Keith Martin began his Professional career as an apprentice at the local Volkswagen dealership in 1971. This was after years as the neighborhood fix-it guy for his friends. It was the beginning of a lifelong career in the German car repair business. (See article below) By 1978, he had graduated from Volkswagens to Porsches, and started his first business in downtown Roanoke with two partners.
In 1989, Keith founded Martin’s German Service, Inc. We have been in our present location, 3704 Brambleton Avenue, Roanoke, Virginia, since January, 2004.
Featured Article “Blau Rain”, April 1996
Porsche passion struck Keith Martin at an early age. He was 12 years old when his older brother offered a ride in a gun-metal gray ’67 912. To this day, “I remember the street we were on and the sensation of going around a corner. I really felt the lateral movement in the seat,” Keith says. “And of course the sound of it.”
Three decades later, the marque helps this Porsche Club member earn a living. As the owner of Martin’s German Service at 3021 Christian Avenue in Roanoke, Keith sells and repairs Porsches. He himself owns a white ’89 Carrera. And he’s even been on cable television, in an IMSA Firestone Firehawk endurance race, driving a 944 once driven by Stirling Moss and Innes Ireland. He took the team to second place during the first leg of the race. (We won’t mention that he also spun out on national TV.)
A unique feature at Martin’s German Service is the Santa doll hanging on the pegboard, between welding masks. The only explanation Keith can offer is, “Santa was left here several years ago by a friend, and he’s been watching over us ever since.”
In the showroom there’s a ’95 flaming red 911 Carrera, which sales associate Earl Hutson would be glad to give you in exchange for $55,900. Or how about a ’89 Cabriolet for $31,000? “I am Roanoke’s unauthorized Porsche dealer,” Keith says with that deadpan dry humor that sneaks out from his quiet demeanor.
Actually, he’s an independent used car dealer. He’s achieved the goal he took to Harrisonburg when he enrolled in college, intending to earn a degree in business administration and run his own car dealership.
The path didn’t quite lead where planned, though. He dropped out of college and went to work as an apprentice mechanic, answering the call of his genetic destiny. Keith’s grandfather, Orie, and his great-uncle Otha ran Martin Brothers Garage. The shop operated across from the Hotel Roanoke, from 1911 to 1959.
Keith started at a VW dealer in Roanoke. From there he moved on to a newly opened Porsche / Audi dealership in Salem, then a Mazda dealer. Next he went to work for Oren Roanoke, building fire trucks. “It was like running away to the circus.” Keith says, “I loved fixing things, and we actually built them from scratch.”
Keith worked at yet another Porsche / Audi dealership before taking the step at opening a repair shop with two partners. After nine years, he sold his interest and struck out on his own.
Seven years later, Martin’s German Service is going strong, built entirely upon word of mouth recommendations. As much as Keith loves cars, it’s not technology that earned his reputation, but customer service. “it’s easy to bury yourself in all of the latest tools and equipment,” he says, “What I try to maintain is balance. The focus of my business is whatever the problem is. I’m in a personal service business that happens to involve cars. If you’re late for work and need the oil changed in your car, I’m a cab driver. If you have a rattle in your door, I’m a body shop guy. If you have an old car you want to restore, I’m an old part finder. I’m a race prep shop if you’re going to the track. I do my best to focus on your present needs.”
Along the way, Keith’s had a lot fun with Porsches. His first Porsche was a ’64 911. “I was going to hot rod it,” Keith admits. You gotta forgive him, he was just a kid. As he began dissembling it, he realized he possessed an early production piece — Number 182 off the assembly line. Right now, it’s storage.
When he began racing on a national level, Keith started with a VW Rabbit. He won his first national race with SCCA. Eventually he hooked up with the Rennwagen 44 team of Maury Hamill and scion Ty Hamill. Although Keith no longer races, it’s a testament to his mechanical ability that the car has logged 26,000 race miles. Ty recently won a club race in it a Sebring.
Racing remains in Keith’s blood. “I have a burning desire to do some more stuff. I just can’t justify committing the time…” But if the Porsche SuperCup ever came to the U.S….
In the meantime, “I think it’s going to be an exciting year with the Boxster coming up,” Keith says, “This new Porsche model is a two-seat, six cylinder, mid-engine roadster. I fell in love with the Boxster the first time I saw it.” He’s got a deposit on one for himself and is holding deposits for other customers, including a couple of Blue Ridge members. The cost is supposed to come in under $40,000.
Keith expects the Boxster sometime this Fall. When they arrive, look for Martin’s German Service to launch the new model in combination with an anniversary celebration. It’s a “thank you” that Keith wants to deliver to the club members and customers that helped him arrive at where he is today.
He considers himself a pretty lucky guy. “The essence of my soul is fixing things,” he says, “The rest is just gravy on top.”
I was 19 and it was 1973 when I found the green car in the weeds. In the first six months of owning the car, I al [...]
In 1913, Keith Martin’s grandfather, O.B. Martin started his own auto repair garage with his brother Otho, in downtown Roanoke. When they retired, their shop was the oldest garage in Roanoke.
We have a reprint of an article from December 6, 1959. This is an interview of the Martin brothers, after they announced the closing of the Martin Brothers Garage. It’s an interesting glimpse into the past, and the author chronicled the changing times from 1913 to 1959.
WHY CHOOSE US?
Ever changing selection of pre-owned and consignment inventory
ASE Certified Mechanics
Loaner cars available for your convenience
4-wheel laser-alignment system
Tires available for every type of vehicle
EXCLUSIVE DEALER-ONLY diagnostic equipment
Registered Virginia State Inspection Station
Just wanted to say thanks to Keith and the guys over there at Martin’s for all the help over the years with cars and being a great place to stop off and chit chat about things we are all passionate about! Wish you the best of luck with the ’64! Cant wait to drop by in another couple weeks!Daniel Wendell
So professional and quick! Love this place!Jan Suzette Millehan