Arda’s Thing


…is this pristine ’74 Type 181 that she and husband Greg Melikyan restored at their shop, German Motor Works

Arda’s Thing
By Robert K. Smith

Arda Melikyan, who makes her home in Corona Del Mar, California, bought her first VW, a 1966 Bug, in 1976. Because this sedan was problemsome, she dealt with many mechanics, and three years later was referred to a shop owned by Greg Melikyan, nowher husband since 1994. Presently, they own quite a few VWs, including a ’73 Thing, a ’73 Military Thing, ’66 and ’67 Bugs, two ’74 Type 181s, an ’89 Vanagon, an ’80 Rabbit pickup, a ’72 Ghia convertible, an ’85 Audi Quattro, a ’59 Fiat 600, and their tower vehicle is a ’99 Checy Tahoe. Proprietors of German Motor Works in Garden Grove, California, Arda and Greg not only repair and restore VWs, but in ’92 decided to also specialize in Type 181 Things.

What you see here is Arda’s personal vehicle, a pristinely redone ’74 Thing that was a two-year project, with over twenty G’s invested. She bought this car from the original owner, Richard Vaux, who was located in the neighboring city of Wesminster. Vaux was holding on to the Thing for his son, but when he got out of the military. he was not interested. Unwillingly, Mr. Vaux placed an ad in the Recycler, and as soon as Arda saw it, she hurried to Richard’s house, only three miles from their shop. She was beside herself when she set eyes on this original, never-been-in-an-accident, no rust Thing, with everything it came with (no additions either) from Mexico. Even the original owner’s manual was mint, with Richard’s name in it, as well as service records and the delivery date of January 29th, 1975. After talking to Vaux, she soon discovered that he was very selective about who would end up with his Thing, so she promised him that she would restore it, and never sell it. She became the car’s second owner on July 11th, 1997.

She and Greg dismantled the car down to the last nut and bolt. Within a week, the stripped-down Thing was sent to Tolerico’s Body Place in Nearby Fountain Valley. There, Roland Amrikhas handled the minor body dings, massaged all surfaces to be painted, then Tolerico’s Cirilio Vega sprayed the factory Thing Orange color, in a single-stage PPG acrylic enamel. Three months later, the freshly painted Thing was back at German Motor Works, where Greg and Arda painstakingly assembled the car, using as many NOS parts as they had accumulated over the years.

After undercoating the pan, Greg took care of all the mechanicals. Up front, he rebuilt the stock beam, equipped it with NOS ball joints, tie rods/ends, steering damper, and brakes (drums, shoes, hoses, lines, etc.); he also added a pair of KYB shocks, and NOS steering box. In the rear, he did an instant replay with anewed brakes, and KYBS, plus utilized new CV-joints, Once Greg rebuilt the car’s original AV (Thing only) IRS tranny, with NOS parts, to factory specs (4.12 ring and pinion, 3.80 1st, 2.06 2nd, 1.26 3rd, 0.93 4th), he installed it, then bolted on the powdercoated stock steel rims, all rolling on Dunlop 27×8.5×14-inch tires.

Greg also gets credit for rebuilding the original AM-cased 1600 engine that now runs a micro-polished

Arda Melikyan is the proud owner of this sanitary ’74, which she and her husband Greg completely rebuilt over a two-year period. As you can see, this Thing is one of the nicest around, thanks to Arda’s attention to detail. Body/paint by Roland Amrikhas at Tolerico’s Body Place, Fountain Valley, CA. Under hood is spotless.

69mm crankshaft and rebuilt and balanced connecting rods (thanks to DPR in Santa Ana, California), Mahle 85.5mm pistons, rings, and cylinders, an NOS cam and lifters, NOS oil pump, new dual-port heads, new Solex 34 PICT-3 carb on stock intake, NOS doghouse fan shroud, NOS German clutch assembly, and NOS German muffler. Spark plugs are Bosch W8A, plug wires are German, the original “043″ distributor and coil are Bosch, and the air cleaner/hose system is original as it came from the factory. By the way, all sheet metal (and any black part) was powdercoated, thanks to Darren Hiegel at Powdercoat Services in nearby Anaheim.

The interior features all the stock components like the original speedometer that was rebuilt, an NOS fuel guage, dash pad, open glove box light, OEM Type 181 shifter, steering wheel, and pedal assembly (Greg-rebuilt, with NOS parts). German Motor Works’ Ramon Gutierrez rebuilt and padded all seats, now adorned with black marine vinyl (black piping), while Greg and Arda handled the floor covering, and small factory original black kick panels, contrasting the orange painted interior sheet metal. Stock black seat belts were also bolted in place.

Since Arda’s Thing has been completed, it basically sit in the German Motor Works shop, does get a few road miles from time to time, and Greg and Arda’s customers use it as a reference for their Type 181s. Since 1996, every third Sunday in May, the Melikyans have hosted a free car show exclusively for Thing owners, with profits to charity. This is the only show her orange Thing has been at, on display, never in competition. As you can see, her 181 is quite a piece of workmanship, and everyone who sees it in person is very impressed; some even make offers to buy it, but Arda made a promise, and…….she keeps her word.Arda4 Greg Melikyan, of German Motor Works in Garden Grove, CA, handled all mechanical rebuilding, such as suspension, brakes, tranny, and 1600 engine, using as many NOS parts as possible. GMW’s Ramon Gutierrez was the main man who redid the seats, utilizing marine black vinyl and black piping.