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McPherson Automotive Restoration Student Shares His Experience

Aidan Klaas is a freshman at McPherson College and was kind enough to share his experience with the Piston Foundation.

By Robert Minnick

December 31, 2021

I’ve been into cars for as long as I can remember. If it makes a loud noise, I like it!

I bought a 1970 Chevy Nova when I was 14. That’s been a longstanding project. I pulled the motor and rebuilt it. I also fabricated new floor pans. It took a while to get the gremlins out but it finally became a nice driving machine. In high school, I drove a 1969 Chevy Truck, C20. I did more metal fabrication on that.

My dad is a mechanic so that helped push me in the right direction. You can also learn a lot on the Internet, especially YouTube. I was watching Tom Cotter’s Barn Find when I first learned about McPherson and the four-year program in automotive restoration. When I saw that, I thought I’d give it a shot and apply. I got in, and now I’m earning my bachelor’s degree in automotive restoration, taking liberal arts and technical classes.

The Piston Foundation aims to break down financial barriers to automotive restoration education. Do you agree that it’s challenging to pay for this kind of education?

It’s a little tough and I’m grateful for programs like the Student Debt Project. When we work in the summer or while we’re in school, McPherson pays us back $.25 on every dollar we earn. They’re rewarding that work ethic. I also have a scholarship so that financial aid helps, too, because education is quite expensive.

What do you think about the automotive restoration program at McPherson College?

I’m three months into the program and I love it. There’s an awesome community of car people here. I’m having a lot of fun and fitting in quite well.

The Model T Team does competitive teardowns and rebuilds in under five minutes. I’d like to get on that team next semester. There’s something fun about working with your hands and Model T’s are nice and simple, like a tractor.

Right now, I’m taking the social history of the automobile and public speaking… and math and English. As a liberal arts college, you take these kinds of courses. Next semester I’m taking an engines class and I am really excited for that.

What’s the best thing about studying at McPherson?

That’s probably the community. I’m getting along quite well with an awesome group of people. I’m from Minnesota and, during the first week of school, I was walking around Templeton Hall, where they have the auto restoration program, and an upperclassman introduced himself. He showed us projects he was working on. There are a lot of awesome projects out here. One of the guys is working on a Porsche 365 race car with a pink pig color scheme and another friend is working on a 68 LeMans that is made into a drag car. That’s pretty impressive.

After you graduate and have our degree in automotive restoration, what do you want to do?

My dream job would be to get into vintage racing. I have been working on old sheet metal since before I got my driver’s license. To me, that would be the cherry on top. And I would absolutely love to drive fast on a track. Anything from a Raceabout car to a Porsche 911 would be quite cool to drive, or even work on trackside.

What would someone be surprised to learn about McPherson College?

When I first walked into Templeton Hall, I was impressed with all the machines and tools available. You name it, they got it. Having access to things like rotisseries makes the job easier. In some ways, it’s good to come here with experience but there are also bad habits to break. I have cut spot welds in the past, but here, they have the tools to do it correctly.

Do you find that most students arrive with a background in working on cars?

It’s about half and half. Half of the students have been doing their projects and half aren’t very mechanically inclined but they love cars and know they want to get into this field as a career.
For me, I’ve found something that I feel comfortable doing for the rest of my life.

Support skilled trade education for future auto restoration technicians.


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