This teen spent COVID lockdown becoming a classic-car mechanic
This article first appeared in Hagerty Drivers Club magazine. Click here to subscribe and join the club.
You might think it strange that a rabid car enthusiast and a man of means from Italy would have no Fiats, Alfa Romeos, or Ferraris in his collection. But retired billionaire jeweler Nicola Bulgari’s driving interest makes perfect sense when you understand its origin.
In 1944, after Rome was liberated from Nazi occupation, young Bulgari marveled at a 1935 Buick 96S driven by American soldiers on the streets of his home city.
When he came to the States in the 1970s to develop his family’s jewelry business, Bulgari brought his deep love of classic American automotive elegance. This led to his founding of Allentown, Pennsylvania’s NB Center for American Automotive Heritage.
The private, 27-acre campus includes a working drive-in theater and a fully functional gas station with vintage pumps. It also boasts 2 miles of road, multiple restoration shops, a 24,000-square-foot lodge for car club functions, and buildings for storage and displaying the 192-strong collection central to Bulgari’s crusade—reminding Americans that they build the best cars in the world and always have.
That’s where the NB Center’s newest and youngest mechanic comes in, 21-year-old Anthony Maguschak. He helps restore the center’s cars—Oldsmobiles, DeSotos, Hudsons, Cadillacs, and Bulgari’s beloved Buicks—which form the backbone of the largest historical trust of American cars and information from the 1920s through the early ’50s.
“Three months before COVID hit, I was headed to Penn State to study wildlife technology,” Maguschak says. “Then I realized career opportunities in the field were scarce.” He sat down with his parents and told them that what he really wanted to do was work on cars for a living.
Once accepted to Penn College of Technology’s two-year restoration program, Maguschak spent the pandemic studying and working under the hood.
“I found everything interesting and fun—the mechanics, transmissions, chassis, bodywork, paint, and upholstery,” he says. While the rest of the world hit pause, the learning at Penn never slowed, and Maguschak was offered a three-month internship opportunity from Keith Flickinger, the NB Center’s curator and chief restorer.
“I am constantly visiting and working with America’s top restoration colleges, looking for young talent like Anthony,” Flickinger says, adding that there aren’t many like Maguschak. “Remember his name. He’s just a rock star—smart, dedicated, driven to learn. He’s an old soul way beyond his 21 years.”
Passion is what fuels the work at the NB Center, and it’s what Flickinger seeks most. “I can teach a skill set, and the RPM Foundation solves the problem of funding to cover lodging, meals—the things I don’t want students worrying about while they’re here learning and working with our professionals.”
Now employed full time at the center, Maguschak primarily works with a small team of seven restorers who maintain every car in “ready-to-drive” condition.
With a new visitors center and library, the collection will continue to expand with the goal of becoming a global destination. But Flickinger is quick to point out that Bulgari’s founding mission is about more than preserving old cars, documents, and photos.
“We like to say that we don’t need to restore another car. We just need to educate future generations with our facility. It’s about paying it forward, by teaching and inspiring young people who will go do the same.”
People just like Anthony Maguschak.