Bryn Mawr resident parlays passion for cars into career

Tristan Henderson owns auto shop in the neighborhood

Bryn Mawr resident Tristan Henderson owns and operates an auto shop in the neighborhood that specializes in European car brands, such as Volkswagen and Audi. Photos by Nate Gotlieb
Bryn Mawr resident Tristan Henderson owns and operates an auto shop in the neighborhood that specializes in European car brands, such as Volkswagen and Audi. Photos by Nate Gotlieb

Tristan Henderson’s love of cars dates back to his early childhood.

“It runs in my blood,” Henderson said. “I’ve been taking things apart since I could hold a tool.”

He’s parlayed that passion into a career fixing, maintaining and restoring cars.

Henderson, a Bryn Mawr resident, started and owns Further Performance Auto, an auto shop off Thomas Avenue that specializes in European cars. Henderson moved the business into the 6,000-square-foot space in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood last month. Business has been brisk, he said, and he plans on hiring another mechanic soon.

The move came after Henderson spent 13 years in a smaller shop in the Harrison neighborhood. Henderson was the only employee when he moved there in 2004 but now has a staff of seven.
The business itself dates back to 2000, when Henderson worked for a Volkswagen dealership in Eau Claire, Wis. He moved to the Twin Cities four years later to work for a dealership here and continued the business. It wasn’t easy.

Henderson said that he was “one customer from letting the store die” at one point, before a woman came in needing work on her Jetta. The business started spreading from there, he said, and has continued to grow.

Henderson has about 20 to 40 projects ongoing at any given point. About one-third of his business is restoration, while the rest is repairs, maintenance and performance tuning.

A 1989 Porsche 928 GT sat in the Further Performance Auto garage on a recent weekday. Henderson and his team were preparing the car for a show in Seattle.
A 1989 Porsche 928 GT sat in the Further Performance Auto garage on a recent weekday. Henderson and his team were preparing the car for a show in Seattle.

“Everything starts as small and just snowballs,” he said. “They become serious projects pretty quick.”

The business focuses mainly on European and classic American cars and vehicles that are “really cool and different,” Henderson said. He generally doesn’t fix American-made vehicles but will make an exception for neighbors.

Customers come from all over, including from other shops, which send him more specialized jobs. He said his rates are less than dealers by $20 to $25 an hour and that he tries to price things to the job.

A variety of cars from across the decades could be seen on a recent afternoon at Henderson’s shop. One was a long, black Lincoln that looked like it could have been in a 1960s presidential motorcade. Henderson appeared especially impressed with the car’s windows, which rolled down slightly when the doors were opened.

“The top going down is a symphony of mechanical wonder,” Henderson said.

Another vehicle, an old Volkswagen bus, came to the shop from England. Another was a rare 1989 Porsche that Henderson and his staff were preparing for a show in Seattle.

A view of an old Volkswagen bus on which Henderson and his team were doing work.
A view of an old Volkswagen bus on which Henderson and his team were doing work.

“You open it up and it smells like the day it was delivered,” he said.

Lifetime passion

Henderson said his dad was capable of building cars and at one point rebuilt a Volkswagen bus before a family trip to Colorado. Henderson rebuilt his first car, a Volkswagen Super Beetle, when he was 13 years old.

“I drove the wheels off of it,” he said.

Cars continued to be a hobby of Henderson’s, even as he began working as a cook. They became a career path after he began working for an auto parts store in Eau Claire, which eventually led to the job at the dealership. He worked his way up to head technician before moving to the Twin Cities.
Henderson and his team have even begun hosting a car show called MadFurther in the past few years. They had over 300 cars and 1,500 people in attendance at the last MadFurther show, hosted in 2015 in South St. Paul. Henderson said they plan on bringing the show back in 2018.

Frank Buntzen, the lead technician for Henderson, said customers appreciate the staff’s honesty and willingness to have one-on-one conversations.

“We’re just trying to operate as honest and trustworthy as we can,” he said. “The whole business is built on honesty.”

Visit fptuned.com to learn more about the business.

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