SP Rides: The Secret Sauce


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By Michael Kitchens

Name: Irene Ramiro
Occupation: Account executive
Hobbies: Volkswagens, beach and volleyball
Year/Make/Model: 1964 VW Convertible Karmann Ghia
Color: Secret Sauce
Engine/Displacement: 2010cc, Builder – Dean Funakushi with Crank/78 mm C.B., Rods/Heavy Duty VW  Journal 5.5 inch, Piston and Cylinders/ 90.5 mm AA forged, Rings/AA, Cam/Engle VZ-35, Valve size and make/40mm X 35.5mm stainless steel, Rocker Arms/Heavy Duty Shaft 1.1:1, Heads/Street Eliminator, Compression Ratio/8:1, Ignition/MSD 6AL, Carburetion/Dual 48 Webers, Intake Manifold/Scat
Wheels and Tires: Front Metric Radial 135 X 15 with 3 1/2-inch offset Centerlines, Rear Metric Radial 195 X 15 with 6-inch Centerline
Shout-outs: To my dad, “Johnny Come Lately Ligsay”; and a big mahalo to Henry Ramiro for the paint job; Richard Yasuda, Bobo Salcedo, Dino Scheidt and Kalai Montero for the work on the car’s body; and Zig Zag & Undertaker Designs – Kamaile Almeida for the impressive lettering.

To say Irene Ramiro likes cars would be an understatement. More accurately, she loves them because they are in her blood, in her DNA. When she was younger, her father was a so-called wheeler-dealer who flipped cars for a living to support his family. And whenever Dad purchased a ride, everyone followed suit. That was how this ohana rolled, quite literally, and it allowed Irene to own quite a variety of cars over the years.

In particular, the Volkswagen has been “das auto” of choice for Irene and the rest of the Ramiro clan. This 1964 Karmann Ghia, in fact, was purchased by her father and passed between family members, before eventually making its way into Irene’s hands. Not one to rest on her laurels, she immediately set out to make this a showstopper of a ride while keeping it in the ohana. In many ways, this car is a symbol of the very ideal of family.

You see Irene and her beau, Henry Ramiro, are getting married today, July 4. By the time you read this, the couple should be well on their way to completing their nuptials. Automobiles have a way of bringing people together and this particular ride is responsible for making this union happen in a big way.

While this incredible Ghia is in absolutely pristine condition these days, it didn’t look like this initially. Much work was needed to restore this ride to its original beauty. The first step was to repair the floorboards, which were riddled with rust — a common problem among early Volkswagens. That led to the chance meeting between Irene and Henry, who had volunteered to perform a temporary fix. Eventually, the entire body of the car was removed so that the floorboards could be repaired properly. From that point on, the couple worked hand in hand to rebuild the car that appears on these pages.

Motor-wise, the stock engine was replaced with an 1835cc engine that sparkles like a jewel.  Modifications include heavy-duty rods, forged pistons and cylinders, AA rings, and an Engle VZ-35 cam, just to name a few. To make it sparkle, the engine features many items that have been polished to a mirror shine.

While the engine was removed, the ride was covered in an immaculate shade of Candy Red — what Henry jokingly refers to as “Secret Sauce.” A 30-year automotive paint technician, Henry performed the honors of coating this beauty in lipstick red before custom detailer Zigzag & Undertaker Designs Customs did its thing. Kamaile Almeida then completed the look by adding an elaborate motif to underline the car’s “Secret Sauce,” and the finished product is quite spectacular.

With a cool cruiser like this, it’s mandatory to go for rides with the top down. The rear seats and top cover have been beautifully re-upholstered in a gorgeous white vinyl by Al’s Upholstery in Waipahu. Even the sidewalls were replaced to match the front seats installed by Irene’s father. With the wind in their hair, Irene and Henry cruise with the Westside Ka Ahui Braddahood, a family-oriented car club that just likes to have fun.

To Irene, this car represents the memory of her father. Her goal is to keep the ride in the family, no matter what offers might come from outside Volkswagen enthusiasts.