A Thing of Beauty

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Laura Castro’s 1974 Type 181 is a premium piece of reworksmanship, thanks to a complete refurbishing by Greg and Arda Melikyan at German Motor Works in Garden Grove, CA. One-Stage PPG paint by Tolerico’s Body Place, Fountain Valley, CA. What a nice driver.

A Thing of Beauty

By Robert K. Smith

    Canyon Country, California’s Laura Castro was sixteen years old when she got her first car, which was a Volkswagen Bug. Unfortunately, a week after she had the engine rebuilt, she and her Bug were in a major accident, and the Bug was beyond repair, make that totaled, yet Laura escaped serious injuries. Since that day, she’s always had the desire to someday restore a VW. As the years passed by, she obtained a ’67 Camaro and a ’72 For Bronco, so her car enthusiasm was still strong, even though she was in nursing school. Then one day when she saw the movie Speed II, with Sandra Bullock driving around in a VW Thing, Laura’s love for the VW was rekindled, and she just had to own a Type 181. Two weeks (October 17th, 1997) after seeing the movie, Laura bought her own 1974Thing.
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    Even though she was still studying nursing school (today, she’s a registered nurse, and back in school again to be a veterinarian), Laura wanted her ’74 to be a Thing of beauty. With all her time spent at work, and in school, she decided to seek help with this project, which would entail converting her “driver” to a showpiece of a driver. She made a few calls, and found that Garden Grove, California’s German Motor Works specialized in Thing parts, and complete restoration. Soonafter, Castro met with GMW’s owners Greg and Arda Melikyan, and a few weeks later, Laura’s Type 181 was at German Motor Works.

    Greg and Arda handled all the disassembly/assembly on this one. They striped-down the no-rust-anywhere Thing to bare body, still rolling on its own wheels, then hauled it to Tolerico’s Body Place in nearby Fountain Valley. There Roland Amrikhas took care of the bodywork, spending many hours making sure that all surfaces to be painted were “straight as an arrow.” Once the body, doors, fenders, and hood were prepped, Tolerico’s Cirilio Vega loaded his spray gun and squirted the pieces with PPG single-stage red (chosen by Laura) acrylic enamel. Of course, color-sanding and buffing followed weeks later, resulting in a super shiny paint job.

    When the car came back to their shop, Greg and Arda undercoated the body and pan, then replaced the old original suspension and brakes with new German components, such as ball-joints, steering damper, tie-rods, master cylinder, brake drums/shoes, and more. Shocks all around are now KYB GR2 models. The Melikyans also resealed the stock IRS tranny and 1600 engine, which now sports semi-gloss powdercoated tin, not to mention new old stock (NOS) stuff like Solex 34 PICT Carburetor, fuel pump, distributor, coil, regulator, and generator.
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    The interior of this beautifully done Thing features close-to-factory upholstery, with materials selected by Laura, and stitching by Ramon Gutierrez, at German Motor Works. Black marine vinyl (with gray piping) went over the seats, the floor received original black rubber mats, and more black-on-rad contrast includes door pinch-weld, original steering wheel, dash pad, windshield wiper motor, factory speedometer, and new old stock dash knobs.
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    Laura was beside herself when she got word from Arda that her car was finished. Then in 1999, Laura debuted her Type 181 at the German Motor Works Thing Show & Swap, and by day’s end, she had won first place awarded in the Stock Restored class. The following two years, at the same event, Laura not only won her class each year, but also nabbed Best of Show in 2000 and 2001! Other first-in-class wins were hers too, at the VW Classic in June of 2000, and the Thing Shop/Things in the Sun show. Ask any car show judge who’s seen this car, or spectator for that matter and they’ll all agree that this is “A Thing of Beauty.”

Laura Castro is the proud owner of this awesomely redone 1974 VW

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