Vinsetta Garage - Berkley, MI
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Team Farkle 7
N 42° 29.703 W 083° 09.867
17T E 322137 N 4707013
Quick Description: Michigan's Oldest and Most Recognized Source Of Comprehensive Automotive Service.
Location: Michigan, United States
Date Posted: 5/24/2007 9:21:07 PM
Waymark Code: WM1K6A
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member S5280ft
Views: 109

Long Description:
Established 1919 - that's 82 years and counting

By Referral Only

27799 Woodward Ave.
Berkley, MI 48072

Jack Marwil's Vinsetta Garage becomes particularly busy for the Dream Cruise. Classic car owners come pleading for a tune-up or last-minute repair.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004 Vinsetta Garage is haven for classic car enthusiasts

By Nick Bunkley / The Detroit News

BERKLEY Most summer evenings, especially at the height of Woodward Dream Cruise hysteria in mid-August, clusters of vintage Fords, Plymouths and Chevys dot the parking lots along Woodward Avenue, their owners proudly pointing out the latest improvements to fellow collectors and car lovers.

The rest of the year there's one place on the busy, fast-paced boulevard to find the same automobile nostalgia. If the neon sign promising. Prompt service on all cars and decades-old Shell Oil gasoline pumps in front of Vinsetta Garage don't pull you in for a closer look, the 1950s convertibles and other classics waiting to be serviced surely will.

As Birmingham's Rex Smith cruises through Berkley on his way to work each morning, he can't help but slow down to check out what's parked in front of Vinsetta's.

If I was smart, I'd open a coffee shop next door, said Smith, who stopped by last week to talk with shop owner Jack Marwil about a brake job on his bright red 1954 Plymouth Belvedere convertible. All the gearheads in town would stop to see what's new at Jack's place every day.

The shop becomes particularly busy at this time of year. Classic cars roll into the driveway every day, their owners pleading for a tune-up or last-minute repair before the annual Dream Cruise. This year's event is Saturday, marking the 10th anniversary of Motown's homage to the car culture of the 50s and 60s.

We're busy this time of year and pretty much every other time, said mechanic Lee Jenkins. Never a slow day.

About 40,000 street rods, muscle cars and customized vehicles will flood Woodward from Eight Mile to Pontiac for Saturday's cruise. The world's largest one-day auto event, the Dream Cruise is expected to draw more than 1 million fans along the 16-mile route that became a legendary cruising strip in the 1950s.

Gone are the most popular hangouts for cruising teenagers: Hedge's Wigwam, the Totem Pole, the Dipsey Doodle and plenty of others. Woodward lost the last of its many drive-ins and a favorite for Dream Cruise participants in June when the Royal Oak Big Boy restaurant between 13 Mile and Normandy was torn down for a new strip mall.

That leaves Vinsetta Garage as one of the few havens along Woodward left for classic car fanatics.

The funny thing is, when Marwil bought the garage in 1985 from the family that started it in 1919, he never intended to specialize in classic cars. In fact, he and his five technicians spend most of their time working on late-model vehicles.

The garage, Michigan's oldest, still looks much the same as it did half a century ago. A trio of vintage gas pumps in the front lot shows that a gallon of leaded fuel cost 41 1/2 cents when the pumps were abandoned.

I love the architecture, said Marwil, who tries to maintain the shop's original look as much as possible. It was a real sacrifice to get the floors done a few weeks ago. Up until then, they were virgin concrete.

At his desk in the front office, Marwil is surrounded by a collection of historic Michigan license plates as old as 1910. Stacks of customer claim checks fill the counter, and framed letters from customers hang wherever there's room for a nail. In a handwritten note, Royal Oak Congressman Sander Levin commends Marwil for the staff's work on his Pontiac. A typed thank-you from Jeff Leestma, president of the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, gushes about the attention given to his 1949 Hudson Commodore as well as its finicky owner.

Vinsetta is the only garage Leestma has let touch his ol' girl since buying it a few years ago.

I leave my car there knowing that it's going to get taken care of and done right and they'll treat it with as much care as I would, Leestma said. I don't want to be there every week, of course, but when I have something that needs to be taken care of, I won't take it anywhere else.

So many of Marwil's customers apparently have similar feelings that getting a repair appointment can sometimes take a few weeks. And the only way to become a customer in the first place is through a referral from someone who already has work done there.

It has nothing to do with snob appeal, Marwil said. It's just we're a small shop and can only do so much. It's the only way we can manage that and be diplomatic about it.

Marwil's staff spends much of the summer doing quick repairs because customers want to keep their cars on the road for cruises, shows and evening drives as much as possible. During the winter, the garage does a lot of long-term work such as engine or transmission rebuilds, often keeping vehicles for many months at a time.

We don't just rush it so we can say it's done, Marwil said. It's done when it's done properly whether it's a day, a week, a month, or even a year.

You can reach Nick Bunkley at (313) 222-2293 or

Americana: Service Station

Significant Interest: Other

Milestone or Marker: Other

Web Site Address: [Web Link]

Physical Address:
27799 Woodward Ave.
Berkley, MI USA

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