ALT Series: The Karmann Ghia
Found In Tokyo, Reimagined In The Digital Realm

We car guys excel at the hypothetical. It runs through our veins, daily, by the hour.

Read a story on a cool project car that sparks your interest and you start looking at your local classifieds or running through cheap potential base cars on Craigslist. When a new car comes out, you start going through tuner websites looking at all the possible options to get more power, or tighten up the way the car looks and sits. It’s something I’ve touched on many times before.

But we are here to dream, and what’s the harm in it? It keeps us sane and keeps the passion flowing, and even more so when you’ve got someone as talented as Ash Thorp on hand to turn a daydream into digital reality.


A few weeks back I mentioned that we teamed up with Ash on a series of posts where you, the reader, could let us know what cars you’d love to see taken to the extreme of tuning. Ash kicked things off with the Volvo 240, a car we’ve often seen fettled with in Scandinavia, but one that’s never really given the high-end tuner or even motorsport approach. We were shown what is possible, and with that in mind I had to take first dibs on giving Ash a base car to work on following another abandoned car discovery I made in Tokyo.

Not too far from the Ferrari 456 I was tipped off about, I stumbled across this Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. While it’s not actually abandoned, it looks like it hasn’t been touched in decades.


There’s no doubting the lines penned by Ghia are some of the most iconic out there, but what if?


What if we could take this original and untouched relic and completely transform it? It turns out this find was a bit of a coincidence as Ash has quite an interest in the Karmann Ghia, mostly for the fact that it’s never really been expanded on properly. He’s actually been working on a crazy model in the digital realm for months, and let’s just say it all came together rather well.


On top of kicking off this collaborative series with Ash, we’d also like to give you an insight into the complexity involved in building a model like this. On and off, this digital Ghia has taken the better part of three months to create, and the last month or so Ash has worked on finishing off the smaller details so that it can be presented in a variety of ways, angles and environments.

Let The Process Begin

The environment is where Ash started, using his 3D camera to collect a series of images that would dictate the direction of light, the color balance, and in turn the way this all plays on the reflections and lighting of the car.


Next up, a high-resolution shot was taken with his Canon 5D Mark II and 70-200mm lens, pinpointing and locking focus on the spot the car would be positioned at. This is what’s referred to as a backplate.


The goal is to then bring everything together into a render, striving for as much realism as is possible using a variety of different programs.

It’s quite an extensive process and this will hopefully give you a little understanding about how it all comes together with the final goal emphasising just how powerful an idea can be. With the tools designers have at their fingertips these days, virtually anything can be created. The most important test of all would be to see if there is anyone out there crazy enough to take an idea like this and actually turn it into reality.


Here we can get under the skin and check out some views you’d otherwise not normally get to see. They are there to support what goes on top; the detail is again to do with how far the designer wants to take it.


The layers of detail are pieced together; it’s like the reverse of peeling an orange, adding to it, constructing its inner structure in a way that it looks as convincing and applicable as possible once it’s all completed.

Ash say he goes through a total of seven programs to get one of these digital renders to its finished state, and then he starts playing around with different details, wheels, colors and angles.


The result is, well, I’ll let you take it all in first…

Bringing The Render To Life

Ash didn’t want to make it look like some aftermarket overfender kit was just slapped on top of the stunning lines of the Ghia. Rather, he tried to bridge the gap, finding the lines and curves of the car and accentuating them in an harmonious way.

The open section at the rear where half the engine seems to hang out unprotected is by far my favorite angle.


The flares extend outwards and form a louvered under-section both at the front and the rear, further enhanced by the aggressive stance and fitment.


Is it a tuner car? A race car? A concoction of both? It can be anything you want it to be; that’s the beauty of the CG realm.


And in yellow with green-webbed BBS turbo fans?


Utter perfection!

Wondering what’s happening with the wild flat-four at the rear and those in-your-face titanium exhaust exits? Ash has kindly taken the body off the above renders so that you can try to figure out what’s going on. Judging by the width of the tires and the complexity of the underbody and extractors, this thing is running serious power.


Maybe those exhaust pipes are coming straight out of a massive turbocharger and external wastegate on each side of the engine…


I find it refreshing how the front end is contrasted with a relatively simple treatment. The RWB-esque front lip wraps right across the widened fenders and brings it all together.


But ultimately it’s the details that really stand out as you continue to examine the model in detail.


Check out the extended steering column, the data logger dash unit, the hydraulic handbrake and the lever for the sequential transmission. Wait, is this a drift car? Or could it be Ken Block’s next Gymkhana build?


What really got me was the texturing you can play with, from the semi-gloss Speedhunters sticker right down to the coarse, beaten up and possibly hand-repainted or touched up surface of the black car itself.


See what I mean? That pitted surface is really easy to spot on the front overfenders. It’s so realistic it almost looks too real.


And talking of texture, check out the surface of the rear tires; you can almost imagine what they’d feel like if you ran your fingers across the well-used surface.


It’s mind blowing what you can create just with an idea: me finding yet another abandoned car in Japan and Ash doing his thing on the other side of the world and coming up with an exquisite interpretation that is just begging to be built in the real world.


The question is, will there be someone out there that would take up the challenge? And more importantly, what car will Ash chose to reimagine next? Make sure you let us know what you’d like to see transformed; there were an awesome number of suggestions on the Volvo post last month, so let’s keep them coming.

The more unique, the better!

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino

Renders: Ash Throp
Instagram: ashthorp

Cutting Room Floor


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So epic! I thought that was a real car. Awesome.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Tell me about it!!


There's plenty of these "wide bodied" Ghias ,that are in working order, pluse I have one in the back yard.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Pictures please :)


Those BBS rims on the front are so SEXY!!!


