Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Stunning 650HP Viper-Powered Karmann Ghia Custom: Your Ride
We love classic cars. But what we love even more is when custom shops take these classics, and preserve them as a unique interpretation of themselves, without taking away too much from the original, of course. Readers Dean and Keith co-own Deanz Rodz and Race Carz in Graymont, Illinois. And what they do — like any other custom shop — is create custom rides all their own.
There is one car, though, that stands out above the rest of their work. That car is a custom Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, with the heart of a Dodge Viper underneath and a six-speed manual gearbox. It is exactly as badass as it sounds. And along with being completely awesome, it’s an award-winning show car from coast to coast.
Here’s everything you need to know about it:
BoldRide: How did you acquire your ride?
Dean: Oh God, where to start? So the Ghia is owned by Keith — Keith and I (Dean) co-own Deanz Rodz and Race Carz in Graymont, Illinois. Keith lives in Manhattan, New York, and is a stock trader and the world’s biggest gear head .
I had started building the Ghia for another customer and when I was about 60% done, he decided to give up and sold it to a guy in Kentucky. Keith was afraid someone else would take the car and take credit for it. So Keith tracked it down and bought it back, then we decided we needed to go nuts on it. It was such a great idea, but I think we had more ideas then we did money.
Keith likens the car to AC Cobras and Sunbeam Tigers and such; European sportscars, big American muscle. So the Ghia’s shape is a thing of beauty, its power plant however isn’t. The original customer was the one who opted for the Viper engine, but it fit so well into the over power mentality.
The whole project was about three years— maybe three and a half, but there was a year or so where the Ghia was just sitting around in another shop doing nothing, so that brought the whole thing up to the four years and change mark.
Does it have a name?
It’s named ” Blue Mamba” after the snake, which is also a Viper, and in a parallel to the Dodge Viper’s limited edition Black Mamba.
What does it feel like when you drive it?
Driving it, it’s a rush, it’s so small and over powered. But it’s twitchy and aggressive, too. It’s just wanting to run. Problem is since it’s already committed to so many shows, we have to make sure we keep it pristine. It’s off to Germany in November for two weeks, so there might be some Autobahn time if the stars align. In theory it should shut down at 202 mph when the rev limiter/gear ratio/tire size max out, but the body’s aerodynamics wouldn’t let than happen. It has more then enough power to do it though— about 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft torque. As for it hooking up, it has a billet aluminum independent rear end and it just bites in and rips. It is seriously fun.
What would you change about your ride, if anything?
There’s really not much that needs to be changed. The visibility is maybe the worst thing, you’re pretty much sitting where the back seat used to be. The firewall had to be moved back 21 inches to fit the engine, but that is more of an issue in a parking lot or pulling into a building because you tend to lose the corners of the car. If you’re out on the road, then it’s really no different than anything else.
What have you done to make it a bolder ride?
What have we done to make it bolder? Is all of the above a good answer? We took a 36 horsepower, rear-engine VW engine, tossed that in the trash, and stuffed a 650 horsepower V10 Viper engine in it, a 6-speed T56, and a billet aluminum front and rear suspension. Not to mention a custom built frame with a hidden roll cage.
We stretched the cowl about 3/4 of an inch and rolled the nose out about four inches. We filled the drip rails, added Mini Cooper headlights, and Suzuki Hyabusa mirrors and taillights. We cut down Pontiac Fiero seats, all new floors, wheel tubs; in fact, the only original Ghia sheet metal is the exterior skin. There are about 10 bought components and the rest of the stuff is all hand made in our shop.
All in all the car was a big team effort. It was built by Deanz Rodz and Race Carz in Graymont Illinois (myself), painted by John Wargo, final body work, wiring, and final assembly at The Custom Shop in Flanagan, Illinois, and upholstery is by Glenn Denno of Denno’s /custom Interiors in Huntingsburg, Indiana.
The car has won so many awards from the 2013 Lokar Car of the Year, to Best in Show at events from Boston to Vegas; it’s even considered a 100 point car, which really makes it hard for us to do better on our next project. Now though, we’re working on a 1940 Lincoln Zephyr with a massive V12. Hopefully it does just as good as the Ghia…