Students Restoring 1965 Ford Mustang for National Auto Museum

Daniel J. Walsh, an automotive technology management major from Absecon, N.J., preps a door panel from a 1965 Ford Mustang in Pennsylvania College of Technology%E2%80%99s collision repair laboratory. Walsh and three classmates, along with instructor Roy A. Klinger, are restoring the vehicle (visible at background) for the Antique Automobile Club of America%E2%80%99s museum in Hershey. (Photo by Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist)Four automotive students and their Pennsylvania College of Technology instructor are applying some 21st-century know-how to a car that predates them by decades: a 1965 Ford Mustang convertible that is being restored for display at the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey.

“This car definitely is a cream puff,” said Roy A. Klinger, instructor of automotive technology at the college, who is working alongside students in his Restoration/Modification class. While automobile restoration is a personal passion Klinger was smoothing out dings in his own Mustang coupe at age 15, years before he joined the faculty it also is a growing side of the industry with which he hopes to familiarize students through the new course.

Students comprising the restoration team are, from left, Charles D. Peterson, Micah C. Kauffman, Thomas G. Sylvester III and Daniel J. Walsh. (Photo by Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist)Allied with Klinger for the college’s fledgling flight into high-profile restoration are Micah C. Kauffman, of Beavertown; Charles D. Peterson, of Cogan Station; Thomas G. Sylvester III, of Manalapan, N.J.; and Daniel J. Walsh, of Absecon, N.J. The first three are enrolled in the two-year collision repair technology major; Walsh graduated in December with an associate degree in collision repair technology and is working toward a bachelor’s in automotive technology management.

“With the popularity of auctions and the growth in personal collections, the ability to go beyond fixing a rust patch to return a vehicle to car-show quality only adds to our students’ value in the workplace,” Klinger said. “Besides, they’re just enthralled by working on older vehicles!”

The team’s reverence for the project is obvious.

With gloved hands and near-surgical precision, students have carefully tagged and bagged every piece removed from the automobile entire fenders to the tiniest hardware for safekeeping until reinstallation. Numbered swatches of yellow tape dotted the exterior, marking blemishes that range from near-imperceptible water spots to dents.

Disassembled Mustang parts - protectively bagged, labeled and shelved - await reinstallation.While the students have carved out an ambitious timetable for restoring the convertible, imperfections aren’t as plentiful as one might imagine for a car that came off the Ford assembly line a quarter-century before the youngest of them was born.

“I’ve worked on new cars that are in worse condition than this,” Sylvester remarked.

Still, Klinger said he and the students are facing a “hefty goal” of having the car ready for painting when they return from Spring Break in March. The class meets twice a week in the College Avenue Labs collision repair area, leaving barely a month of instructional time in which to complete the work.

“There is a pretty big challenge in front of us: Disassemble half the car, repair the body, refinish the body, then reassemble it,” Walsh said. “We are working on a pristine piece of automobile history and are privileged to do so. I’m taking a lot of pride in this project and want it to come out looking like a top-quality show car because my name and workmanship are on it.”

Peterson is equally excited to be working on the Mustang, noting that restoration is a compelling subject to the students who have gone through the collision repair program together from day one.

The interior of an American classic. (Photo by Larry D. Kauffman, digital publishing specialist)“I believe I speak for the whole class when I say that this project is a very important part of our lives,” he said. “I also believe that our class setup couldn’t have been any better: Having the same curriculum, Dan, Micah, Tom and I have become very good friends over time. Since the first semester, we have worked very well together, which I believe will make us more productive and ensure a great quality finish.”

The project dates to the Fall 2008 semester, when museum officials learning of Penn College’s reputation from the club’s Williamsport-area Susquehannock Region chapter first discussed a joint venture. Earl L. Mowrey Jr., a part-time instructor in the college’s School of Construction and Design Technologies, and Ed Stroble (both members of the chapter’s board of directors) were instrumental in furthering the project and are overseeing the work as it progresses.

The finishing touch to the restoration project will be a new paint job, delivered via one of the latest innovations in auto-body technology. PPG Industries recently donated a waterborne basecoat system to the School of Transportation Technology that, boasting a smooth finish and a drying time significantly less than solvent-based application, quickly is becoming the industry standard for many automakers and their dealerships.

This is the first time that the museum has collaborated with an educational institution, but curator Jeff Bliemeister is confident that the work by Klinger’s students will become a model for future joint projects not only with Penn College, but with AACA chapters throughout the country.

The 1965 Mustang convertible arrives on campus in August for its spring-semester makeover.“We get a lot of cars here that need attention,” he said. “We might get 36 vehicles in a year, from a $200,000 showpiece to somebody’s $500 used car.” And he already has his eyes on the next one that he hopes will pique the college’s interest: a 1978 Pontiac Firebird donated to the museum by its original owner.

As for the iconic vehicle currently benefiting from students’ painstaking attention, Bliemeister said it will focally figure into the museum’s “Mustang Turns 50” exhibit planned for 2014. Popular with patrons even with its flaws, he added, the car assuredly will find heightened appreciation once restored to its original beauty.

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