My guy, so proud!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Your turn next :D


Pure art.

I really like your style and colours scheme

Daniel P Huneault

so realistic, so beautifully well done. Bravo!


Amazing, this needs to exist. Too bad I could never afford sucha a build.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yes it does, someone please it make it happed :)


I'm loving the coverage of renderings. Thanks for showing us some of the process. Reminds me of messing with AutoDesk software in highschool.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

It's so fascinating I just can't get enough of it

Might be a car designer

Ok, let me start off with the GOOD.
-It's an extremely creative project and post with a unique platform.
-The effort put into making it photorealistic is above and beyond virtually (pun intended) anything most renederers do...or are capable of.

Now, the critique.
-Visual communication is an art. The Ghia with its cutesy, diminutive proportions is already pushing the boundaries of in regards to being its own special way. The very fact that the car manages to look flowing and elegant in spite of its small size is a gigantic feat. Trying to then mutate it into something super aggro doesn't...and didn't work, sorry. It's spreading the capability of the forms a little too thin.

-While the venting for the flares is tastefully done...the fact remains that it would've been more successful and flattering on another car. Not every car is suited for the Japanese tuning aesthetic. It's becoming a lot like retrofuturism was in the early 2000's. Just because there's a formula doesn't make it fitting for cars like the Ghia. These visual and cultural clashes aren't providing the intended shock and awe, but rather come off as unskilled.

A good example of the Mighty Mouse juxtaposition is this Austin Healy. Less aggressive, but effortlessly gets the point across.


I'm usually the biggest anti-JDM guy you'll find around, but I still liked this one, mainly because it looks like it has the potential to be a serious machine, and also because overfenders look a lot less horrible when the fasteners are hidden. I just have one thing to say, if anyone out there decides to make this a reality, don't make a stance build or show car out of it! Make it run as good as it looks! Same with the Volvo from last time!

Airik Keringes

naysayer douches gonna naysay


And people like you must represent the generation that's turning mankind into sheep. Because in your world, everybody that disagrees with the popular opinion is a douche, a hater etc. It seems like you people get even more irritated when someone presents CONSTRUCTIVE criticism.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks for providing constructive criticism, helps think of it all from another perspective


So cool, and awesome to see a bit of the work that goes into these renders.


The yellow is the best.
Companies owners (and designers) should take notes. I believe it's not the designers fault but the bosses are holding them.

Any "rumors" if 1 of these designs will make it to NFS? And that SH sticker seems awesome why not collaborate with Ash (or give him the permission) to make customized designs to include owner's name, car's model,....


Innovation at its finest


nearly speechless. Great work. For future ideas, i would still wonder how an Bentley Blower , or a Peugeot 405 (or a406 coupe) look being done


The 406 Coupé would be really interesting, the design of this car is so good to begin with that usually in real life it ends up being a disaster. I'd love to see what they could come up with !


How about a Lotus Europa.


If you still look for ideas, what about a Peugeot 406 coupé ? I own one, a 2000 model, V6 version, and the car is simply gorgeous. Designed by Pininfarina, its lines make it really hard to play with, I'd love to see what Ash can come up with ! Awesome work and a nice read as always, keep it up !


10/10 would bellive if you said its a real picture


Level of details is really nice, but car body looks bumpy.


I think it's intentional to add to the realism.


Will be nice to see topology on trunk, especially near grill.


If I may critique it would be the rear lights. They look added onto the picture.


Amazing work! I just bought a donor Dajiban recently from a guy who turned out to be as serious a petrolhead as I. Pulling up to see a Miata in the driveway, screening potential buyers for the van to continue it's legacy, and having a lengthy conversation over beer in the garage with his Karmann Ghia. That car is something else, and I'll be sure to show these renders to him when I head back to drop some things off for him.

I won't be able to help myself, so I'm putting in the '89 Isuzu I-Mark (Gemini) RS up for nomination. Not because I own one or anything.


i have a ghia, they're awesome


Loving these features please keep them coming! il like to see bug and blob eye wrxs and possibly a R34 GTR, supra ae86 would also be cool to see


What a brand 3D camera&


from the front pic and many of the other renders, I thought this was really a real car! i need to find a karmann ghia and make this a reality

Dave Stansfield

I want one in real life......But I have a tamiya model kit of this beauty,with a little plastic card and lots of putty I might have a go at replicating some of these sexy curves.


I concur that the vented flares detract from overall style. The vents look out of place on the low wide hips of the Ghia, where they wouldn't look out of place on a Squareback (for instance). None-the-less, the ultra wide body look, is amazing on the Ghia. The front and rear air-dams and wing are excellent, and the fender-exit exhaust is an inspired detail that I dig.

Overall, amazing execution in the CG. I suggest a rendered version in a purple-blue pearl without vented fender flares and a rear exit Baja-style trumpet exhaust.


Do something daft with the car that plagues me at least once a week by doing 35 in a 60 - the Hyundai I10, usually in graphite grey. Twerkstallion looks with a weiand blown small block and a shed load of tire in the back maybe? Seriously, take this little car driven by awful drivers and go nuts with it using a good dollop of sense of humour.


Something tells me this come from the Hot Wheels Karmann Ghia...


Why are the front tires bigger/wider than the rears?


One suggestion - le A110 that you found that iirc was your first abandoned car post. Is that thing still there?

Jeremiah Butler

the "widebody" aspect is cool and all, however it doesn't really fit the car, and i agree with the people who said the same, HOWEVER it does remind me of the Audi 90 Imsa GTO. if there was a way to style it like that, while keeping the bbs fans and color choices, it would be cool :D