German Rotary Dreams: The 13B Karmann Ghia
Near Death Experiences

If you’re a VW purist you may want to stop reading now, because this is not your average build.

Way back in 2000 while in high school, Las Vegas local Richard Jones purchased what was then a mostly factory 1965 Volkswagen Type 34 Karmann Ghia as a daily driver for his girlfriend, Shannon.


While most VWs tend to let you know just before they’re about to give up with a host of warning lights, this car was built before that type of technology existed, and not too long into ownership, the original engine decided to quit. Richard decided this would be a perfect time to swap in a big 2443cc motor and take it street racing. This went on for a few years before that motor blew too, and at that time Shannon handed the car back to Richard. “That is when the fun began,” he says.


Richard would always pick up custom truck magazines like Mini Truckin’ and see everything on adjustable suspension, allowing them to lay completely flat on the ground. He set a goal to get his car as low as he could, but he had no experience with suspension design or metal work. Richard put some time into reading and gathering as much information on the subject as possible, and in eight short months he had the front suspension on a cantilever setup using air cans, while the rear was bagged. He would then use his newfound knowledge to create a factory-looking, right-hand drive dashboard.


Now that the VW’s stance was taken care of, Richard started to hunt down parts for the outside of the vehicle. Realizing that people didn’t give up these rare components easily or cheaply, he purchased two parts cars to get the finishing pieces required.


Richard and his family enjoyed the Ghia for a few years until one day another car pulled out in front of him. The resulting collision destroyed all of the front sheet metal and bent the pan. Richard was left heart broken; all of his hard work had just been undone in a split second. But he didn’t let the wreck get to him for long, and soon decided that a rebuild should happen. He persuaded the insurance company to not total it, as a salvage title would put a damper on the history of the car.


Richard went back and forth trying to decide what he should do, but he knew he wanted to push his capabilities to the limit. In the end, his goal was to mix his love for VWs and mini trucks to create a one-off custom. The Ghia was taken to the side yard of his house, braced, roof cut off, and flipped upside down in order for Richard to start fabricating an entirely new suspension setup. This is where all the years of research would come into play as he hand-built a full tube-frame chassis.


The front suspension now utilizes upper A-arms from a circle track car and hand-made lower arms, while the rear now runs hand-made trailing arms.


The air suspension was replaced with a 24-volt, single-pump, six-dump hydraulic setup with accumulators using Dice Suspension manifolds and cylinders all powered by two Odyssey batteries.

Twin Spinner

Given that the chassis and suspension had been completely customized, there was no way Richard was going to run a predictable motor. Instead, he opted for a naturally aspirated Mazda 13B twin-rotor engine out of an FC3S Mazda RX-7.


The bridgeported 13B sucks air and fuel through a 48mm Weber carburetor mounted to a RotaryShack manifold, while spark is provided by MSD coils and a 6AL module. Richard custom built a 2-inch steel header running into a 2.5-inch stainless muffler, and swapped the stock pulleys for a Gilmer Drive belt setup to keep things turning in the right direction. That trademark Gilmer sound doesn’t hurt either.


More than air would be needed to keep the motor nice and cool now, so Richard installed a 4-core custom-built radiator with two electric fans, and hand-made an aluminum expansion tank and overflow box. As for the driveline, that consists of a Volkswagen Type 2 091 gearbox with race-prepped Type 2 CVs, a lightened flywheel and a 2400lb clutch.


With all of this custom momentum, Richard couldn’t leave the brake system factory either. A Wilwood Pro Spindle brake kit along with Wilwood 4-piston calipers all around fed by CNC master cylinders were installed to make sure stopping power was up to task. Rounding it all out is a rack and pinion steering setup designed for a sand car.


Richard knew he wanted to run larger wheels, so while the car’s chassis was being built he tubbed the wells. The triple-laced Dayton wire wheels that were chosen for the build are not what you’d usually see on a VW, but they work so well. The fronts are 17×7-inch wrapped in Yokohama 195/40R17s, while the rears are 18×8-inch with 215/35R18s.


Even with all of these modifications, Richard wanted to keep the outside relatively factory but with a few personal touches. He’d come this far, so why not, right? The fresh air vents were deleted along with the door locks and wipers. The engine compartment also got some custom sheet metal work in order to fit the new power plant.

You’ve Got Red On You

Richard spent plenty of time and money inside the car too, and the new blood-red leather retrim contrasts perfectly with the VW’s off-white exterior.


The interior also runs Speedhut gauges, a Bug-Tech shifter, Tilton pedals and a hand-made roller throttle pedal.


