Car restoration took a lot of student effort

Anyone who's ever undertaken a project that seems to go on forever, despite help from countless car buddies, can draw some inspiration from the jet black 1936 Buick Special brought back to life by the McPherson College Automobile Restoration Program.

"It's been here 16 or 17 years," said Chris Paulsen, a project manager and instructor at the program. "I started here as a student 15 years ago, and it was all apart then ... previous classes had started restoring it. The rear of the body from a parts car had already been grafted on. Mechanically it was very solid, but everything needed to be rebuilt," said Paulsen.

"There were several years where it was pushed aside and not worked on. Probably 100 different students have worked on it over the years," he said.

All that work paid off at an Antique Automobile Club of America judging meet in Topeka in September, as the car collected its First Junior award, the highest honor a car can earn in its first AACA judging.

Another Restoration Program car, a 1923 Model T restored by students, along with the 1935 Auburn Convertible Sedan restored by Richard Dove, an assistant professor of technology in the auto program, also scored First Junior awards. Dove's Auburn, which took 11 years to complete, was featured on the May 13, 2007, Wheels page.

Everything from overhauling and detailing the straight-8 OHV engine and 3-speed transmission in the '36 Buick to stitching the mohair upholstery, painting the deep black finish and creating a correct fabric-covered wiring harness was handled by students as part of their education.

"We tried to do it as authentically as possible," said Paulsen. "The judges picked up on a couple of details that we overlooked. My guess is that it probably scored 385 out of 400 points," he said.

"It's a great road car, and it shows well," said Paulsen. The '36 Buick was donated to the program by a Pennsylvania collector and will eventually be sold to raise funds for the Restoration Program.

But they just may keep it around for a while and see if all that hard work, research and dedication can earn the big black Buick a First Senior award from the AACA.