McPherson College Auto Restoration
by Stephanie Hart
In the specialized work of automotive careers, one midwest college is doing something unique. They’re educating and promoting the next generation of automotive restorers. That’s right…McPherson college is the only institution of higher education in America that offers a bachelor’s degree in restoration technology. As our FYI reporter Stephanie Hart explains, graduates are schooled in all aspects of the car collecting world.
STEPHANIE HART: An hour north of Wichita, Kansas… nestled not far from a working farm and a windswept lavender field, sits McPherson college…. where students can major in restoration technology.
AMANDA GUTIERREZ: “We combine the technical aspects with the liberal arts. Our students are not only in the shop learning historical restoration skills, but they’re also involved across campus so they’re taking courses in English, in business and arts.”
STEPHANIE HART: Courses focus on the techniques required to work on cars built before 1970. Comedian Jay Leno was an early supporter of this program and still is. 800 students attend McPherson college. 160 are in the automotive restoration program.
SEAN ROBINSON: I love cars so much because I was doing woodworking all of my life and just being able to put woodworking and my love for cars together is just like the greatest thing I can do here.
STEPHANIE HART: Sean Robinson is restoring a 1959 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite to give to his mother.
SEAN ROBINSON: I’m planning all of my courses around the aspect of the build so I’m taking trim classes where I will work on the trim of the car, metal work classes to help me with body spots and then ultimately I will do the paint and full restoration.
STEPHANIE HART: Enthusiasm that’s fueled by faculty members. Most are alumni of the program.
GARRICK GREEN: We really strive for maybe not perfection at first, but always caring and sharing craftsmanship in the work that is done knowing that somebody else is going to follow you and say you know, ‘wow great job on whoever made this part’ or ‘wow who made this part?
STEPHANIE HART: Skills they’re learning here, are becoming a lost art - so they’re in high demand especially when it comes to crafting metal.
ED BARR: This is a 1954 Jaguar D Type. Original D Types are worth tens of millions of dollars and shops realize students who can do this kind of work are ready to work on the real car so I have built a skeleton for them to work on called a buck and the students have been shaping the sheet metal to go over that
STEPHANIE: From the shop to the street, it’s a campus tradition and a lot of fun… seniors get in cars like this one and drive through the gazebo to celebrate graduation.
NATHANIEL MCLAUGHLIN: I love old cars and my passion is painting so i want to be an automotive painter doing concours level restoration.
NICK NAVARRO: My goal, once I graduate, is to be able to talk about vehicles with people. The importance of vehicles and how classic vehicles have to be preserved and restored so they can continue to bring joy to the next generation.
STEPHANIE HART: What’s been the most rewarding experience for you as a professor here at the college?
ED BARR: When I get a call on a Saturday night from a student who’s now restoring priceless Jaguars and Ferraris and they send me pictures of the beautiful work their doing - that’s the best reward.
STEPHANIE HART: The next generation of auto artisans are restoring this 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet. It will look like this when it’s complete. The automotive restoration program set a bold goal: by 2023 it will compete and win the Pebble Beach Concours. Good luck!