Classic Meets Modern – Beautifully Blended 1968 Karmann Ghia Selected Civitan Car Club “Member’s Choice – Car of the Week”

By Travis Mitchell

1969 Karmann Ghia Driver's Rear Corner ViewWhen one of kids at the August 9th, 2014, Cars and Coffee Las Vegas car show stated he like the “green apple”, everyone within earshot of the Civitan Car Club tent knew exactly what he was talking about.  The car had in fact caught my eye when it rolled in to the show.  Through a sea of reds and blacks, blues and oranges, the “Electrolyte Green Pearl” paint really popped, also catching the eye of most the Cars and Coffee’s Las Vegas crowd.  As I wandered the show looking for something that really spoke to me for this week’s Member’s Choice Car of the Week, I kept seeing this immaculately restored classic out of the corner of my eye.  In all honesty, I was hoping there would be an old Studebaker at the show this week, one which I had seen previously, because it reminded me of my grandfather and I had a great story to tell about it.  However, the Studebaker was nowhere to be found and the “green apple” kept summoning me.

1968 Karmann Ghia InteriorFrom a distance, the car looked like a perfectly restored Karmann Ghia.  However, as I got closer, I could tell there was something very unique and special about this restoration.  The interior was clearly custom, and modern.  A Samsung Galaxy was encased in a custom dash mount protruding from below the dash.  Custom cup holders tastefully adorned the walls of both the driver side and passenger side footwells and the entire ivory interior was perfectly fitted to every curve of the cockpit.  A custom infinity sound system was hidden, all except the sub which nestled itself between the hand-stitched bucket seats.

I sought out the owner of the car.  He hadn’t strayed too far and was talking with a few of the show’s other auto enthusiasts just a few yards away.  A tall and distinguished-looking man, he cradled a cigarette in one hand and projected a certain aura of “surfer meets military pilot”, though the smile on his face made him very approachable.  He introduced himself as Nick Harrington and we shook hands.

Nick was happy to tell me all about his “Subie-Ghia”, a combination of past meets present where modern conveniences and technologies are infused into the classic body styling of the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.  Nick noted that the car had gone to three pro shops to have the work done and that his personal time invested was over 1000 hours, with a total build cost exceeding $65,000.

The interior was created by HRH interiors, and is 100% handcrafted.  By the way, according to Mr. Harrington, HRH stands for “His Royal Highness”, its owner having worked at Bentley in England producing customer interiors there.  The engine was tuned at Outfront Motorsports and the paint was flawlessly applied by Hector Silva.

I found it very interesting when Mr. Harrington indicated that this was his first classic rebuild.  He stated that he’d done several sand rails and was quite an enthusiast of those, but had never done a project like this.  As I researched this article I stumbled across one of the “sand rails” he spoke of.  You can read about it at SandSports.net.  Apparently, the exquisite taste for performance exists in everything my new acquaintance drives.

By the way, I’m not the only one intrigued by the “Subie-Ghia”.  According to Nick, it’s won top prize at three of the four shows it’s been presented at, along with a “People’s Choice” award.

Here are a few of the car’s special features:

  • 1968 Karmann Ghia Motor - 200 horsepower fuel injected Subaru EJ-25 single overhead camCustom made front chrome grills adapted from a Pontiac Solstice
  • Custom made aluminum radiator with electric fan
  • Custom built VW transaxle with 3.88 ring and pinion, super differential, and quality racing axles
  • Custom built 4 link rear suspension, no spring plates, QA-1 shocks and 500 pound coil-over springs
  • Custom made windshield since the original windshield had to be cut down 2 inches providing a speedster
  • All new 4 way disc brakes drilled with Ford bolt pattern, 5 lug on 4.5 inch centers
  • Matching Pro-line aluminum wheels with spinners. Rear wheels are 10 inch with 3.5 inch off set, front wheels 7 inch
  • Custom made powder-coated chrome water lines with stainless steel braded quick disconnect lines on all four corners
  • New gauges matching interior
  • Chrome Ididit GM tilt wheel with polished aluminum steering wheel
  • New Optima battery, fuel pump, fuel filters, relays
  • Custom interior to include Samsung Galaxy mini pad which provides navigation, heading and speed information along with music with WiFi
  • All new painless wiring throughout
  • Rear engine compartment is tubbed in order to accommodate 10 inch wheels
  • Custom built ceramic coated headers and magna flow exhaust
  • Custom built tubular structural reinforcement hidden under upholstery work
  • All new rubber
  • New front and rear lights
  • Custom interior for cab, front hood area and the engine compartment

Though it wasn’t overtly advertised at Cars and Coffee Las Vegas, the car is for sale.  Though there’s over $65000 invested, Nick says he’s willing to take less.  A bit of research online shows $53,000 is the current offer. Use this link to contact Nick about the car if you’re interested in considering it for purchase.

As a side note, along with the entire Civitan Car Club Las Vegas, I would also like to honor and thank Mr. Harrington for his service to our country.  I discovered, again during my research for this article, that he entered the U.S. Army in 1970 and attended the Warrant Officer Flight Course where he was the class leader and received an honor graduate in leadership. Research also indicates he flew AH-1G Cobra Attack Helicopters in Vietnam (1971-1972) and was awarded 17 Air Medals, two Air medals for Valor, the Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism, and two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry along with numerous additional awards.

Congratulations to Nick for a great first restoration.  He’s created a masterful blend of classic and contemporary, the end result being a spectacular show piece.  Look close enough at the car and you’ll see that the embroidery in the engine compartment says “Subie-Ghia”.  That simple details sums up the car’s attitude and the attention to detail in which it was restored. Bravo!