This article is a profile of the 2018 McPherson College C.A.R.S. Club Show. The 2019 show happens this coming weekend, May 3rd and 4th, 2019, and is a must for any enthusiast.
When you look around McPherson, Kansas, you see a little, stereotypically rural Kansas town. The population numbers around 13,000 residents. Main Street was likely built early in the 20th century, with improvements and changes along the way, but still has the undeniable small-town Midwestern feel. It looks like a thousand other little towns scattered across mid-America. To discount it as such would be a staggering miscalculation, because you are in the center of auto restoration nirvana.
McPherson College is the only college in the United States which offers an accredited, four-year degree program in auto restoration. Due to the program’s exclusivity, and the staff’s dedication to teaching students excellence in restoration, the movers and shakers of the collector car world have embraced the program.
Every May, the C.A.R.S. (College Auto Restoration Students) Club organize a car show. But this isn’t just any car show. The attendees are a Who’s Who of the collector car world. Among this year’s guests were Craig Jackson of Barrett Jackson Auctions, Dennis Gage of My Classic Car (Dennis was filming an episode), Tom Cotter, host of Hagerty’s Barn Find Hunter YouTube series, Mike Kunz of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, Jonathan Klinger, VP of Public Relations for Hagerty Insurance, Paul Russell of the famous Paul Russel & Co. restorations, and auto journalist Dave Kinney, to name a few.
Friday evening featured Mr. Jackson’s presentation “An Evening with Auto Restoration”, a retrospective of the collector car community, and history of the Barrett Jackson Auction. Immediately after the presentation, a gathering of student and enthusiast cars flooded Main Street for 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 is the annual precursor of what is coming Saturday morning.
Things start early on campus. Breakfast is at 7:00 am, registration begins at 8:00. Entrants are directed around the 27-acre campus lawn depending upon year and classification of entry. This year’s turnout was the best in history, with just over 400 entries. Over 100 of those were student vehicles. Numerous alumni entries were sprinkled across the grounds. Feature cars included in the show were CSX 2409, a 1964 AC Cobra with a USRRC race pedigree, resplendent in orange with yellow stripes. A beautiful orange pearl 1932 Ford custom roadster from Mr. Jackson’s collection was also on display. A brilliantly restored 1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster was on the field, along with a 1913 Mercer racer.
The afternoon featured a performance by the All-Student Jazz Band (many of whom are Restoration Program 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). This year, the students did themselves proud, breaking all previous time records, and completing the build in just over six minutes.
After the show, program alums gather at Associate Professor Luke Chennell’s famous post-show barbecue. This gathering is not to be missed. The food is plentiful, adult beverages ice cold, and company a gathering of car aficionados and fiends difficult to replicate. This gathering is the capper to what some have described as, “the best weekend all year”. Guests stay well into the night, catching up on all things car related.
When asked about his thoughts on this year’s show, McPherson alum and Hagerty Insurance VP of Public Relations Jon Klinger had the following to say: “This year was a high-water mark, absolutely. It’s a testament to the faculty, and the students, and also the industry support. You’ve got Paul Russell, you’ve got Mike Kunz and the Mercedes Benz Classic Center, Dennis Gage was here, Craig Jackson was here, all the names you are familiar with. More importantly, it’s reflective of how the Automotive Restoration Program at McPherson College continues to improve, year-over-year. I speak nothing but positively about my experience going through this program, but it is light years ahead now compared to what it was.” Program alum William Bossa said, “Fantastic show. Well done, well organized, lots of nice folks here this year”. Speaking about the school, Bossa continued, “It’s an excellent program. I want to see it continue and grow. We have excellent quality students coming through, and the quality of the education is excellent as well.”