college mcp-logo-header-white mcpherson

AR Summer Institute

Learn auto restoration skills in convenient workshops at the Automotive Restoration Institute.

About the Institute

The same expert instructors and top-notch facility that have made McPherson College’s Auto Restoration Program famous are available to hobbyists and professionals.

Each class concentrates on a specific skill area and is 5 days in length. You learn restoration by doing restoration with hands-on experience.

Enrollment in each class is limited so all participants benefit from personal attention by our expert instructors with ample time on equipment. With this one-on-one approach, no matter what level of skill you have, you will increase your restoration expertise.

Classes include valuable information on locating tools, materials, and parts. In many cases, you can bring parts from your current restoration project to work on.

2020 Schedule

Classes will be announced and online registration will be available later in Fall 2019.


These classes are designed for hobbyist and beginners of all ages and interests. Everyone comes with different skill levels and knowledge so they will build from the basics. Classes will start with brief histories and fundamentals of the knowledge needed but the goal is to get students in to the labs as soon as possible and start doing.

3-D Design & Printing

This class introduces participants to Onshape 3D CAD software through the creation of parts, assemblies, and mechanical drawings. The workshop utilizes a variety of instructional methods including lectures, hands-on classroom projects, and personal projects. Also included is an introduction to 3D printing. Participants will be able to use these skills to design, prototype, and reproduce simple automotive parts.

Automatic Transmissions

Learn about the development, operation, and rebuilding of automatic transmissions. Torque converters, planetary gear sets and control circuits will be covered.   Specific transmissions covered include the major Ford (C4+C6), GM (Powerglide, TH 350, 400), and Chrysler (727, 904) units, though the class content is applicable to all automatic transmissions. Students are welcome to bring their own projects, though consulting with the instructor beforehand is highly encouraged to be sure the scope of the project is appropriate. In addition, historical development of semi-automatic and other unusual transmissions will be discussed. In the shop, students will learn of different tools and techniques involved in rebuilding automatic transmissions, including pressure checks, specialty tools, and adjustment / repair of units in the car.

Automotive Woodworking

During this class we will work through making a 1929 Stutz Blackhawk rear door frame from plans. This project will require: project planning, material selection, glue ups, woodworking machines and hand tool use, and finishing. The completed door frame will be perfect for making a skin in advanced sheetmetal by the way. Most people that I have spoken to about automotive woodworking want to know about replacing sections of rotted wood in their pre-‘30s cars or making a “Woodie” from scratch. I focus a bit more on the wood replacement topic than scratch-building a body, but most techniques used for the former also apply to the latter. No previous woodworking experience is necessary.


In this class, we’ll cover engines with poured Babbitt bearings; from the earliest engines through the late- 1930’s. The class will start with a discussion on the history of Babbitt, and the various types of Babbitt, and which types are best for different applications. Participants will try different pouring procedures. Then we’ll set-up an engine to be machined, using antique and modern line-boring equipment. Both main bearings and connecting rod bearings will be covered. After machining, we’ll assemble the engines with proper clearances. We’ll also tighten an engine with used bearings, and discuss maintenance tips and techniques.

Brakes Systems

Learn how to properly restore mechanical and hydraulic brakes. Students will gain experience with a number of different kinds of brakes, including external contracting drums, internal expanding drums, and disc brakes. Both mechanical and hydraulic systems will be discussed, including the proper adjustment of mechanical systems, relining, arching, and centering shoes, and common brake system modifications. Students will learn the proper techniques for rebuilding master cylinders, wheel cylinders, and disc brake calipers. We will discuss historical development of brakes from the earliest shoe-type brakes to contemporary modern 4-wheel disc systems, including some unusual and different approaches to stopping a vehicle. In the shop, students will learn the necessary skills to ensure a vehicle stops properly every single time.

Drive Train Restoration

Learn how to rebuild and restore manual transmissions and drive axles. Students will go through in-depth disassembly and assembly of transmissions and rear axle assemblies ranging from Model Ts to 1970s cars. Historical development of automotive drive trains, including front wheel drive, four wheel drive and unusual power transmission systems will be covered.

Students can expect to learn in-depth mechanical techniques for removal of rusty and broken fasteners, tips and tricks on achieving different finishes on mechanical components, and insight into the judging process and places to pick up a few extra points. The College will provide demonstration projects, though students are welcome to bring a project of their own. Consulting with the instructor beforehand is highly recommended to be sure the scope of the project is appropriate and that parts are available before proceeding.

Engine Rebuilding

This is a hands on engine rebuilding course designed around the hobbyist. The course will kick off with diagnosing engine problems focusing on mechanical issues to determine what repairs are necessary. Following diagnosis correct disassembly, inspection, and measuring procedures will be covered in order to choose the correct machine shop operations. We will then correctly assemble the engines inspecting clearances and adjustments to factory specifications. The cap of the class will be running one of the engines rebuilt in the class focusing on proper setup, startup and break in procedures.

