When Terry Sayther showed up in Austin in 1972, his mind was focused on the UT graduate program he had enrolled in. Terry is from Minnesota but as he puts it he “got to Texas as soon as he could” Terry had always been mechanically inclined, so to help with school expenses, he started working on friends’ cars in his spare time.
The property at 1606 Fortview Road didn’t always look as it does today. When Terry first discovered the property for sale back in the 70’s, it was basically just a small old house, situated in a mixed-use residential and light commercial area. It seemed like a perfect, easily-accessible place to do conduct his automotive repair business. Initially, work was done under tents set up outside the old house, since the Austin Planning Department was resistant to approving any further permanent structures on the building.
Six years later, the demand for Sayther’s services as a mechanic had been growing exponentially, and he had begun to zero in on his marque specialty.. BMW. It was then that Terry came to the realization that this work was his first love. It was clear to him that a being a desk jockey was not his life’s calling, in spite of his education.
Fast forward to 2014, where Terry and his lovely wife Debbie still own and operate that same BMW repair facility at that same location on Fortview Road. Terry Sayther Automotive has grown into one of Austin’s largest independent BMW specialty repair businesses (well, and of course the new BMW-sourced Mini-Coopers). And, for Bimmerheads in the know, Sayther Automotive is the shop of choice when something goes wrong with the prized BMW.
That little house on Fortview has expanded in all directions, utilizing literally every square foot of the property. In stark contrast to the big corporate dealerships, the place has a decidedly eclectic air, with its open front work bays, facing the street. As Terry puts it, “We can’t offer a cappuccino machine like the dealerships, but we can offer personalized service with the owner himself involved in each transaction”. The original house itself now functions as storage for repair parts inventory, as well as administrative offices, over which wife Debbie Stuart is responsible.
It is not unusual for a car owner to be greeted by Terry himself, who usually has a hand in diagnosing and suggesting repairs for a car. And, the operational model at the shop differs from most others. Rather than just look at the customer’s specific concern, there are two staff members who do nothing but closely inspect each incoming vehicle, looking for all issues of reliability and safety. This allows the customer to be informed of all potential issues with his vehicle.
The premises at Fortview houses not only repair facilities, but is also home to a vast labyrinth of storage rooms housing a huge collection of used BMW parts that have been amassed over the years. Need a transmission for a 1980 BMW 320i? Chances are one can be found somewhere on the property.
But Terry isn’t just one of the best BMW technicians in Austin. He has an extensive history racing vintage BMW’s, and holds several national club championships, as evidenced by the “wall art” below.
Additionally Terry and his crew have participated in three grueling 3,000 kilometer La Carrera Panamericana races through Mexico, winning his class in 2004. The race car of choice was a rare 1958 BMW 502 sedan.
Terry compiled an extensive journal about his experiences in the 2002 race with the BMW, and can be read here: Terry Sayther’s Carrera Story.
Additionally, there is a detailed write up about preparation of the 502 for the Panamericana race, viewable here: Preparing the 502 for Panamericana
Terry and Debbie have an extensive collection of rare BMWs, most of which they drive regularly. Debbie’s “daily driver” is a beautiful BMW 2002 “Bauer” convertible. (Another Bauer is in the Sayther fleet as well). Other notable vehicles in the collection include a rare and desirable M1 (valued in the 6 figures), a highly sought after BMW 3.0 CSL coupe, a rare BMW 1600GT, and a very rare BMW 325M Touring.
All in all, Terry is a real Renaissance man. He and Debbie spent a number of years in Mexico documenting Indian pictograph sites and publishing papers on the subject. He has served as technical advisor for the BMW National Car Club. In the 90’s Terry and his wife founded an association of independent BMW repair shops.
If you’re a BMW owner looking for an independent Austin repair facility, then Terry Sayther Automotive may very well be the place for you. No, you won’t get a cappuccino, but you will receive personal attention from the owner, and be the recipient of some great stories!
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