Freccia Brothers: Connecticut’s Vintage VW Workshop, Frozen in Time

Sean Smith

Along a stretch of West Putnam Avenue in Greenwich, Connecticut, you can fill every one of your automotive dreams. There you’ll find BMW of Greenwich, Mercedes-Benz of Greenwich, New Country Porsche of Greenwich, and Miller Motorcars (Ferrari, Maserati, Aston Martin, Bugatti, and on and on). But if what you’re after is a little oasis of humanity, look a little further to Freccia Brothers, the small Volkswagen repair shop frozen in time at 246 West Putnam. No fancy lighting, no salesmen in Italian suits, and no cars worth more than the GNP of some small countries.

Freccia Bros. has been standing for more than a century and has not changed much in that time. It doesn’t have the look of an antiseptic operating room—no banks of gleaming equipment. Rather, it has the look of a working garage, with real mechanics with dirt under their nails, who work from their knowledge, not technicians reliant on a computer to interface with the car to tell them what’s wrong. All the tools they need to get the job done are there, and nothing more.

Walk in and you’re transported. Some parts probably haven’t been painted since it opened its doors in 1923. The space is like an art gallery, complete with a wonderful tableau of VW ephemera and tools. Air-cooled horizontally opposed engines sit on surfaces like working sculptures. Look deep into corners and you’ll see the long history of a family business. There are no lifts. The floor laid down a century ago founder Giuseppe Freccia is still billiard table–level, perfect for jack stands, and every Friday afternoon, Frank Freccia III still winds all the clocks.

Out front, you’ll see a who’s who of the Volkswagen world: every type of Bug, from split-windows to Super Beetles, with a Baja Bug thrown in for good measure. A sporty Karmann Ghia sits fender to fender with a Thing, which sits next to an original Rabbit cabriolet. Everywhere you look, VWs. Freccia Brothers is steeped in history, and this is only part of it.

Giuseppe Freccia, his wife Carmela, and their sons Frank and Gene made their way from Cosenza, Italy, to Greenwich in the early 1920s. They purchased a piece of land and set to work. Giuseppe was a stone mason by trade, and he literally and figuratively laid the foundation of what would become Freccia Brothers, founded in 1922.

When the doors opened, they started out by painting carriages and horseless carriages. From there, the family went into car sales. With hard work and perseverance, they made it through the Great Depression while living above the shop. During WWII, when cars were a scarce commodity, the Freccias and the men they hired would head out on the road in search of inventory. They traveled south to Washington, D.C. and as far north as Maine to buy cars and drive them back to the shop.

They also got into repairs, though there wasn’t much around at that time. Frank and Gene often spoke about sitting around in the 1920s and ’30s waiting for a car to break down. In time, however, their business grew.

Giuseppe died young, in the 1930s, but his sons kept things going. Their sister, Emily, a woman very much ahead of her time, joined the business as a salesperson and, in the ’50s, established a real estate and insurance agency at the shop. She and her brothers were expanding their empire, building houses in the area while keeping the shop open. Business was good, and soon the next generation stepped in to lend a hand.

Freccia Bros Cars Trucks Repair Shop Greenwich CT
Facebook/Freccia Brothers Garage

Frank Jr.—aka Skip—had been hanging around the shop from the time he was able to walk, and when he got out of the Marine Corps in 1961, he came on full-time. Once again, there were two generations of Freccias working under one roof, and they were happy to work on anything their customers brought them.

Then the ’60s happened, and the Freccias got into Volkswagens in a big way. They never looked back. Freccia Brothers became known as air-cooled specialists. They were repairing daily drivers throughout the ’60s and ’70s, and after 1979, once Beetle production for the U.S. came to an end, they started doing restorations on people’s beloved VWs.

With all this work, they would need more mechanics. Luckily, there were more Freccias waiting in the wings. In 1972, 10-year-old Frank III started hanging around. Every minute he wasn’t in school, he was learning his craft from his grandfather, great uncle, and dad, until he came on full-time in 1981. Now, there were three generations of Freccias taking care of the VW world. That carried on until Gene died in 1993, followed by Frank in 1998. That left Skip and Frank III.

Other cars came into the shop on occasion, but the reputation of Freccia Bros. preceded it, and air-cooled VWs were the vocation and avocation of the shop. The cars for sale out front are so loved, and they all have names. And if one of these beloved VWs does get sold, the name goes with it.

Frank III thought work would drop off in the 1990s and 2000s, that the generation of air-cooled lovers would disappear, but the younger generation, who really hadn’t had contact with the VW when new, came to love them, just like the people who came before. The cars’ appeal is transcendent, he discovered, and things kept right on cooking at the shop. Folks who have a Bug in their collection don’t own it just because of the price point, and many would argue they get more attention in their VW than they do in their Ferrari or Lamborghini. And it’s always more fun getting a thumbs-up than it is getting the bird.

Shop Profile Freccia Brothers vintage shop people family owned
Sean Smith

Frank III has friends in the industry who have regaled him with horror stories of terrible customers. Thankfully, that’s never been the case at 246 West Putnam. The Freccias have always understood that their customers’ Volkswagens are essentially family members, and they want the best for them. For his part, in 50 years of doing this, Frank III says he has never dreaded coming to work.