Engine Tune-Up & Diagnostic

Learn how to make your classic run the way it should. This class covers trouble shooting of the mechanical condition of the engine. Then basic ignition system operation and components will be covered with in-depth of diagnostics using an array of tools from engine scopes, digital multi meters and the basic test light. We will learn how to inspect and adjust ignition timing, vacuum advance and mechanical advance. We will cover the fuel system learning the basic systems on the carburetor and how they interact. Wrapping this piece up with carburetor rebuilding including bench and on car adjustments along with diagnosis with gas analyzers and basic tools.

Fine Woodworking

This class is designed for the beginner who wants to learn the crucial basics upon which greater expertise can be gained. Experienced woodworkers may also benefit from this class as we really focus on the foundations needed for ultimate craftsmanship. We will practice these skills by making a handsome assembly mallet.

Tools – Participants need not provide their own tools as we have tools for you to use and get comfortable with. Upon completion, you will be able to make informed decisions about purchasing tools that will suit your needs and budget. We will be dedicating some time for sharpening and tuning up hand tools, so bring any tools you want to sharpen.


Using a metal lathe can be very useful in the old car world. This class focuses on the proper set-up and use of the venerable South Bend tool room lathe (and its kind). These work horse machines can turn bushings, make precise shafts, cut threads, knurl, precision measuring with an outside micrometer, depth micrometer, Vernier caliper, height gauge, and telescoping gauges.


This class is design to teach the fundamental principles in automotive paint restoration. Procedures include bare substrate preparation, application and use of primers, block sanding, application of final finish, color/wet sanding, and polishing. Through the week two test panels are painted with an emphasis on correct procedures, administered through both classroom teaching and lab experience. The first test panel will we used for the application of single-stage paint, while the second test panel will be used for the application of basecoat and clear coat materials.

Paint – Advanced

Where the Introduction to Paint class focuses on the basics of painting by painting one single-stage test panel and one basecoat/clear coat test panel, the Advanced Paint class focuses on more complex paint projects. The goal is to get time behind the paint gun on more challenging projects or to delve deeper into body work procedures. Participants are encouraged to bring a part of their choice from a personal project if possible. Participants who are unable to bring their own project will be provided with one to work on. A detailed agenda becomes more difficult to create for this week simply because of the complexity of time with a variation of projects. All five days will be spent in the lab for this week.

Sheetmetal Restoration – Metal Shaping & Welding

An introduction to metal shaping using hand tools, shrinker/stretchers, the English wheel, the power hammer, bead roller, and Pullmax machine.

An introduction to the welding and cutting processes commonly used to repair antique automobile sheetmetal: oxy-acetylene welding, brazing, and cutting, MIG and TIG welding, plasma cutting. An introduction to metal shaping using hand tools, shrinker/stretchers, the power hammer, bead roller, and Pullmax machine. Dent repair, lead body solder application, weld finishing, and patch panel fabrication/replacement are also covered.

Sheetmetal Restoration – Advanced

A highly individualized course of study for the serious hobbyist. Course content varies according to needs of participants. Topics covered typically include advanced metal shaping and fabrication techniques, copying shapes and making patterns, welding multi-piece panels. Extended time working on a personal project if desired. Must have taken Sheetmetal Restoration from Ed Barr. Students are encouraged to bring a project after consulting with instructor.

Small Parts Reproductions

In this class, we’ll explore various ways to reproduce small automotive parts and methods that will allow you to do it at home. We will make patterns, sand molds, and cast parts in aluminum and bronze. We’ll reproduce plastic parts using rubber molds. We will stamp parts using simple, homemade dies. We will perform nickel-plating, copper-plating, and copy-cadmium plating. All of these processes will be taught with the home-hobbyist in mind. Participants are welcome to bring some parts in to work on. Please contact instructor for more information and your potential projects.

Upholstery and Trim

Learn the fundamentals of automotive upholstery restoration and replacement. Participants will use industrial sewing machines to learn the basics of constructing interior components such as seats (including various types of seams, piping, & seat cover styles), and door panels. To learn the construction techniques, a packet of sewing exercises will be given to each participant. Each exercise will be demonstrated by the instructor and then participants will be given time in the lab to practice with the instructor’s guidance. In addition to lab time, time will also be spent in the classroom going over the history and various materials and processes (e.g. upholstery fabrics, tools, foundations, pattern making, headliner & top installation) of automotive trim work.

Upholstery and Trim – Advanced

This class is for students who want to spend their time exclusively in the trim lab honing their skills. Preferably, participants in this class will have taken the fundamental Upholstery and Trim class previously. Instruction will be catered to student requests and personal projects. It is encouraged that students bring their own trim projects for this week, but it is not required.