McPHERSON, Kan. – A vision, 10 years in the making, has come true for students, alumni, and employees of the McPherson College Automotive Restoration program — the only four-year bachelor’s degree program for automotive restoration in the nation. The 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet, entirely restored by students, has been accepted by the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and will be shown there on August 20.
“Congratulations to the McPherson College students for having their car accepted to Pebble Beach,” said comedian and car enthusiast Jay Leno. Leno’s support 20 years ago was the turning point for the program when it pivoted from an associate’s to a bachelor’s degree. “I am proud to be associated with the college. Much like art historians who clean and repair the works of the renaissance era, the young men and women at McPherson College are doing it with automobiles, recreating abilities and techniques long forgotten, and they’ll make a good living doing it. Our hobby and heritage are safe in their hands.”
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is the oldest Concours in the United States and one of the world’s most prestigious gatherings of rare and antique automobiles. Prized collector cars compete each year for Best of Show, the most coveted award in the automotive industry. The Concours Selection Committee spends weeks vetting each entry, narrowing its selection down to the top classic cars in the world, which are invited to show.
“We set a bold vision 10 years ago to show a car at Pebble Beach, and I was confident our students and staff could attain it,” said Amanda Gutierrez, provost and vice president of automotive restoration. “The goal was to get invited to compete at Pebble Beach, but there is a significant process that makes that happen, especially at a small college with students working outside of class hours. This project has been a valuable learning experience for our students as they study toward their bachelor’s degree in automotive restoration. It was intense work requiring exceptional commitment, and I am extremely proud of them.”
After an exhaustive search for the right car, work on the project began and has incorporated classroom curricula, expert guest lectures, and senior capstone experiences. The restoration was completed by teams of student interns who worked over the course of the restoration. Brian Martin, director of automotive restoration projects, supervises the student team.
“When we set out to do this, we knew it was going to be a long-term commitment,” Martin said. “It is a complete, frame-off, top-to-bottom restoration by students. We planned for it to become the cornerstone of our program and an example of the skills our students develop while they are here.”
McPherson College has a long history of student participation at Pebble Beach, dating back to 2008 when the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Pebble Beach Company Foundation established scholarships honoring Formula One World Champion and famed restorer Phil Hill. Over the years, more than 25 McPherson College students have earned college scholarships from Pebble Beach.
Pebble Beach Company Foundation scholarship recipients not only attend the event and shadow the judges, they also have been part of panel discussions, prepared and presented cars for the field, and attended numerous additional events during the week. However, this August will mark the first time the college will show a classic vehicle fully restored by its students.
“It’s a remarkable accomplishment,” said McPherson College President Michael Schneider. “Since the project began, nearly every student in the auto restoration program has been exposed to the restoration through classes, workshops, or as part of an internship team. For some of them, getting a chance to work on this project was why they decided to attend McPherson College. This achievement will positively impact our students and program for years. Managing this project was an enormous undertaking, and I commend the individuals, especially Brian Martin, who helped mentor our students through this process. Our friends at Paul Russell and Company, as well as the Mercedes Benz Classic Center, were excellent advisors on the project. I also thank Jay Leno, whose early and consistent support over the years has helped us flourish and reach Pebble Beach.”
Members of the student team, the Pebble Beach Scholars, college staff, and alumni will accompany the car to Pebble Beach in August. A recognition of their efforts will be celebrated during the CARS Club Motoring Festival on Saturday, May 6, at McPherson College at 2 p.m. before the awards ceremony.
Showing a student-restored car at Pebble Beach is another example of McPherson College achieving what many consider impossible. In November, the college announced a historic $500 million matching gift. To date, the college has raised over $170 million of the $250 million needed to secure the $500 million, including generous gifts from car enthusiasts Melanie and Richard Lundquist, the Rob Walton Foundation, and Dave Kinney.
About McPherson College
McPherson College is committed to its mission “To develop whole persons through scholarship, participation, and service,” in a career-focused liberal arts environment. It’s been recognized nationally by US News & World Report, Money Magazine, and the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For.” Its Automotive Restoration program is the first four-year degree program of its kind and was awarded the prestigious industry supporter of the year by International Historic Motoring. Learn about all of its programs at www.mcpherson.edu.