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Student-Restored Mustang Takes Top Prize in Competition

A 1965 Ford Mustang restored by Pennsylvania College of Technology students and honored at a recent Antique Automobile Club of America meet, is maneuvered into the Madigan Library for display at the college%E2%80%99s Oct. 23 Open House. (Photo by Whitnie-rae Mays, student photographer)A 1965 Ford Mustang convertible restored by Pennsylvania College of Technology collision repair students with a little help from their friends recently won the highest honor possible in its inaugural adjudication: a first-place junior award at the prestigious Antique Automobile Club of America Eastern Regional Meet in Hershey.

The car and its top-prize trophy, the first ever won by a college on the East Coast (and only the second nationwide), will be on display in the Madigan Library during Penn College’s Oct. 23 Open House.

“It’s a big deal for a school to come in and place first in such a popular category and against some of the top restorers in the country,” said Colin W. Williamson, dean of the School of Transportation Technology. “For us to go in there and pull out a trophy at a show that is considered the culmination of the entire judging season is just amazing.”

Depending on whom one asks, entering a highly revered vehicle in a keenly competitive class at one of the nation’s largest antique automobile venues would seem at least ambitious if not wildly bold for a first showing. Ask those involved, however, and you’ll hear nothing but confidence.

“This was a monumental task for a group of students to achieve,” said Roy H. Klinger, head of the college’s collision repair department. “They were up against people who do this for a living, and their craftsmanship shone through. They clearly showed that they and Penn College have what it takes to meet the exacting standards of the restoration industry.”

After its original makeover, done at the request of the AACA Museum in Hershey, the Mustang drew considerable acclaim when it was returned for showroom display. The facility and curator Jeff Bliemeister have been crucial and ongoing partners, providing substantial encouragement to the college’s automotive program and two more cars for students to restore.

To make the Mustang worthy of serious entry in a high-end competition, however, a significant second effort was required.

“Mustang is a tough class,” said Earl L. Mowrey Jr., a board member of AACA’s Susquehannock Region chapter who was among the earliest champions of the college’s involvement in vehicle restoration. “You’re showing to a very knowledgeable group of people, aficionados who are entrenched in the nuts, bolts, the color of the tag, the scale of the radio. If it were a ’37 DeSoto, it would be different, but it’s a very heady class with a Mustang.”

Four students and Klinger were involved in the initial restoration: Micah C. Kauffman, Hughesville; Charles D. Peterson, Cogan Station; Thomas G. Sylvester III, Manalapan, N.J.; and Daniel J. Walsh, Absecon, N.J.

The task of getting the vehicle ready for a points-judging show involved a dozen more students: Owen R. Boyle, Bloomsbury, N.J.; John H. Brungard and Jacob N. Wood, Williamsport; Anthony T. Cook, Quakertown; Justin Z. Crider, Fairfield; Aaron C. Dressler, Mount Pleasant Mills; Derek H. Finkenbinder, Mount Holly Springs; John Fowler, Jersey Shore; Patrick S. McTague, Sykesville, Md.; Van A. Michael, Turbotville; Christopher W. Sysock, New Albany; and Chad J. Zepp, Hanover and two additional faculty members, Michael R. Bierly and Loren R. Bruckhart.

The restoration team prepared an exhaustive checklist, researched documentation and consulted experts on the particulars of that model year, work that continued on the car until 12:15 a.m. the morning of the show. Klinger burned the midnight oil more than anyone, camping out in his vehicle throughout the event and diligently attending to last-minute details.

“The only real competition is against yourself and your ability to meet award-winning standards,” he said, “so there was quite an outpouring of interest and of people willing to help.”

Roy H. Klinger and his collision repair students 'drive' the restored Mustang down an unlikely thoroughfare%3A the first floor of the Madigan Library.Klinger particularly noted the inestimable contributions of the Susquehannock Region, represented by Mowrey and fellow board member Ed Stroble; unexpected, yet welcome, assistance from Buckeye Automotive Restoration in Canfield, Ohio; and steadfast institutional support from Williamson and assistant dean Steven H. Wallace.

“It’s a fellowship of people at a show like this; they just appear and ask, “˜Can we help you?'” Mowrey said. “They noted a litany of things in their critique, little nuances that made a great car better. Plus, we got a prime display spot in front of the Giant Center, the crossroads of the entire venue.”

Mowrey and Klinger said offers of help transcended the Mustang; with word that Penn College is developing a degree program in automotive restoration, there was no shortage of interest in climbing aboard an already-credible enterprise.

The winning junior status means the Mustang scored a minimum of 365 at the national meet and was within 10 points of the highest scoring car in its class. Under the most ambitious and optimistic timetable, the vehicle could be entered for a senior award next spring and, if it attains that level, go on for Grand National status by October 2012.

“Are we pushing the envelope? Maybe a little bit,” Klinger admits. “But we feel our students are quite capable of performing at this level. Once we see the judging results, we’ll know where we have to improve. But we’re fairly confident that the Mustang’s body and panels are 100-percent, and that we have the correct decaling, the correct battery and authentic reproduction tires.”

In fact, the second car restored by Penn College students for the museum a 1978 Pontiac Firebird Esprit might simultaneously be competing for a junior award of its own next fall.

For more information about collision repair and other majors in the School of Transportation Technology, visit online or call 570-327-4516.

For more about Penn College, visit on the Web , email or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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