Subterranean Senatorial History Surfaces in Automotive Lab

Retired from legislative duty in 1912, when a faster monorail system ferried Washington, D.C., VIPs through a 760-foot tunnel, the 1908 Studebaker averaged 225 trips a day at the height of its civil service.

Students (joined at right by Klinger, instructor of collision repair) equip the handsome cherry-bodied vehicle with batteries which, but for increased storage capacity, are largely unchanged from the turn of the 20th century.

Because the car moved backward and forward along its "subway" route, the driver would switch seats to face the direction of travel.

While students donned gloves to work on the vehicle, a similar protective covering was placed on the vehicle's original Firestone tires.

Van Stavoren, an assistant automotive professor, works with restoration students Alex M. Koser (left), of Mount Joy, and Nicholas C. Howland, of Woodbridge, Va.

An electric 1908 Studebaker, one of two original vehicles built to shuttle passengers underground from the Old Senate Building to the U.S. Capitol (including such literal heavyweights as President William Howard Taft) is being prepped by students for a prestigious weekend event. The vehicles were nicknamed “Peg” and “Tommy” during their heyday; the former is on display at the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana, and the latter is on loan to Penn College from the William E. Swigart Jr. Automobile Museum in Huntingdon. Patricia B. Swigart, vehicle owner and one of the earliest supporters of the college’s automotive restoration technology major, has never seen “Tommy” operated under its own power – a situation that restoration students and faculty hope to remedy at the Elegance at Hershey this Friday through Sunday. Electrical students in Christopher H. Van Stavoren’s Introduction to Restoration Procedures course installed 10 batteries in the vehicle during a Tuesday class in the Parkes Automotive Technology Center. Faculty colleague Roy H. Klinger said the students’ involvement in researching and preserving the Studebaker will be documented by the Historic Vehicle Association, which recognizes the cultural significance of the automobile. Preston T. Rose, a May restoration graduate, researched a 1932 McGee Roadster that was recently displayed on the Washington Monument mall as part of the HVA’s national register of historic vehicles.

Comments – One Comment

Wow! What a neat connection to our national history! I’m sure our students and faculty will do an amazing job on this project!

Posted by Steve McCoy at June 7, 2017 at 9:13 am

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