As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, like many of you reading this magazine, I often worry about the next generation coming along. What will happen to all of the vast knowledge we have acquired during our lifetime and will that knowledge get passed on to the next generation?
I have witnessed firsthand the pouring of Babbitt rod bearings, not because I am that old (59 as I write this), but because I was lucky enough to be born when they still did that job at the local machine shop. By the time I came along, it was a once or twice a year event. I spent a lot of time in the local machine shop because I always had a passion for old technology and learning how mechanical things worked, and how those things got fixed when they didn’t.
At the local machine shop, the once-retired machinist was the one called back to work on the early engine projects. That is when the hands-on lessons took place. It was myself, and the full-time machinist in his 40s, who watched the master at work.
Once I asked the younger machinist why he was taking the time to learn how to pour Babbitt rod bearings when chances are he would not use those skills in another dozen years.
He simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “The older generation ain’t going to be around forever and somebody needs to know how to do this…and that somebody might as well be me…”
Well… that conversation was more than 40 years ago and both of those machinists have passed on. So now what? Where can you get an education or find somebody who knows how to pour Babbitt rod bearings and overhaul engines built before the war?
For that matter, many of the other automotive related trades that were taught “hands-on” back in the day are disappearing. Do you know anybody that can shrink or stretch metal?
The desire and popularity of owning an antique or classic vehicle is as strong today as it has ever been. More people are discovering the quality, the individual styling, and the pride in owning and driving an antique vehicle. But as many of those collector car owners have discovered, finding somebody to work on their pride and joy can be a challenge.
There is a solution – it is the McPherson College Automotive Restoration Program in McPherson, KS where they teach students all of the skills necessary to completely restore an antique vehicle. McPherson College is the only place in the country where a student can earn a four-year accredited degree in automotive restoration.
The students have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals in class along with hands-on experience. Students also gain practical experience by working during the summer months as interns in some of the most prestigious automotive restoration shops in the country, including Jay Leno’s Garage. Upon graduation, those students are in top demand as the older generations retire.
So, a graduate from McPherson College would likely have a leg up if a customer has an antique vehicle. They will know what is historically correct and will have the skills necessary to do the job right, even if that involves machining a part that no longer exists. There are many McPherson College graduates working in automotive restoration shops across the country. In addition, many McPherson College graduates have gone on to start their own restoration shops.
If all of this sounds fascinating but you are older and are already established with a career and obligations, or are retired but always wanted to learn a few of the skills necessary to work on an antique vehicle yourself, but don’t have the time to pursue a four-year degree, you’re in luck!
Automatic Transmission Rebuilding / Automatic Electrical Systems / Automatic Machining – Mill & Lathe / Automatic Paint / Automatic Woodworking / Brightwork and Finishing Touches / Drivetrain Rebuilding / Engine Rebuilding / Engine Tune Up & Diagnostic / Fine Woodworking / Sheetmetal Restoration / Small Parts Reproduction / Upholstery and Trim
For more information, visit www.mcpherson.edu/autorestoration/
McPherson College also offers three-week long classes focused on specific subjects, where you will learn hands-on the specific skill set you sign up for. Nothing is better than learning from the experts. Above is a list of the 2017 summer classes offered.
As you can see, those classes are focused on specific details. If you see a class that is of interest to you, call early, because the classes sell out quickly. There are a limited number of students allowed in each class so you get personal attention that helps you learn what you signed up for.
Our future is in good hands thanks in part to McPherson College. The skills needed to maintain our antique vehicles will be around for years to come.