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Tim Bowers / Stellar Restorations Restores Kiekhaefer 300C
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Author:  MarkKubancik [ Sat Apr 22, 2017 1:56 am ]
Post subject:  Tim Bowers / Stellar Restorations Restores Kiekhaefer 300C

Not a DeSoto story but it give a shout out to NDC trustee and webmaster Tim Bowers. From

McPherson auto restoration program to celebrate 40 years with Kiekhaefer 300C

Daniel Strohl on Apr 18th, 2017

Photos courtesy McPherson College C.A.R.S. Club.

Big anniversary party coming up for McPherson College’s auto restoration program, so of course they’ve planned a celebration. Instead of cake, though, the students in the program have decided to show off one of their latest restoration projects – a Chrysler 300C that Carl Kiekhaefer had modified for a NASCAR road-racing series.

First, some background. In 1974, Garrison Haines “Smokey” Billue sold his LPG storage company for $10 million (about $77.6 million in today’s dollars). The McPherson, Kansas, resident bought a 125-car collection out of nearby Hesston, but, a couple of years later, decided the collection could be better put to use by McPherson College, a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887.

Most institutions would look at such a gift and decide to liquidate it to benefit the endowment. McPherson administrators, however, worked with Billue and the Templeton family, another major donor to the school, to establish an automotive restoration program in 1976, using the cars in the collection.

As pointed out in a mid-1980s article on the program, students in the program would start out on Model T’s before progressing to more complicated restorations. Similarly, they would begin with basic skills such as woodworking, metal-shaping, and upholstery before moving on to more esoteric tasks befitting a four-year liberal arts college such as business management, accounting, and English composition.

That approach remains in use today, with auto restoration program students able to choose from several four-year degrees, including auto restoration management, automotive design, and automotive communications. According to the college, it is the only school to offer a bachelor’s degree in automotive restoration, and one of the goals of the auto restoration program is to restore a car to compete at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance by 2023.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the program will be one focus of this year’s McPherson College C.A.R.S. Club’s 18th annual car and motorcycle show, organized by the restoration program students. And one of the cars slated to appear at the show will be the 1957 Chrysler 300C that a number of McPherson graduates have chipped in to restore.

One of four that Kiekhaefer bought to race that year, the 300C hardtop is one of two he had modified with stiffer convertible frames, Imperial suspensions, boxed front crossmembers, and high-output exhaust manifolds and special camshafts for the 390-hp, Hemi V-8s. Kiekhaefer reportedly intended to take the two to Elkhart Lake to compete in the fledgling NASCAR road racing series, started the year before, but Bill France – with whom Kiekhaefer frequently butted heads at the time – canceled not just the race but the entire series.

The two cars then reportedly became personal street cars for Kiekhaefer and his chief engineer, Charles Strang. The charcoal example that Strang drove eventually got traded in on a Cadillac, but another Kiekhaefer employee, Frank Hartman, spotted it on the Cadillac dealer’s lot and took it with him to California in 1960. Wayen Graefen spotted it in Anaheim in 1991, complete with the documented Kiekhaefer alterations, and has since trusted its restoration to Tim Bowers, owner of Stellar Automotive Restoration in Windom, Kansas, and a former instructor at McPherson.

In addition to the 300C, this year’s C.A.R.S. Club show will include the 1967 Chevrolet Camaro VIN 100001, a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K that competed at Pebble Beach, and an appearance by Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance co-founder Bill Warner.

The C.A.R.S. Club show will take place May 6. For more information, visit

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