This Pebble Beach award-winner was restored by college students

McPherson College

One Sunday a year, the 18th green of Pebble Beach Golf Links turns into a parking lot. Not just any parking lot, though—a gathering of the world’s finest automotive restorers who have spent countless hours fretting over every minute detail of their vintage cars. Mixed into the Postwar Luxury class this year was an interesting addition: A black 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabriolet. Not an unusual sight, in the context … unless you knew how it got there.

At 4 a.m. that morning, among the crowd of restorers and owners with decades of experience, stood a group of nervous teens and 20-somethings surrounded by even more nervous adults. Though dawn had not arrived, all were sharply dressed and bright-eyed: It was time to put their sleek German cabriolet into the march of priceless metal primed to roll onto the lawn for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The young restorers were likely a glimmer in their parent’s eyes when most of the other restorers on the green were running their own restoration shops. Sure, there are plenty of first-time participants every year at Pebble Beach, but rarely, if ever, does anyone qualify for the 72-year-old event with their first restoration.

Okay, that might be a little misleading. The 300S is not owned by the cadre of youth, and the car’s restoration was overseen by McPherson College. It is a humble private college, with fewer than 1000 students, located in the center of Kansas farm country. On the edge of the campus sits Templeton Hall, which houses the college’s Automotive Restoration program. Inside this brick and stucco building, the next generation of automotive restorers are learning and honing their craft. The Mercedes project has been the program’s guiding light for 10 years, setting the course for its future and, possibly, for the future of restoration industry as a whole.

“Many car collectors dream of just competing at Pebble Beach their entire lives,” said the president of McPherson College, Michael Schneider. “This is 10 years in the making, with students, alumni, and faculty pouring their heart and soul into this restoration project of the Mercedes-Benz to make this vision a reality. This accomplishment puts our students on par with the professionals of automotive restoration.”

To put students on the path to that kind of experience is one thing; competing at Pebble Beach is another. There was some tense hand-wringing among the students and faculty on Sunday as the concours judges made their rounds. Each entrant holds a buzzer, which vibrates to summon a car to the awards stand to accept an award, either for its class or for the entire competition. To the shock and awe of the students, professors, and alumni present last Sunday, the buzzer in hand of project lead Brian Martin lit up mid-afternoon. Word spread that McPherson’s Benz would be crossing the awards stage: It was one of three cars selected from the Postwar Luxury class. Anticipation built.

The nervous students piled into the car to ride across the stage. In one sense, they had already won: Matt Kroeker, one of the students who participated in the presentation to the judges, was elated just to be competing at Pebble Beach. Anything else, he felt, was just icing on the cake.

The car rumbled to a stop on the ramp. The P.A. system barked across the green: Second in class, to the McPherson Benz.

McPherson College

Thousands of applicants apply to participate in the Pebble Beach Concours. Dozens are selected, and even fewer are called out by the judges as top in their respective groupings. There is no consolation prize for Pebble Beach, and the level of restoration has never been higher than in 2023. To see McPherson’s Mercedes 300S Cabriolet not only on the 18th green but winning an award proves that the next generation of restorers not only exists but is incredibly talented, primed to step off the graduation stage into shops and facilities doing top-tier work. Congratulations to everyone involved in the project.

If you would like to help support McPherson College and its automotive restoration projects you can visit

McPherson group photo
All the students, staff, and supporters of McPherson College gathered for a photo with the car on the show field. Kyle Smith




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    I’ve been following this group of young folks for quite some time. I thrilled to see them reach this level of reward for their efforts. Kudos to the faculty and students for their perseverance and accomplishment!

    Wow…congratulations for all your hard work and obvious talented group of student restorers. Whats next?

    This is exactly what our education system needs, more fields of study with practical, creative applications, rather than purely aesthetic degrees with absolutely no employment potential.

    I’m a Kansas native and familiar with this college. If you haven’t seen, McPherson’s restoration degree is the best known “unknown” program in the country. It has been a very good year for them with this award and earlier receiving one of the largest endowments in college history.. $1.59B (with a “B” !! ) as reported by Forbes on July 23rd. It started with a single donor willing to match up to $500m and gained many other fans along the way.

    Great program, Great mission, and now… great recognition!! So proud of them!

    The college did receive a huge $1.59 billion gift recently, and I think it’s great. Malcolm Gladwell, a fellow car nut and Bring a Trailer devotee, did a terrific podcast (Revisionist History) about how important it is to NOT give money to schools that already have a ton of it. I’m looking at you, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, Penn, Harvard, etc. where, admittedly, many of my family members went. Instead, Gladwell, and many other philanthropy experts recommend donating to less-wealthy schools and university systems that need the money and where it can have the greatest impact. Giving a billion dollars to a school that already has a $30 billion endowment, while a nice gesture in the main, isn’t changing anyone’s life for the better. Giving a small Kansas college that kind of money will allow them to make a huge difference and ensure that school’s survival well into the future. In this case it also means that we will have at least one more generation of mechanics who know how to rebuild and adjust a carburetor, fix an air cooled engine, and work on cars from Brass to Post-War Class.

    Congratulations to all the students who, over the last ten years have had a hand in this project, and have moved on after college. Hopefully some were able to attend.

    You are correct Scott. I often like to joke with people when they ask me about McPherson College because while it is correct that I attended and graduated the McPherson Auto Restoration program, it was not the program that it is today. The program was great then, and is truly world class now. The professors, administration, and even student population has come so far and been getting better every year thanks to the focus and passion of everyone involved. As another commenter has pointed out, McPherson has recently significantly grown its endowment, which combined with the attention it has been getting lately I expect to launch the program to new heights. I still go back to campus twice a year and connect with students and staff. It has been truly amazing to see the program evolve and I am thankful every day that I chose to attend McPherson.

    I live a couple blocks from McP College and I just never know what’s going to drive past my house. A model T, Ferrari, Mercedes, this particular Mercedes, old John Deere tractors or even a restored fire truck. That’s not even considering the kids daily drivers which covers everything from a Bug to 1980’s four door 4×4 pickups. It’s like bird watching for a car guy. The month of April is incredible as the kids get ready for their massive car show that has some of the nations highest end cars featured. A number of years ago I was putting up a fence and I heard this high whine coming off the four way stop near my house. Turned around and it was a Lambo – the same Lambo in the movie Gone in 60 seconds. That was pretty neat.

    The email I received from Hagerty about this car had the subject line, “This Pebble Beach award-winner was built by college students”. No – it was built by Mercedes-Benz. Hagerty, please don’t do that…

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