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18th Annual McPherson College CARS Club Show May 6th, 2017

With the 19th Annual McPherson College C.A.R.S. Club Show coming up next weekend, it seems timely to run the coverage of last year's show. This is a must-see event for any true car fans.

Few local car shows hold a candle to the annual C.A.R.S. (College Automotive Restoration Students) Club Car and Motorcycle show at McPherson College. McPherson College, a small liberal arts school in McPherson, Kansas, is the only college in the United States which offers an accredited, four-year degree program in both auto and motorcycle restoration. Because of this dedicated curriculum, the school and the C.A.R.S. Club show attract a following from die-hard enthusiasts and automotive luminaries. Many alums have gone on to become players in the car world, but return each May for the show, its attendant events, and a chance to see old friends.

Friday evening featured an evening with Bill Warner, founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Mr. Warner’s presentation, Racing Around the Rules, was a prelude to the following day’s presentation and autograph session of Cuba’s Car Culture. Mr. Warner contributed the photography to the book, which was written by Tom Cotter. Mr. Cotter is also known for writing 'The Cobra in the Barn', and hosting Hagerty's YouTube series "The Barn Find Hunter".

Friday evening also saw a gathering of student and enthusiast cars at the Cruise-In. Two full blocks of Main Street were blocked off for this informal and casual car show. No admission, no fees, no prizes, just show up and show off. It was a great preview of what was to be an impressive Saturday.

Things started early on campus Saturday morning. Breakfast was at 7:00 sharp, followed by registration at 8:00 am, with entrants being segregated to different parts of the 27-acre campus lawn depending upon year and classification. Over 320 cars, motorcycles and tractors, were on display. Close to 100 student cars were mixed in with around forty or so alumni vehicles. Numerous other entries peppered the lawn. Included in the show were a 1937 Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet which had been restored by students working for the car’s owner, a 1957 Mercedes SLS Racer Tribute (none of the originals are known to exist) built by the Mercedes Benz Classic Center (overseen by McPherson Restoration Program alum Nate Lander), and the first Chevrolet Camaro prototype.

Misters Cotter and Warner had their presentation and book signing. There was a pin striping demonstration, a trim demonstration with the new trim professor (and department head) Mike Dudley, followed by a sheet metal demonstration. After lunch, there was a performance by the All-Student Jazz Band (five of whom are Resto students), followed by the Model T build. Restoration students drive a Model T onto a dais, disassemble the car down to its larger components, then reassemble the car, and drive away, in about seven minutes. This was followed by the awards ceremony.

Matt Geist, a senior in the Restoration Program and C.A.R.S. Club president, said, “This year’s show is one of the largest we have ever had, and has some of the best entries. The SLS Tribute is the most accurate representation of the racer there is today. Only two were ever built and sent to the U.S. The Mercedes 540k is a reflection of the type of work our students can do. However, my personal favorite entry is the unrestored V-16 Cadillac.”

After the show, many attended Associate Professor Luke Chennell’s famous post-show barbecue. This gathering is not to be missed, as it is a congregation of alumni, instructors, supporters, and true car fiends, eating, drinking, and discussing all things automotive. The seemingly effortless nature of the gathering is a testament to how hard Chennell works to pull off this event. Guests stay until well after dark enjoying excellent smoked ribs, brisket, brats, and dogs, imbibing ice cold beverages, and exploring every kind of car conversation.

Garrick Green, Associate Professor of Technology and interim department head, had observations on the show weekend. “I’ve seen a lot of car shows done by the students, and this one was the best. The thing that really stood out to me is this; I’ve asked numerous people what they thought about the show, and several of the prominent guests we had on campus described this as a ‘magical’ weekend. These are people who go to Pebble Beach and many of the big concours, and they said this was a ‘magical’ weekend…and not exclusively for the car show, but for everything that is going on, for the restoration facilities, and with the students.”

Auto Restoration Vice President Amanda Gutierrez is passionate about the program, and sees its excellence reflected in the show. “The more of our alums who are out in the industry, making connections and making names for themselves, the more the reputation of the college has changed. We’ve been able to recruit differently; students who are coming here are aligned with our mission-to be the best. When you talk to faculty members in the art classes or the business classes, they love our students because they understand process, they understand how to think critically, logically.”

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