You always remember your first car. For Taylor Bryant, that first car – an old Beetle – drew the template of a life-long connection to Volkswagen that has grown to more than 40 vehicles over the years.
“I’ve always liked European cars and had a soft spot for Volkswagens,” Bryant said.
His affection for VW began as a kid in Charleston, South Carolina. Bryant would ride his bike to the local Volkswagen dealership and admire the latest models while chatting with technicians. Six years later, he bought his first car – a 1961 light blue Beetle – for $500 after spotting the car while waiting at a red light. He rolled down his window, asked the driver if he would be willing to sell it and, a few weeks later, the car was his.
“I drove it all the way through high school and the beginning of college. It really got me into cars because I had to work on it constantly,” Bryant said. “You can’t pay a whole lot of people to work on your car on a Taco Bell salary at 16.”
Bryant received a degree in automotive technology from Aiken Technical College in South Carolina in 2001 and worked as a Volkswagen master auto technician for 12 years. His work introduced him to all sorts of Volkswagen vehicles, from older classics, like the Corrado and original Beetle, to more modern models, like the Jetta and Tiguan. He quickly began building his own car collection, often buying trade-in vehicles, and taking them on as project cars. Once a car was complete, he would sell it for whatever money he put into it and use the earnings to fund the next build.
Over the years, his 42 Volkswagen car collection has included multiple Golf, Jetta and Passat models.
“I pretty much love them all [and] have touched or owned all of them at some point,” said Bryant.
Some of his fondest family memories are tied to his Volkswagen cars. Bryant ran for school board in 2010 and used a 2005 Jetta GLI as his campaign car. He bought his wife a Cabriolet for their fifth wedding anniversary, and his son’s first car was a Jetta.
His current collection includes a 1999 Jetta, a 2004 Passat Wagon and a 2017 Jetta. He recently spotted one of his favorite project cars – a beautifully restored red 1967 Karmann Ghia – for sale on Facebook Marketplace.
“It was pretty neat to see a car I restored 20 years ago still running around and looking beautiful,” Bryant said.
In 2013, after 12 years of working as a Volkswagen mechanic, he left the shop to become an instructor at Augusta Technical College in Georgia. “It feels really good to give back to the career that has given me everything I’ve ever had,” Bryant said.
Due to COVID, he has moved his classes online and spends some of his spare time tracking down models to use for teaching purposes.
As to his personal collection, it always has room to grow. He is currently eyeing the Atlas SUV as his next big purchase to cart his four large pups and two children around town.
“[Volkswagen] was the first car I bought and will likely be the last,” Bryant said.