As you can see, it’s been one long adventure getting the Ghia to where it is now. Richard has pushed through the aggravation of having his car almost totaled, which is a tough thing to do when you’ve watched your dreams literally crushed in front of your eyes.


Most people would have thrown in the towel at this point, but Richard has a very strong support group he surrounds himself with. First and foremost he would like to thank his now wife Shannon Jones. He says her love and faith in him, and her awesome sandwich making skills, kept him going throughout all the trials and tribulations. Thanks also go out to Juan at Snail Motorsports for the powder-coating, Corey for installing the Rebel wiring harness, Chris for rebuilding the engine, as well as Kevin, Marcus, Brien, Keith, AcroSean, Joe, Whiz, Lauren, Jake, Alex, Shane, and Tom Carsten (RIP) for their inspiration to think differently and to push the bar.


This car proves that with the right people and the pursuit of educating yourself, you can do anything. Mistakes and tragic events may happen along the way, but in the end, if you keep pushing yourself and surrounding yourself with a good crew, amazing things can happen.

Brian Goude
Instagram: grinder_tv

1965 Volkswagen Type 34 Karmann Ghia

Max Power: 200hp (estimated)

Mazda 13B 6-port twin-rotor, half-cut bridgeport, 48mm side-draught carb, RotaryShack intake manifold, MSD coils, MSD 6AL, MSD wires, Gilmer Drive belt & pulley setup, custom header to 2.5-inch stainless muffler, external oil cooler with fan, custom 4-core radiator with twin fans, hand-made aluminum expansion tank & overflow box

Volkswagen Type 2 091 gearbox, 2400lb clutch, lightened flywheel, race-prepped Type 2 CVs

24-volt 1 pump 6 dump hydraulic setup with accumulators, 2x Odyssey batteries, custom-built trailing arms, custom-made lower A-arms, Circle Track upper A-arms, Wilwood Pro Spindle brake kit with 4-piston calipers, CNC master cylinders, sand rail rack & pinion, all lines & fittings supplied by Nevada House of Hose

Triple-laced Dayton wire wheels 17×7-inch (front) custom-made 18×8-inch (rear), Yokohama S.Drive 195/40R17 (front), 215/35R18 (rear)

Custom-made tube chassis, modified engine bay, shaved air vents, wipers & door locks

Double diamond stitch interior inserts, hand-built metal right-hand drive dash & lower dash panel, custom tunnel cover, custom Speedhut gauges, Tilton pedals, hand-made roller throttle pedal, Bug-Tech shifter

More VW related stories on Speedhunters



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Quite possibly my number 1 favorite car featured on SH so far(definitely car of the week IMO). Any rotor powered VW is mad, but a type 34 razor Ghia is on another level of madness. Love the black and white theme, with the red bays and interior, the wheels are not what I'd pick, but they work well. I'd love a video of it driving, nothing beats a BP rotor, absolutely love this car!


I've never been a huge fan of the proportions of the Karmen Ghia, but this car is stunning! I love the colours, and I can't get enough of those Daytons!! Extremely well put together car.


I'm at a loss for adequate superlatives. Speedhunters has featured many excellent cars with cool stories over the years, but this one of the best.


Can someone explain to me how you get an estimated 200hp when a swap like this generally needs a standalone fuel system which most of the time needs to be mapped and dynoed.
I'm just curious about that part of the spec sheet.
Other than that, this is an awesome build and I like it.


It's got a carb.


Speedhunters Alex_Goris


first of all, yes, just yes, all of this is amazing. I dont think ive ever been so surprised in my life when i saw all of the positive comments about this car... Its a good thing, but most of the time people in the car world are like ewwww its slammed, and not how i like it... Im happy everyone is starting to move on and only saying positive things. I like this


DRiFTaddict Isn't it nice? My bet is that if the wheels were cambered  it'd be a slightly different story though.


@Tom It's a pretty safe assumption that any well built bridgeport 13B fed by a carby will have somewhere between 180-220hp with a few factors determining the final power. So 200 is a reasonable estimate.


i mean it's a super nice car, but i'd prefer if he went with fuel injection, especially on a 13b. but still super clean car.


I just came, thank you


That opening shot is crazy because it looks like a really good photoshop but it isn't. I guess this is one of those cars where you have to see it to believe it


Spotless. Somehow, the fact that it was resurrected after a car crash totally reminds me of Rusty Slammington. Props to the owner for all of his efforts to keep the car on the road and not to forget, BRAP BRAP BRAP!!!


This car needs to be seen in person to truly appreciate it. It was built almost entirely in his home garage with the help of good friends, and a lot off beer!


