DAK Docks. Hitler’s Revenge. V Dubs. Volkswagens. Well, I admit it – I’ve done the almost unthinkable and worked on some. Well, maybe more than that. Twenty? fifty? Hundreds? Probably. I’m trying to forget – it was a nightmare at the time. I never liked them.
First published in the November 2022 issue. Street Machine
But one I remember. It was a bit special, as it was a working Kerman Ghia coupe, owned by a great colleague of mine, a farmer named Trevor Chappell.
He bought one of these things before I met him. Based on the original 36bhp VW 1200 floorpan and with an all-steel body designed by the Italian company Carrozzeria Ghia, they were sleek-bodied and elegant. A German firm, Kerman, had the contract to build these 2+2 coupes, and the look was so appealing that they produced more than 364,000 of them.
Despite the streamlined body, they were heavier and slower than their sedan cousins, the original concept for them was taken from a 1925 design by Béla Barényi for Mercedes-Benz.
Anyway, Trevor raced this 1974 version before he decided it was too slow for racing at Queensland’s Lowood circuit. Then he saw an ad for a high-speed kit made by Okrasa of Germany. As far as folding goes, they will provide a stroker crankshaft, four 80.5mm pistons and barrels to suit, and two vertical alloy manifolds to fit standard Solex carburettors.
Trev thought it was a really cool thing, so he picked up the package and got top Brisbane tuner Jim Bertram to remove the VW engine and install these nice bits. I think Jim tweaked the camshaft a bit while the mill was in pieces, and eventually turned the walking car into a firecracker, capable of outrunning supercharged MGs and stove-hot Morris mines. .
Trio raced the German gem a bit before buying a real racing car, a Morgan Plus 4. It was reworked by Alan Kelly to accept the standard Vanguard 2.0-litre six in place of the original four-pot Triumph TR2 mill, which was underpowered. Powerful and heavy. The Karman was therefore used as a speed car at the time, as Treo lived on his Allora farm and often had to travel to Brisbane to party.
I got involved with the Darling Downs bloke through working on his Morgan, so he gave me a rebuilt Kerman to use as daily transport, as at this stage I got Gold. Worked on the coast. This bloody dock was really fast at 120 clicks, and one night I raced a 356 Porsche through the Surfers along a straight dual carriageway until the road ended at a set of traffic lights at Southport. Those lights were there because there was a fork in the road just after the sharp left turn. I knew about it, so I slowed down, but the 356 didn’t. Wrote his right front guard on curbing Armco, and while he was abusing me, the lights changed and I took off!
Eventually, Kerman returned to Trevor and resumed duty as his speeding rocket. The highway from Warwick to Brisbane rises above a large mountain range called Cunningham’s Gap. Down north, it was a really tough road of short cuts and sharp, tight turns, and Trev loved the challenge. He was throwing the little coupe down the mountain as fast as it would go, going downhill and accelerating and having a lot of fun – until the overworked, Air. A cold flat four dropped the head from the exhaust valve.
He brought it back to the field, and it sat there until I found a guy who wanted the engine – provided I took it apart first and put on a new valve.
I swore a lot when Trevor left the mill with me in Brisbane, but I removed all the air directing tins and the nasty head, managed to buy a nice second hand valve to fit, and rebuilt the engine. added But it was really, really tired and should have had at least four new barrels and pistons, worn out after all that road and track racing, but the budget was tight. It was going in a stock VW Beetle sedan, and I saw how it was running on its twin carburetors when the guy brought it in for inspection, but it wasn’t right, obviously on compression and blowing black smoke.
So I hope it was eventually rebuilt to like-new condition by a postal specialist for lots of road-going enjoyment. After all, that Kerman Ghia Coupe was a true Porsche shutdown machine!