Roy H. Klinger, instructor of collision repair, demonstrates the specialized welding process to students in the Restoration Laboratory II course.
A self-proclaimed "Jeep guy," automotive restoration student Krishna Mohan Yadav practices gas welding of steel in College Avenue Labs. Yadav, who worked in human resources in his hometown in India, enrolled at Penn College after his brother, with whom he owns hundreds of classic cars, met automotive instructor Eric D. Pruden at the Antique Automobile Club of America’s Fall Meet in Hershey.
by Tom Wilson, writer/photo editor-PCToday. Photos by Larry D. Kauffman.
"I knew this was a great opportunity – and at one of the best facilities – to learn all the things I would need to know."
When Krishna Mohan Yadav wanted to acquire the aptitude desired of the artisans who work in the automotive restoration shop he owns with his brother, he did what any self – respecting perfectionist would do: enroll at an institution that places the same value on meticulously teaching those skills.
You can’t put a price on true aspiration … nor, apparently, geographical limitation.
So Yadav traveled to Pennsylvania College of Technology – his first international trip, roughly 7,900 miles from his home in Gurgaon, Haryana, India – to work toward an associate degree in automotive restoration technology. In a few short years, the college’s major has meteorically grown from a single elective course into one of the country’s few degree programs focused on the exacting art of refurbishment.
"It is a dream that I’m following a technical course," said the 45–year–old student, who already holds a master’s degree in social work and was employed in human resources when a new career beckoned. "In my country, if you’re poor at physics, at chemistry, at math … you can’t go into a technical field. You have to choose other options."
Helping him to make that choice was a chance 2014 meeting between his brother, Madan (acknowledged as the true frequent flier of the family), and Eric D. Pruden, a Penn College automotive instructor, at the Antique Automobile Club of America’s Fall Meet in Hershey.
"He brought back all the literature," Yadav said. "I had no knowledge, but wanted to get it. I saw the brochure on the table and knew this was a great opportunity – and at one of the best facilities – to learn all the things I would need to know."
Turning from a two–decade profession to embark on a new life so far from home is difficult, but he has immersed himself in cross–cultural (and cross–generational) exploration with the ease and good humor that he seemingly brings to any situation.
While Yadav’s desire to learn restoration is fairly new, he has long been drawn to and surrounded by automobiles. He and his brother own a car–rental business, a large–scale enterprise that regularly meets the transport needs of such global heavyweights as American Express, Bank of America, Fidelity Investments and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
When clients would ask about fine–dining options in that Indian neighborhood, options that were so limited that a recommendation was difficult, the brothers’ entrepreneurial eye turned to the restaurant business. They opened 21-Gun Salute, with an opulent palace theme and a royal menu to match, and imbued the space with historical photographs and antique vehicles.
Yadav’s brother, who owns more than 280 vintage cars and 100 motorcycles and scooters, sponsors an International Vintage Car Rally and Concours Show that attracts classic–car enthusiasts and collectors. Its sixth annual version in February included a Formula 1 track.
The Fall 2015 semester saw Yadav extending his knowledge of pinstriping and powertrain theory; a full spring schedule includes metallurgy, electrical and HVAC systems, and estimating. After he graduates in May, he plans to stay stateside for another year, polishing his metal–shaping skills and looking for an apprenticeship.
This father of a teenage son, who smiles when talking about learning alongside 20–year–olds in College Avenue Labs, has embraced America’s longstanding love affair with cars. Every available weekend, every break in the student schedule, finds him taking advantage of ready access to related points of interest.
All of which feeds his passion, his reverence for technique, his do-it-yourself desire to take care of the family’s ever-growing fleet of vehicles back home.
"Whenever I get a chance to visit a car show or a museum, I must go," he said, recounting day trips to Carlisle, Canada, Butler and the America on Wheels showcase in Allentown. "I like the prewar cars. No one was aware of what kind of car they had to build, so, year by year by year, they refined the product."
Just as he continues to reinvent himself, the white-collar executive rolling up his sleeves to make something old into something new again.