By Anne Hassler Heidel
Recent McPherson College graduate Dalton Whitfield has been working on cars for as long as he can remember. His father always had old cars around that he would fix up and sell and his grandfather owned a Volkswagon repair shop. You could say it’s in his blood.
Whitfield chose McPherson College for its four-year auto restoration program, the only such program in the country. “You might as well study something you’re passionate about,” Whitfield reasoned.
Whitfield, who hails from Cleveland, Ga., specializes in pre-World War II automobiles and he rebuilt a 1925 Model T speedster while in school. He says the areas he enjoyed the most in school were sheet metal classes with instructor Ed Barr and machining.
Machining, which is learning to build your own parts, helped him develop problem solving skills and figuring out what parts could work in different situations.
Last Century Automotive is a solo business but if his workload increases, he’s glad to know so many qualified auto restoration students are close by should he expand. He chose to stay in McPherson after graduation because it’s a “nice, industrious, little town.”
Though he enjoys restoring cars and making them run like new, Whitfield prefers a car that looks its age.
“Seeing a car that has its original or period parts and is still being run and used is a beautiful thing,” he said.
If he could fix up any car he’d love to work on a Miller race car that was built in the 1920s. Originally designed by Harry Miller and raced at the Indianapolis Raceway, Miller race cars go for millions of dollars today. They’re extremely rare.
Whitfield can do all manner of antique auto repair and restoration from body work to upholstery. He can even help customers find a car to restore. Last Century is located at 416 W. Kansas Ave. next to Tidy Laundry. Whitfield can be reached at (706) 809-9089.