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An End of Auto Restoration Specialists As Endangered Species

In order to enjoy cars and the company of like-minded people, we’re going to have to make sure we have people to repair and maintain our classic cars.

By jeff mason

April 23, 2021

New Problems

While fossil fuels will run out one day, there could be oil fields full of the stuff left as we run out of the people who actually know how to repair and maintain our beloved gas-powered cars, especially restoration specialists. There are two jobs available for every one auto service student who leaves school eager to apply their newly acquired knowledge.

Collectively, car enthusiasts spend $100 billion on their hobby each year but don’t give back to those areas of car culture that need funding. We raise lots of money for great causes but, in 2019, less than $4 million was put into automotive related initiatives. That’s a 0.0004% give back. As a result, events, clubs, and museums struggle, and the number of qualified restoration specialists continues to dwindle.

It’s not surprising. Who is there to channel the giving strength of car enthusiasts back into the hobby they love? You could argue that the same people who can engineer all the great things cars can do and invent so many ways to enjoy these machines should be able to solve this problem.

We have. It’s called the Piston Foundation.

The Frank Buonanno Scholarship Fund will young people pursue careers in collector car restoration.

New Solutions

This non-profit organization is different in several ways. The aim is to create a national fundraising platform that has the infrastructure and resources to take action on the issues facing car culture today. Recognizing that restoration specialists are an endangered species is just the first step; this thing is so big that no one company or philanthropist can take care of it.

That’s another way in which the Foundation is different. We’re thinking big and new. Cars borrowed some ideas from the horse and buggy (we still call it coach building) but they brought were absolute brand new ideas, too. (Sit in a box with a burning fire so that wheels would propel you faster than anyone had ever moved before.) When we say we’re going to implement new fundraising solutions, we mean that and we mean to invite every single person who loves transportation—motorcycle lovers, electric vehicle fans, and those who think autonomous cars will be a Godsend. We all have something in common, and that’s an appreciation of the machines.

Call cars a passport to freedom or a ticket back in time, there’s something there that resonates with us. The Piston Foundation is here to champion the right to drive and the right to repair, and definitely to give props due to those who take the time and have the talent to spend their professional careers on automobiles.

We seem to have lost that sense of awe for people who can diagnose and repair, who can take a corroded or misshapen body back to original contours, who know how to shape a panel, who can prep a car for a concours or the track, and who can make us smile.

The Frank Buonanno Scholarship Fund

The Piston Foundation is working to raise funds in innovative ways, such as taking familiar concepts like legacy funds to new heights. We’re proud to announce that John Buonanno, co-owner of the Black Horse Garage, is honoring his father, Frank, with a scholarship that will provide educational opportunities for students who seek careers in collector car restoration.

John Buonanno walking through Black Horse Garage.

As John says, “A business like Black Horse Garage is only as good as the people who work on the cars.”

Frank’s story is one of hard work, skill, and fun. The Foundation will be proud to share that story with car enthusiasts in our upcoming national fundraising campaign.

Follow the Piston Foundation to learn more about Frank, the scholarship in his name, and the ideas that we’re implementing to usher in the next era of car culture, which will keep the best parts of it for everyone to enjoy.

Photo of Kingsbury Racing Shop by Amy Shore Photography.

Support skilled trade education for future auto restoration technicians.


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