Chilled, sandy, damp, and tired, two-year-old Greg Armendariz would curl up on the warm luggage platform over the engine of his mother’s 1956 Volkswagen Beetle after a long day at the beach. The mesmerizing parade of palm trees and streetlights, gliding across the elegant frame of the rear oval window, lulled him to sleep as his mother drove home. Years later, eager for his driver license and first set of car keys, fifteen-year-old Greg began combing through car magazines looking for a car like the VW his mother drove to the beach on those contented, sun-filled days. A few years later, with money saved from a summer job, he was able to buy his first VW – a 1961 Beetle, and the flame of a life-long passion was sparked.
His first serious restoration project began during the late 1990s after the birth of his daughter. Feeling a little underfoot with a new baby in the house, Greg bought a 1954 VW Oval Ragtop and exiled himself to the garage. He worked fulltime as a graphic designer at the time and spent evenings and weekends for the following 10 years carefully rebuilding the VW. No detail of the restoration was too small for his attention. He painstakingly assessed, inventoried, and researched every part down to the nuts and bolts so that the Oval would be period correct. He sought out and found either original or NOS (new old stock) parts for the restoration. At the end of a decade he had assembled a Beetle that was more breathtaking than the day, fifty years earlier, in which it was driven off the lot new.
In 2007, on a whim, he entered the Oval in the VW Classic car show in Irvine, CA. When it came home with the first place trophy for its class, Greg was stunned. The Oval won first place the next three successive years, a promoter’s choice award and a people’s choice award and requests for more VW restorations began to roll in.
The son and nephew of engineers and designers, Greg’s fastidious attention to detail runs in his blood and is evident in all of his projects, down to rebuilding wheel toolkits and reproducing his own original equipped VW decals. For him, restoring classic VWs is much more than hunting down the right hardware and accessories. He views each project as a piece of art and he has the strong artistic aesthetic he developed as a graphic designer to lean on. His artistry dovetails perfectly with his attention to detail and he describes the cars he takes on as “almost living, breathing things.” He explains that not all VWs want to be restored and those he leaves alone. When he does find a car begging for restoration he proceeds with characteristic patience and passion. His tenacity and artistry embody one overarching desire: For viewers to see his Volkswagens as the original designers intended them to be seen. A discerning viewer will also see that his Volkswagens aren’t just magnificently restored, they breathe.
Greg knows that like him, many people have strong positive associations to the cars of their youth, and VWs, above all other automobiles, epitomize the warmth of remembering. He hopes that when his VWs are displayed at dealerships viewers will have the same experience he does when he finishes a restoration. He wants people to feel, as their eyes slide over the soft, sloping lines of a Karmann Ghia or dance over the playful circular arcs of a Beetle or Micro Bus, like they have been transported back in time – to feel, just for a moment, like they are young and indomitable – cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway watching palm trees glide by.
Greg has long since left his graphic design job, has created a business of his own, Classic Auto Rewind, or CAR, and has been bringing home trophies ever since. High demand for his assiduous restorations has allowed him to make his passion his livelihood.