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  • Academy of Art University Offers Brand-New Courses in Auto Restoration

    Published on October 6, 2022

    Racers, start your engines! Conserving and restoring vehicles to their former glory is an art unto itself. Academy of Art University is one of the foremost institutions to offer an associate degree program dedicated to automotive restoration. This premier curriculum is helping keep the art of restoration alive in younger generations while continuing to create excitement around achievements in auto design, development, and collecting. For students looking to forge a singular career in the field, Academy of Art University may be the perfect fit.

    ​​”Our program will not only focus on technology, but it will also provide instruction for building unique skill sets, historical knowledge, and research skills required for replicating historically authentic classic cars,” says Academy President Dr. Elisa Stephens. “Most programs lack the historical restoration and preservation elements necessary to restore vintage vehicles.”

    A hands-on program crafted to give students real-world experiences, the automotive restoration program is housed under the Academy’s School of Industrial Design. There, students are taught techniques in preservation that can be applied to classic and antique cars of all shapes and sizes. Students are prepared for their associate degree in automotive restoration with a series of foundation courses. These are designed to give them the understanding they need when it comes to form, drawing, structure, and principles of design theory.

    From there, students can take coursework in specialized areas dedicated to helping them embark on a journey of restoring vintage vehicles. These include innovative classroom and workshop experiences in woodworking, sheet metal work, and machining. Students also learn how to properly disassemble, inspect, research, and reassemble vehicles with an emphasis on quality and respect for the history at hand.

    ‘An Old World Skill’

    Tom Matano, executive director of the Academy’s industrial design school, says some may see this degree as obsolete — but they’d be wrong.

    “We want to do the same thing that we did with clay modeling,” said Matano. “Many people said that was an outdated process, and so there were no young clay modelers being instructed in clay modeling. We started teaching it, and now three or four of our students are hired on at GM every year. Much like clay modeling, auto restoration is an Old World skill that’s seen as dying, but we want to keep it going.”

    Academy of Art University also boasts a one-of-a-kind automobile museum with an impressive collection of fully restored vehicles that students can peruse, sit in, and learn from. This museum is renowned for the tour of history it presents in an expansive assortment of classics dedicated to preserving not only the cars but also their culture. With more than 42 exhibits on display in San Francisco, the collection has been curated for over 10 years and is open to students as well as the general public. Students can use the vehicles in the museum as a frame of reference and inspiration for their own projects.

    All courses are led by practitioner faculty with direct experience actively working in the field of automobile restoration. This gives students the chance not only to learn from the best and brightest in the industry, but also to network and create connections that can last a career. Paul Borgwardt, the coordinator of the Academy of Art University Automotive Museum, commented on the program offerings: “They do metalworking, upholstery, woodworking, fabrication — everything that goes into rebuilding and maintaining these cars. We teach component restoration, so the students are taking apart distributors, generators, and starters and putting them back together. And the history class gives students a grounding in the auto industry’s past.” The education students and graduates come away with is clearly well rounded and well thought out by their instructors.

    The automotive restoration associate degree isn’t the only program where students can get involved with the industry at large. Academy of Art University has a long history of collaborating with automobile manufacturers on everything from historic restorations to innovative new designs. Through a novel partnership with Stellantis, the company behind Fiat Chrysler among others, students across different specialties are welcomed to take part in a dedicated corporate sponsor course. The goal each year is for the students to design brand, building, and vehicle components that reflect the Stellantis tenets of global, social, and economic stability. Previous course sponsors have included the likes of Alfa Romeo and Maserati (both owned by Stellantis), Jeep, Subaru, Audi, Volkswagen Group, General Motors and the San Francisco Auto Museum.

    All of this is backed by leading online and in-person resources made available to every individual. Students can log into their dedicated community portals to collaborate with one another and communicate with their instructors any day or time. Software packages and remote machines are made available for students throughout their studies, eliminating many barriers to access for people who may not be able to afford them. What’s more, Academy of Art University places an emphasis on a student-centered curriculum that is designed with job placement and careers in mind. Students may not need a portfolio to enroll, but they’ll graduate with examples in their chosen field that represent the depth and detail of their own industry skills.

    For more information about how you can apply to Academy of Art University’s automotive restoration program.   


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