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Fifth Avenue Makes Donation To McPherson College Automotive Restoration Program


Curt Goodwin Accepts Training Materials from Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts.

Who is going to carry on our love for antique vehicles after we are gone? That question has come up a lot recently in discussions with car club members and antique parts vender's. The baby boom generation is getting older and the first of the group are not able to work on and drive their cars like they did twenty years ago. Membership in car clubs is declining as the older generation retires and there is not enough younger generation members to take their place. So... how will we carry on the tradition and share what we know with the next generation?

We all need to do our part to insure the next generation has the same opportunities as we had. Think this does not matter to you...? Think what your restored antique vehicle will be worth if the next generation has no interest in it because they did not have any involvement in its restoration or for that matter never rode in it. You pride an joy will end up on the auction block at no reserve. It is happening now.

Here is part of my solution...

Randy Rundle owner of Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts recently purchased and then donated all of the educational training materials he acquired from the Cowie Electric Company (established 1917) to the McPherson College Automotive Restoration Department to be used to help students gain a better understanding of the inner workings of all types of antique vehicle automotive systems.

The Cowie Electric Company served as the regional training center location for all of the major automotive manufacturers including Delco-Remy, Autolite, Rochester Carburetors, Holly Carburetors, Wico Magnetos, and dozens more aftermarket companies from 1917 up thru the 1980’s. Automotive mechanics could attend six week long classes at the Cowie Company location, taught by the factory representatives, to become “certified” by the those manufacturers.

Curt Goodwin Associate Professor of Technology said, “The department is extremely grateful for Fifth Avenue’s donation. This kind of training material is very difficult to find in any condition, and the quality of Fifth Avenue’s donation is outstanding. We can’t thank Randy enough…!”

Brian Martin Director of Auto Restoration Projects added…” To be able to teach our students using the original teaching materials they used 70 years ago is very valuable to us, …

Randy Rundle, owner of Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts says…” I am happy and honored to donate these teaching materials to an excellent program. I know they will be put to good use, and there is no better way for students to learn than from the original teaching materials developed by the manufacturers during the era in which the parts were originally introduced…”

A Sample Of The Training Materials Donated To McPherson College.

I had known about this training material for about a dozen years but the current owner wasn't sure what he wanted to do with the material. The classrooms and the material were stored on the second story of a building built in about 1916.  Eventually the roof began to leak and I panicked. If the leak became bad enough it would ruin everything.

The Cowie Building was once in the same neighborhood with all of the new car dealers on what was one the busiest streets in downtown Wichita Kansas. As times changed the new car dealerships moved out along the new interstate, until eventually it was only the Cowie Company left in the old automotive neighborhood.

Business slowly declined, the older generation retired and the next generation tried to just maintain the business. Eventually in the 2000's the business closed. To give you an idea how long ago this business was established...their customer number at Delco -Remy was number 33. The current owner said they had received an invoice from that company every month since May of 1917 or for more than a hundred years.

The Cowie Collection included workbooks, filmstrips, 331/3 records, 16mm movies, large flip charts, blueprints, anything that the factories ever used for training was there. Many of the movies were still in their original boxes with the EFD (remember that company) shipping label attached. It cost 90 cents to ship one of the large 16mm movies from Detroit to Wichita in the early 1940's.

Finally I convinced the current owner to put a price on all of that training materials reminding him that with a leaking roof it soon all be lost. Once I got a price I contacted the McPherson College to see if they would be interested in the material. I tried to describe the training materials over the phone which was kind of difficult. Also I don't think anyone at the college truly believed that training material that old still existed in usable condition, especially because so much of it was paper.

I got the deal done in Wichita an spent a long day carrying material down two flights of stairs. There was actually more material there than I first inventoried, as every closet, shelf, cabinet, and desk, had materials hidden away. I had a truckload when I was done, all of it in pretty good shape.

McPherson College in McPherson Kansas is the only place in the United States where you can get a four year degree in automotive restoration. During your time at McPherson you will learn everything from shaping metal to running a lathe in a machine shop to build parts that are no longer available. You also learn upholstery, wood working,  and the proper way to research what is historically accurate when restoring an antique vehicle correctly. They literally research every nut bolt and screw to be sure the proper length, thread count, pitch, and screw is accurate. Their restoration projects have won many Concours events. The students work summers under internship programs in the top automotive restoration shops across the United States including Jay Leno's Garage. Jay also provides a scholarship to the McPherson College Auto Restoration program.

                                              A Video Tour OF McPherson College

A few months later I made arrangements to deliver to the college. They were still a little hesitant at first which I understand. Some of their donations in the past have included 40 year collections of hot rod magazines that were stored in a basement or garage and had significant water damage.

I explained this material was all in really good shape...but if they did not like what I delivered they were under no obligation to accept it. Fair enough.

When they saw what I had they were like two kids in a candy store. I could tell from the expression on their faces that neither Brian or Curt expected this and it was almost too good to be true. I knew right then that I had done the right thing and I had just made a good investment in the next generation of antique vehicle owners.


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About Me

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Since 1987, Fifth Avenue owner, Randy Rundle, has been making antique, classic and special interest vehicles more reliable and fun to drive.