Vintage Vehicle Makes History as Show's First Collegiate Winner

Published 03.23.2018

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A 1908 Studebaker electric car, owned by the William E. Swigart Jr. Automobile Museum in Huntingdon and restored at Pennsylvania College of Technology, was recognized with an award at Florida's prestigious Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance earlier this month – the first student project ever judged at the renowned show.

Affectionately known as "Tommy," the vehicle was one of a pair that shuttled federal legislators to and from the U.S. Capitol shortly after the turn of the 20th century. It was honored with an Amelia Award in the Horseless Carriage (Electric) category, coinciding with the show's celebration of a technology that has re-emerged in today's automobiles.

Owner Patricia B. Swigart (left) is among those enjoying a ride with driver Luke C. Miller across the grounds of the illustrious Amelia Island event.The recognition was termed "truly remarkable" by instructor Roy H. Klinger, who praised students and faculty members – both within the School of Transportation & Natural Resources Technologies and down the hall in the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies – who worked tirelessly to prepare the historic vehicle for its March 9-11 southern excursion. "It really makes a statement about the program's goals and the dynamics involved in getting there."

Klinger also singled out the college's partnership with the museum and Patricia B. Swigart, its generous owner who joined the Penn College group at the show.

"Students from Pennsylvania College of Technology worked on the car and got it running for the first time in 25 years and were there to help us accept the award," the Swigart website says in appreciation.

"Being involved in the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said student Luke C. Miller, of Grasonville, Maryland. "I got the opportunity to drive the Studebaker Senate Car through the entire event in front of the entire antique automotive industry."

The automotive restoration technology major expects to graduate with an associate degree in May, then return in the fall to continue toward a bachelor's in automotive technology management.

Dressed to impress, a Penn College entourage accompanies "Tommy" on his award-winning trip to Florida."I've been working hard to try to get myself known to everyone who attends those events," Miller said. "Having the honor of not only having a car on the field, but also driving it, telling everyone the significance of the car and winning an Amelia Island award, was a blessing. Of all the years Mrs. Swigart has attended the Amelia Island event, she had never received an award and I am honored to have worked on the car that had received an award."

Miller said driving the Studebaker was fun, but also quite difficult: "It's the oldest car I've driven and the first electric car so it was important to be delicate when operating. The car was also only designed to travel on flat grounds in a straight line, so traveling over the slopes of the golf course was new territory to 'Tommy.' But, because we had completely mechanically restored the car, it had no troubles cruising around the event.

"I can't thank everyone enough on the research and restoration of the vehicle; without them, we wouldn't have made it to Florida."

For classmate Michael R. Krukowski, the experience was better than he could ever have imagined.

"I found it interesting to be a part of setting up the Studebaker in preparation for judging. I saw how a vehicle should be cleaned and polished for an event such as Amelia Island," the Fairfax Station, Virginia, resident said. "It was a great day with beautiful weather and equally beautiful cars ... It was an amazing event and I would love to go again someday."

Photos provided