Having his family around makes that easy, and these days, Frank III’s kids have stepped into roles around the shop. Each one has a name that sounds like they fell out of the pages of a great novel: Anastasia, Dartagnan, Locksley, Gene (for Giuseppe,) and Guinevere.

Like any good Freccia, Guinevere hung around the shop as a child, sweeping up and doing other things to make herself useful. Then she went off to art school. On her return, she made it her task to bring Freccia Brothers kicking and screaming into the 21st century (sort of.) She banished the rotary phone. They now have voicemail. There is a website, but no computer. She deals with marketing, photography, social media, anything to get the word out. She also helps out when her small hands can get in a tight space that others can’t.

Guinevere also felt it was time to phase out the daily-driver Toyotas and Hondas that came to the shop. They were just way too busy with the air-cooled stuff. Of course, they would never turn away old customers, even if they weren’t, for some reason, driving VWs. By 2017, then, Freccia Bros. was pretty much VWs all day, every day—Bugs, Squarebacks, Fastbacks, Buses, Karmann Ghias, Things, you name it. But have no fear, they’ll make time for early Rabbits and Jettas, too.

Skip died in January 2018. By then there was a successor in place: David D’Andrea, a carpenter and landscaper who also loved working on cars, had started hanging around the shop in 2012. He became a partner in the shop the next year and soon became Guinevere’s partner. He also proved to be a stellar mechanic, the guy who can get into the mind of a carburetor and make it sing.

Some of the cars that come into the shop have been under the Freccias’ care for more than 40 years. They are complemented by a regular stream of new customers, including folks who fell for a pretty face at auction only to discover their “people’s car” isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Frank and David are all too happy to have them. If and when those cars move on to other owners, you just know they’ll somehow find their way back to the little white shop on West Putnam.

People say that Freccia’s is an anomaly among all the high-ticket automotive purveyors around them. Frank’s response to that is simple: “We were here first, and we never left.” There have been countless offers over the years to buy them out, too, but Frank understands that could only end with someone tearing down the building that was erected by his ancestors in order to put up some flashy showroom. “Where would I go every day if I did that?” he muses.

Shop Profile Freccia Brothers vintage auto shop interior
Sean Smith

As is befitting such a long-standing fixture of the Greenwich community, the shop gets a great deal of attention, and the Freccias use it to do good. In 2022, to celebrate their 100th Christmas, they put out the word they were having a toy drive. In the end they collected more than a thousand gifts for kids in foster care and other situations. They continued their new tradition in 2023, and lots of deserving kids had a Merry Christmas.

Like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him, Frank Freccia III sees no reason to stop what he is doing. He is surrounded by his family, the work they do is respected far and wide, and, most importantly, it’s too much fun to give up anytime soon.

Be nice and be honest; that’s how they do it at Freccia’s. Because of that, people come from all over to have the Freccias lay hands on their cars. Even when Frank tries to tell them they are too far away, that they should try to find another shop, they won’t be dissuaded. They want that special touch, that eye for detail, and pride in a job done right. People crash-land at their door when a cross-country trek in a 60-year-old V-Dub goes awry, and they camp out until their car is road-worthy. When you get a bill, it has been handwritten by Frank III, and you are happy to pay it.

People stop in every day and say they have been driving by for 20 years, or their grandfather drove them past the shop. They saw things going on but had to find out for themselves what magic was happening inside. And when they do find out, it all puts smiles on their faces.




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    Great article & photos, wonderful family.
    It’s interesting to contemplate what our world would be like if we were all running around in smaller air cooled vehicles instead of today’s gigantic barges. Then again, many of today’s over nourished citizens would not easily fit into them.

    soo good to see actual mechanics that can diagnose a problem… hear that ’71 coming this way, the dual port heads don’t sound right to me… ‘ kinda deal… so many ‘plug & play’ techs that just keep pulling crap off the shelf until they find the solution… costs warrantee folks a ton I am certain.. def gotta check this out on my next run that way… I see a thing in my future, 1641/1776 mb, KG beam and discs, and freeway flyer rear… no dunes for this buggy lol…thanks for shining a light on a real, honest – to – gawd, shop.. awesome!

    As a dyed-in-the-wool VW aficionado I fully approve of this shop, and I’d probably make a pest out of myself. 😀 I wrench on my own and I’m too far away, but if I were closer I’m sure those would be the guys to do the things I simply don’t want to do. I’m happy to build an engine, but ball joints? Not fun. “Here. I’ll pay you to do it!” I wish them many more years of success and satisfied customers. 🙂

    What a great story about a traditional family business with real customer focus. I wish them all the best for continuing success

    Nice to see a family run business still going after all these years. The VW Bus cooler and the VW Thing “sticker” caught my eye.

    Wow! As a life-long northern NJ VW guy and a 67 Bug owner, I’m thrilled to learn that there is such a place as Freccia Brothers so close to me. One of my first drives this Spring will be to Greenwich, CT. I have to stop in and get a business card (that’s my excuse) in case I need help. But really, I want to bask in the old air-cooled world they have and breathe in that old VW smell. Great article on a wonderful topic and family!!

    That’s the kind of shop I can relate to, and be comfortable bringing my work to. I’m usually suspicious of shops that look too clean to do real work competently.

    More than just a feel-good story about a real family, a real business and real cars, but a requiem for a way of life already gone. The Freccias deserve our thanks for upholding their end of the deal.

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