Operation Restoration: Meet RPM’s most nontraditional scholar
After he graduated from high school in 2005, Nick Soracco joined the U.S. Air Force, stationed first to Florida and then at Spangdahlem Air Base in western Germany. Serving as a structures troop (part of the Civil Engineering Squadron), Soracco maintained the base’s infrastructure and, in his free time, hung out with the guys in his shop. A couple of them, he soon discovered, were into cars.
“One was into off-road vehicles,” says Soracco. “Another had done a few DIY restorations. I didn’t come from a car background, but I found it all pretty interesting. I started reading the magazines they had lying around and watching Top Gear whenever it was on TV.”
While stationed in Germany, Soracco fell in love with the vintage Porsches, Capris, Alfas, and other sporty Euro cars he encountered outside the base. His enthusiasm for performance cars fully fueled, Soracco began to think that working with old cars might be a fun career move. “After serving active duty, I used some of my GI Bill money to enroll at the NASCAR Technical Institute in North Carolina,” he says.
Soracco completed the program in Mooresville and landed a job fixing cars at a Toyota dealership. But his two years overseas—and a girlfriend he met while stationed there—kept calling him back. She helped him find an apprenticeship at an independent garage, Günthers KFZ-Technik in Speicher, Germany, so he moved back and worked for three years as a mechanic on a mix of modern cars and classics.
It was during this time that Soracco saw a YouTube video about the two-year automotive restoration program at Pennsylvania College of Technology. “I came back to the States, applied, and got accepted. That’s how I connected with the RPM Foundation.”
Many veterans lack a network of professional connections and educational opportunities to help them transition into a civilian career. RPM, says Soracco, delivered all that and more. He hadn’t quite gotten Germany out of his system, and RPM helped fund an internship there in the southern town of Weinstadt, at Detroit Performance Technologies (DPT). The company specializes in maintenance and repair of classic American muscle cars—Mustangs, Corvettes, and GTOs. Soracco landed the position by cold-calling, then flying to Germany for a sit-down meeting. He was hired on the spot.
Soracco lived in the town of Schorndorf, where Gottlieb Daimler was born and later created the first automobile engine. Stuttgart—and the headquarters and museums of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche—was just 15 minutes away. When Soracco wasn’t working, he dived into the fascinating automotive history right outside his door.
Before returning to his final year of school in Pennsylvania, DPT offered Soracco a job, to begin after he graduates in 2020. For now, however, COVID-19 has changed the 32-year-old’s prospects, and another move back to Germany seems out of the cards. “I’ll be looking for jobs in restoration shops here in the States,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to work for an Alfa Romeo specialist.” Wherever Nick Soracco ends up, the talents he has honed in his post-military career are sure to benefit the hobby.