NAMGAR Member News
University Motors Announces John Twist Retirement
The End of an Era Announced in University Motors Newsletter
"Grand Rapids, MI (November 7, 2016) After nearly 42 years in full time business at three locations, I am ceasing repair and restoration operations as University Motors in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the end of this month, November 2016. The remaining workload will be transferred to Forrest Johnson's "Rusty Moose Garage," which will continue out of the Patterson Avenue location for now but will move to Grand Haven, Michigan in the next several months.
"I am not so much "re-tiring" as "re-treading." I will retain the name of University Motors, but no longer operate as a brick-and -mortar automotive repair facility. My plan is to continue to write technical articles offer technical seminars and workshops, produce technical videos, and enter the lecture circuit.
"Forrest, who has worked for University Motors for about five years, will keep Curt Saunier in his employ. Curt has worked for UML for about 23 years. Mike Blackport will continue throughout the transition.
"The University Motors website will remain active. You will always be able to contact me there. I will keep you apprised of changes in locations and telephone numbers. Safety Fast!
John Twist first rode in and drove an MG in Marshall, MI, his hometown, in 1965. It was a green 1957 MGA roadster, which belonged to his best friend. At a shop in Battle Creek, John spied a forlorn gold MG TD forgotten in a corner. This MG grabbed his attention — forever! Understand that until this day John was not interested in automobiles. His grandfather had sold cars, his father’s dream was to own a dealership, but John had never been interested in (and is still not intrigued by) any automobiles — EXCEPT MGs.
By 1968 John was an MG owner (TD 28822) and quickly began servicing his car. Upon his discharge from the U.S. Army in 1970, John began a feverish restoration of the TD, eventually slowing, then stalling. He returned to college, only to abandon his studies to work with another MG fanatic on other people’s MGs –for money. By November 1971 John realized his goal in life was to own an MG dealership and he began on a route which would take him to England where he worked for the original University Motors in London for a year, 1972-1973.
John returned to Grand Rapids and went to work for the local MG dealer before moving on to a local independent foreign car shop. During this time he began trading MG parts and registered the name of University Motors as his own. In addition, he had the excellent fortune or foresight to purchase a building ($3500 cash) he would call home for the next twenty years! This was 1974.
That led to a brief stint in the parts department at a local VW dealership. Unfortunately, internal politics made the job unbearable, so on January 24, 1975 John resigned. University Motors Ltd. opened for full time business the next day.
John distinctly remembers trying to fit a twin front exhaust pipe to an MGB. He nearly had everything balanced and the first nut started when the phone rang. He dropped everything and caught the phone. He tried again to fit the pipe, but was again thwarted by a ringing phone. It was time for an assistant. Throughout 1975 and 1976 John had a number of part time assistants, helpers, and employees.
John sold his first MG, the 1953 MG TD, in 1976 and acquired a 1962 MGA Mark II Deluxe with a blown engine for the princely sum of $750. It's the same MGA Deluxe he drives today. In the beginning, John worked on all foreign vehicles:
Minis, Saabs, Triumphs, Austins, Morrises, Fiats, Austin Healeys, Datsuns, Humbers, and more. Thompson E Clay, a local filmmaker, proposed to John that he quickly restrict his trade to “just MG.” John narrowed his focus to “just British” and within the next year, 1977, to just MG.
John wanted to write technical articles. His first, “Proper Use of the Choke,” appeared in MG Magazine in 1979. Soon he was writing a regular feature in that magazine. He also began to write for the newly formed American MGB Association. This was the Fall of 1980. John was 32.
The days were long, repairs took a long time, and John tried to repair every part at least once! He labored diligently to ensure that every job was clean and right, and that he charged his customers fairly. Business grew steadily. His reputation expanded beyond the confines of Grand Rapids. John never achieved his goal of becoming an MG Dealer, but he has come a long way since the birth of his dream. With thousands of satisfied customers, his famous YouTube videos, and popular rolling tech sessions year after year at MG events across the country he is now a legend among MG owners everywhere.
Well done, John...congratulations!
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Last updated on February 9, 2017.