Gullwing project offers unique experience
Alums know how important partnerships with restoration professionals across the country are for AR students. Internships provide a wide range of valuable career-focused experiences during their time at McPherson College. Experiences like the one Tim Kortebein, a senior from St. Joseph, Missouri, received this past summer at the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California provide unique learning opportunities for MC students.
Kortebein worked as an intern at the Classic Center where he was hired to restore the interior of a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL (Gullwing). The Gullwing’s interior had been redone in the 1980s; it was well-used and not authentic. Kortebein disassembled everything from door panels, sun visors, carpet, seats, and the leather wrapped dashboard to recreate the original patterns and began the restoration.
Kortebein’s craftsmanship was so impressive that the Classic Center was interested in him finishing the project after his internship ended and he returned to campus. This fall, the Classic Center shipped the seats to McPherson College where he is now in the process of finishing them. The seats will be sent back and reassembled for final presentation at a car show in August.
“I was given autonomy to manage the project and worked independently,” Kortebein said. “I learned a lot about time management and organization to see a project through to completion.”
This wasn’t the first unique experience for the AR student. Kortebein also worked as a shadow mechanic for the Copperstate 1000 in the spring of 2016.
Partnerships with professionals in industry allow the AR program to offer exceptional learning experiences that can only be found at McPherson College. The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center not only offers high quality internship opportunities, but also employs five AR graduates including Clint Allen ‘08, Nick Antonio ‘07, Wes Anderson ‘15, Ethan Lundy ‘14, and Nate Lander ‘02, project workshop manager. Additionally, Mike Kunz, Classic Center manager, serves on the program’s national advisory board.
Alumni are one of the greatest resources for the program; if you have suggestions for internships or other industry opportunities, please contact Amanda Gutierrez, vice president of automotive restoration, email@example.com.
Student reflects on fall trip
Editor’s Note: Each year at fall break, the Automotive Restoration program plans a short collections tour for students who remain on campus during the extended weekend. This year’s tour went to Oklahoma where students had the opportunity to see a variety of early automobiles and speak with owners about the collections. Xander Lehn, a sophomore from Cameron Park, California, reflects on his experiences during the trip.
A mentor once told me, “Take every opportunity presented to you or someone else will.” When the fall break trip was announced, I made sure I didn’t waste the chance to experience the once-in-a-lifetime collections we would visit in Oklahoma. We were welcomed into four separate collections, each with its own workshop. Seeing the different collections showed us how car collectors and shops can have different goals for the work they do and how they plan to use their vehicles.
The first stop was John Groendyke’s garage that is heavily stocked with classic cars from the 1930’s packing V16 engines. He made sure we didn’t overlook his European race cars that are still driven and raced today.
At the second collection, owned by Jim Bradley, we learned how he spent years taking cars to concours events and shows, but now was changing his goals to use his cars more regularly. When we visited, he was in the midst of impeccably restoring a 1913 Packard.
The next day we checked out Ted Davis’ compound. I felt at home around his array of air-cooled Franklin cars after driving air-cooled Volkswagens for the last seven years. Mr. Davis has multiple businesses, including a machine shop he occasionally used for his own research and development.
The last collection we visited was Don Boulton’s private collection. He and his vehicles made a big impression on me. Every vehicle he owned was from before 1915. At 92 years old, he seemed as passionate about each one as he ever could be. Mr. Boulton enthusiastically threw open the hood on any vehicle we asked about because he wanted us to see the mechanical variety during that time period.
When he sat down after our tour of his place, I asked him how he got started in cars and restoration. Mr. Boulton told me of his family business repairing car parts during World War II and how it thrived because new parts were scarce due to wartime manufacturing efforts. His family’s success and his own role within that business gave him the ability to restore and preserve fantastic pieces of history. He spoke of how he worked with a small handful of technicians over the years who built things he needed from scratch and who always made the cars come out top notch. His collection ranged from quick, the Mercer Raceabout, to early electric automobiles and even vintage motorcycles. Mr. Boulton’s enthusiasm for sharing his cars and taking a moment to pass on his experiences to me was the icing on the cake for that great trip.
Private shops, like the ones we visited, strike me as a divine intersection between people who can back a project and restorers who can bring the project to life. I think seeing the different ways shops run and operate is important preparation for a career in restoration. I would do the trip again if I could, and I know I’ll continue to take advantage of the opportunities offered through the AR program, because you never know what’s in store.
The Mercedes-Benz 300S Pebble Beach Concours Project has always been about more than getting a car on the field at Pebble Beach. As student teams begin the process of restoring the 300S, valuable learning opportunities are taking place. In October, Richard Barnes from Paul Russell and Company spent several days on campus working with students. According to Professor Michael Dudley, Barnes is one of the best trimmers in the world.
“His work, along with Derrick Dunbar, the other trimmer at Paul’s shop, on the 1928 Mercedes Benz 280S that won Best of Show at Pebble in 2012 is stunning,” Professor Dudley said.
While on campus, Barnes spent time with students in the trim lab doing demonstrations and explaining techniques that will help students restore the top of the 300S.
Mercedes-Benz 300S Project Highlights:
- This summer an enthusiastic group of summer student workers disassembled, stripped and primed the 300S. The students also constructed an engine run-stand for class demonstrations.
- The fall semester student team is doing tedious, but important, work such as cleaning and inspecting parts; further break downs of the sub-assemblies; and taking inventory of parts to identify what is missing or needs to be replaced.
- Students are also taking on a challenging project to manufacture and repair damage found on the boxed sheet metal frame.
- Several surprises were discovered in the process: uncovering the amount of past damage and repairs that have been done to the lower portions of the front fenders; rotted-out headlight buckets; severe damage to the lower halves of the rocker frame rails; and considerable rust in the spare wheel wells and trunk area.
- Next steps include continuing to work on the manufacture of frame rail replacement, paint and reassemble the front suspension and brakes, disassembly of the engine, and starting construction on the interior of the project.
The student project team will continue work on some tasks, while others will be utilized as opportunities for faculty or more guest-led seminars to allow more students a chance to learn and be a part of this project.
A group of current AR students partnered with Graphic Design students to showcase the interesting and unique projects that are continually going on at the sheds. Although not officially part of the McPherson College program, the sheds have always offered fertile ground for hands-on learning. We hope you enjoy Shed Finds – a video collection that will be featured in the alumni newsletter. You can view the full-length version of this video at YouTube.com/Shed Finds.
Like Shed Finds on Facebook and follow on Instagram.