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Piston Stories

The Next Generation of Restoration Specialists at the Cavallino Classic

The Cavallino Classic is a partner of the Piston Foundation. Their generous support is helping to open career opportunities for young people in the classic car industry through our scholarship and apprenticeship programs. This article was originally published in the April/May issue of Cavallino Magazine.

By Jeff Mason

The Cavallino Classic Leads the Way

“Opportunities do not exist without vision and action,” Luigi Orlandini, chairman and CEO of Canossa as well as the new owner of the Cavallino Classic, explained why he announced his support for the Piston Foundation at the exclusive concorso d’eleganza held this past January in Palm Beach, Florida.

Some of the finest — and certainly many of the rarest — Ferrari automobiles in the world rolled along a red carpet as Robert P. Minnick, founder and CEO of the Piston Foundation, presented one of the coveted awards and Orlandini told the 2,000 attendees gathered for the concorso d’eleganza, “Rob has established a very important initiative with the Piston Foundation. I decided to help him in his project to help younger people who are passionate about cars through their careers in classic car restoration.”

The Piston Foundation will connect a new generation of craftspeople with the educational opportunities they need to step into the unfilled positions that exist in the classic car industry today.

The Classic Car Industry is Invested

Seven years ago, Jim Wallner, operations manager with Motion Products, Inc., asked how his organization could continue to provide award-winning classic car restoration as people retired without anyone coming in to replace them. “Kids didn’t know what it was we did or, if they came to work here, it wasn’t what they expected or wanted.”

The solution was to meet potential employees where they were. Wallner said, “It was a matter of getting the kids to understand. The best thing we did was to get involved at the local high school and explain to kids what was available in this field. Until they see it and can try, they don’t really know.”

Like Orlandini, Wallner wants to support the Piston Foundation’s mission. “The foundation wants to make sure people can access training. We’re doing some of that now but it’d be better to do it together because I can’t do what the foundation can: reach out to people and form a community so students and apprentices know where to go and what to do.”

Community impact can extend support to restoration shops as they invest in employees who will be productive with an organization for the long-term. Wallner said, “There are risks when you take on someone new. You lose some productivity. And what happens if you put three months into a person and they decide this is not the job for them? You can’t get back those hours and payroll.”

Restoration Specialist Opportunities

“The big thing with kids my age is not finding that passion,” Ben Falconer, painter at MPI and McPherson College graduate, feels events like Cavallino and a foundation supporting the car community will connect people with opportunities that open doors to a new world. “This industry as a whole is amazing. I’ve been introduced to projects I’ve never imagined working on.”

Falconer and his coworker, Nick Fisher, attended Cavallino as part of MPI’s commitment to inspiring better methodologies. Wallner said, “Our younger employees are savvy. They bring different perspectives and ideas. Events can get monotonous or tedious if you don’t see them as new. And the world can meet the people we trust to take care of our customers and their cars.”

“We’re surrounded by amazing cars and projects all day long,” Fisher said. “At a show, it’s nice to see others react to what we do, especially with the rare cars. People are awestruck and amazed at what we do.”

It’s About More Than Just Mechanics

Providing access to a new generation of car enthusiasts is a passion for Maria Homann, senior VP marketing and sales at Canossa Events North America, who believes the Piston Foundation can build multiple levels of engagement. “In addition to restoration specialists, people who organize sales for auction houses need education so they know what they’re talking about, what makes a car special and what its history means to us. There are many opportunities ahead and this kind of collaboration is what I’d hoped to start by introducing Canossa to the Piston Foundation’s mission.”

Wallner sees how the Piston Foundation’s ability to create collaborative relationships in the automotive industry could benefit more than just the people who practice the skills for which restoration specialists are renowned, “Right now, we have almost 80 employees. We’re responsible for 80 families. What happens if there’s no one here to take over? Do we shut the doors?”

“A company is more valuable when it’s running. By getting young people involved, MPI can grow. We work on succession planning for my role. It should be no different for all employees, even those we haven’t hired yet.”

Everyone Should Be Thinking About This

Orlandini agreed that everyone who loves classic cars should be thinking about who will work on those cars in the future, “We can draw awareness to a mission but action has to follow that awareness. As Canossa organizes events like Cavallino, we can contribute money but we see a myriad of possibilities.”

Canossa headquarters is located in the Motor Valley of Italy, as are Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, Dallara Energica, and Pagani. Orlandini is sharing ideas with the Piston Foundation, such as a European component to the Foundation’s apprenticeship program, which is called the Piston Academy. He said, “I’m a lucky father of three children. I understand the importance of helping them to understand the world and find their place in it.”

The Next Generation Is Ready

“When I grew up, my dad was always working on something or someone’s car and I thought everyone grew up that way,” Wallner pointed out that addressing the lack of opportunities requires a new attitude. “I think it’s our responsibility to open minds and show the possibilities to a new generation. If you give them the chance, I think they can find a career and not just a job.”

Orlandini envisions another podium and standing there with Robert in five years, “I would be handing a certificate of completion to someone who has finished the education process that Piston Foundation supports, with that person ready to open his own restoration shop.”

Photos by Justin Nardella Photography

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