Jagdroach DRiFTaddict haha isnt that truth


Wow. Extreme AND tasteful. This is the first time most people hear rotary engine, VW, Dayton wire wheels when referring to the same car. The whole package comes together in such a way that defies logic.Congratulations to the owner/builder for bringing this amazing creation to fruition.


awesomefearwave Why?


Although it is although it is buy some VW enthusiast one of the last pic cars for restoration because it is so hard to find parts and when you do they are extremely expensive the pans are usually so far gone and rested it takes a lot of time and patience to restore to original like this one is done as far as the VW via type 34
Ghia body lines are hard enough let alone custom front and rear suspension custom dash which is usually just the flat piece of aluminum holes cut in it for the gauges this car would probably surprised a lot of people at how fast it could move it's built it should spin/Rev up withch and most of those know rotary motors rev smoothly with very predictable power and you could be easily dressed was very predictable power and you could be easily drift a car like this should do want to get it sideways?? I need the video of the car driving would be great


Thank you for all the positive comments. Great to see people really love this build as off the wall as it is. This car will be featured on our latest dvd/blu ray available on our website You can check out our youtube channel to see the trailer. Just search Grindertv and the channel will come up. Thanks again everyone.


Spaghetti Thank you for the kind words. A full video feature will be on our next dvd/blu ray. You can see the trailer by going to our youtube channel. Just search Grindertv volume two. Thanks again.


looks like the crash was the best thing that could've happened to it, what the hell was going on down the middle of the bonnet? looks sooooo much better now!


car of the year?


Very cool car, very cool story, and that Shaun of the dead reference lol


I love it.    if it was my ride,  i would change the wheels and fit coilover to do fixed height...  i alway liked Karmann ghia


And again: why is there not even one picture showing the car with a normal useable ride height. I understand the pictures of the car flat on the ground, because it's made for it and a lot of people like it. 
But i don't like that look, however i appreciate the build and the lines of the car and even like the wheels very much. And i think i'd appreciate it even more if i could see what it looked like 90% of the time on the street, not just those 10% on the ground.


flyingjolly Just think of it about an inch higher...that is ride height.


Beautiful build!!! Rotary Shack represent!


flyingjolly last pic is a rolling shot. Dude lives life on the edge.


FuelEconomyKilledTheCarsWeLove! Yeah, I noticed that too. The green paint and the row of black spines down the middle made it look like a dinosaur.


flyingjolly He obviously lives in an area where its likely that most roads are flat and smooth. Again, as it was already mentioned, the last pic is a rolling shot. Obviously thats the height at which he chooses to ride.


So much style here. First its a Ghia 34 so the lines are there. then the suspension, then the engine, omg the gangster ass wheels,geeez! Hope to hunt this in town.
Nice job on the pics too.


CharlesChris15 i still think there'd be a difference between a "rolling shot for a magazine"-rideheight and normal rideheight.
But okay, just not my world - shame, it's really a well done car, i like it apart from the ride height.


You should try out this radical idea called, "punctuation". Look it up and give it a whirl sometime...


The thing is, there is no difference in the "rolling shot for a magazine" ride height and normal ride height. That is how the car was built to be driven.


Clearly a VW wasn't unreliable enough so you had to put in a rotor!!!

I'm just kidding around  - I love this thing. It's been built to the owners tastes (shockingly some people think it should be built to please someone other than the owner?) and I think that can only be a good thing. This is a truely unique and cool car - thanks for sharing


flyingjolly  VW's roll static at that height quite easily. They're completely flat underneath. That rolling shot is probably it's ride height 98% of the time.


Sometimes it's good to make others feel uncomfortable instead of seeing the usual 

Mk2 with a B18c Turbo I can dig and i'm a vw guy myself =)




Pure automotive pleasure inside and out. Thank you for featuring this!


the car was very good 
really really like to see the car that shiny new car fits like made ​​for walking trailsthe car was very good" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> and very fast" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> mix of colors" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> from which to" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> make want pobud see hatnya" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> kecepatanya" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> was very nice ," rel="dofollow" target="_blank">  suitable for a "" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> sharp bend or not sharp I guess motorists like this is" very skilled in the speed I hope I can membilinya someday will whether there are new cars are better I" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> 'll wait for it , with a stylish car classic" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> style I" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> also like" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> to see would be whether there is a" rel="dofollow" target="_blank"> car that is as fast and forius like in the " movie , the car very good car designed a way apparently hopefully there will be new cars more good and the price is quite pantastis then chances are I can membilinya the same as you have at this time


@Jay Are you retarded, (no offense) what would be the point of all that wonderful restoration of the underpan if you were to scrape everything you can, and can't see