the air filter on a type 34)

Also get a copy of the title document (pink slip) and make sure the chassis number corresponds to the one on the car.

Having satisfied yourself that the car is the one for you and a price has been agreed you will need to pay. This will most certainly entail buying in a different currency, so keeping an eye on the exchange rate is highly recommended. If you use a money transfer service you will get a much better exchange rate than using a bank, credit card or paypal, and once you have agreed a rate it will be locked in regardless of fluctuations on the currency markets.

Shipping and Importing

Once you have paid for your car you will need to get the car to the nearest shipping port then onward to the UK. This can either be done by a shared container or roll on roll off and be organised by either a specialist shipper or you can organise each element yourself.

The preferred method of shipping a classic car would be by using a shared container. Here your vehicle will be secured in a container with 3 other vehicles.
Specialist shippers will perform the following tasks on your behalf

  • US collection from seller / dealership
  • Export documentation, Customs clearance formalities
  • Container packing and ocean freight
  • UK port handling, warehouse unloading
  • Import Customs clearance and documentation
  • HMRC tax and import advice
  • UK delivery if required

We recommend Kingstown Shipping as a number of club members have used them with no hitches

If you want to organise each element yourself then you will need to provide you shipper with the correct documentation, so that the car can lawfully leave the country.

You will need to apply for a V765 form to register a vehicle under its original registration number when:

Once the application is filled in you will need to send it off to the club for our recommendation.

You will also need to enclose evidence that links your vehicle to the original registration number.

  • Acceptable forms of evidence include: l the original old style log book (RF60/VE60) l
  • archive or library records showing the registration number and the chassis number authorised by the archivist, clearly defining where the material was taken from, and
  • other pre 1983 documentary evidence linking the chassis and the registration number to the vehicle.

To help assist in the registration process it is always recommended that you apply for the cars Birth Certificate and Data Sheet from the Stiftung AutoMuseum Volkswagen

You can apply for Birth Certificate and data sheet here: 

If the vehicle has not been registered at DVLA, send the evidence that links your vehicle to the original registration number you are claiming, a recent photo of the vehicle and a filled in ‘Application for first vehicle tax and registration  of a used motor vehicle’ (V55/5) (proof of identification is  not needed).

The V55/5 form itself is the universal new vehicle data collection form for every vehicle registered in the UK. This covers over 2.5m new and old cars a year. This will mean that many of the sections are not applicable and need to be left blank.

You should complete the following sections of the V55/5 only and leave the other boxes blank – (The high lighted answers are general to all Karmann Ghia’s)

Contact Details:

0844 8041066