Stepping onto the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach before dawn to judge some of the most exquisite automobiles at one of the most prestigious events in the world is a rare opportunity. For McPherson College Automotive Restoration students, it is an opportunity that is not so far out of reach. Four McPherson College students recently returned from serving as shadow judges this year at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
McPherson College has been taking students to Pebble Beach since 2012 to involve them in the automotive industry at its highest level. Students Aaron Israel, Abigayle Morgan, Ben Falconer, and Dalton Whitfield, were invited this year to join the teams of expert judges who brought more than 2,000 years of judging experience to the field. The students were assigned to classes and fully participated in the judging experience.
Dalton Whitfield, a senior from Cleveland, Georgia, shadowed judges in the Pre-war Preservation Class and worked with judges eager to share their considerable knowledge with him. “The judges were incredible and willing to show me what they were looking for, from correct places of wear over time to original fabric and paint composition,” he said. “I learned that judging preservation is more like judging an artifact from a museum rather than a restored car.”
McPherson College is recognized in the Pebble Beach program and at its events as a leader in automotive restoration education and the Pebble Beach Company Foundation annually awards four scholarships to McPherson College students. The Foundation has also supported several McPherson College interns, helping defray living expenses while they gain experience. The college’s participation at the event has made it possible for students to experience the industry at its highest level.
“Being engaged with the top players in any industry is unreal, but the automotive industry is a different story than most others,” Aaron Israel, a senior from West End, North Carolina, said. He was part of the team that judged the Early Open-Wheel Race Cars Class.
“Being an automotive restoration student at McPherson College allows us to communicate with leaders in the industry on a personal level because they truly care about our futures,” Israel said. “They realize that students like us are the future of their industry. We are in a growing industry of people who have a passion about their future, their careers, and their hobbies.”
The college’s presence at Pebble Beach extends beyond its current students. McPherson College alumni are highly involved at the Concours at the auction houses, restoration shops, historical archives, in public relations and as automotive specialists for companies like Hagerty and RM Sotheby’s. While many McPherson College alumni are at the event working for a variety of companies there, others work for months prior to the event restoring cars that are shown. This year at least five recent alumni worked on automobiles ranging from Rolls Royces to Ferraris that were accepted to show at Pebble Beach.
“Alumni are a vital part of the restoration program and they provide an outlook on future job possibilities,” Abigayle Morgan, a junior from Lansing, Illinois, said. “It was inspiring to see friends and graduates who are successful in their respected markets. I could see myself in them. They went through the same classes I am going through, and lived in the same dorms I did. I love to see the various avenues that this degree has taken alumni. It is a great motivator.”
The Concours, held on August 20, was the final event of the Monterrey Car Week, a week full of events celebrating classic automobiles. Although judging at Pebble Beach was the highlight for the students, they also were recognized at a reception for patrons of the Pebble Beach Foundation, toured the paddock area of Laguna-Seca raceway during vintage races, watched the start of the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance, and attended several other events.
“Pebble Beach is the Disney World and Super Bowl for automobiles,” said Morgan, who helped judge the Rolls Royce Class. Her classmate Ben Falconer agreed.
Falconer, a sophomore from Greeley, Colorado, who helped judge the One-Off Ferrari Class said, “I not only experienced my first Concours, I got to experience it from an insider’s view. Being so young in this industry is often tough, we might not be taken seriously, but experiencing Pebble Beach and applying what we are learning there helps us prove ourselves.”