Fifty-six years ago, a red 1964 Porsche 356 SC Coupe rolled off an assembly line somewhere in a factory in Europe. One year ago, Shannon Kennedy, a retired college professor and businessman from Charlottesville, Virginia, bought this same Porsche located in central Virginia. When he first purchased the car, it was merely a shell, but in time, it would be restored to its original condition.
The restoration was carried out by JMU’s Madison Automotive Apprentice Program. With help from MAAP advocate Matt Flint, they hooked a car trailer up to his truck and drove the car down to Boca Raton, Florida, for the annual 2019 Porsche Parade. It won Best in Show and Best in Class in the Concours Full Restoration event. The Porsche earned a score of 299 out of a possible 300.
“The car was all together many years ago, but when we got it, it had been abandoned, so it had already been disassembled, which makes it a little more difficult,” Cole Scrogham, founder and CEO of MAAP, said. “It had just been painted. It was just a bare, painted shell.”
Kennedy said the restoration took approximately nine months. To get the car ready for the show — his initial goal — the car had to be in the exact same condition it was when it came off the assembly line over five decades ago. This means the car had to have all the same details, from the engine to the glove box.
“There was a lot of discovery,” Kennedy said. “When you get a car like this that’s entirely in pieces, you don’t know what pieces function. You don’t know what pieces actually fit the car or don’t fit the car, and you don’t know what else you’re going to need.”
After purchasing his first Porsche, Kennedy became intrigued with the brand. This passion is what prompted him to buy and restore the 1964 car, as he wanted to better understand the brand from an engineering perspective. Kennedy is a member of the Shenandoah Porsche Club of America — one of the regional organizations associated with the Porsche Club of America. Through Shenandoah PCA, Kennedy discovered MAAP, and since the Porsche was from central Virginia, MAAP took the opportunity to work on it.
Scrogham, who graduated from JMU in 1990 and earned his Master’s Degree from the university in 2016, built the engine for the Porsche and is an “expert” on the brand, Kennedy said. Scrogham has written two books on the Porsche engine, and he’s been nationally and internationally recognized in the field.
“Since I found out that one of the best-known experts on the brand — and on this car in particular — was located so close to me, it was a great opportunity for me to participate in the restoration and to know that it’s going to get done well, but also get to participate it in as much as I could as it’s getting built instead of just shipping it off to California or shipping it off wherever,” Kennedy said. “It was right next door.”
Apart from building the car from almost nothing, there were pieces in the original model that were no longer manufactured. This required those working on the car to research who produced the piece and then search for or replicate the pieces. In one case, the headliners — the layers of material that cover the ceiling of a vehicle — needed for the restored Porsche were no longer made. In turn, MAAP and Scrogham had to decide whether to put in a headliner that looked like the missing piece from the original model or travel to Europe to get it made. The team did the latter.
“We tried to be as completely authentic on the car as possible, which took a lot more time and money invested in the car, but when it came out, you have a product that historically is correct, and that’s what our goal was,” Kennedy said. “It’s all in the details for these cars.”
MAAP lowered the costs of labor for Kennedy and said the cost of labor at another shop would be “really expensive” compared to at MAAP.
There were a total of eight people working on the restoration, including five student interns, Scrogham said. Scrogham was a graduate student himself when he started MAAP four years ago.
“The biggest takeaway is just for the students understanding how complex and time-consuming these big projects are,” Scrogham said. “How hard it is to get them over the finish line and actually put all of the pieces they’ve been working on together and make it all work. It’s a pretty big task.”
Although conversations with former JMU President Lin Rose four years ago is how Scrogham first initiated MAAP, the organization actually began around 18 months ago. The win in Boca Raton this past July is not the only award a MAAP project has received.
“Another group of motorsport interns just went to an event at a race track and finished third with one of our cars, so we’ve got a lot of different things going on, not just restoration,” Scrogham said. “We’re rolling.”
Jordan Pax, a junior engineering major, is an intern for MAAP. Pax worked on the restored Porsche during its final months of restoration, and he said this was the biggest project he’s been a part of.
“I’ve always loved cars like that,” Pax said. “I used to have an old Beetle myself, a little Volkswagon. Just working on cars like that is super incredible. I had a lot of mentorship from Cole Scrogham and his son Michael as well. I got to learn a whole bunch of little things I never knew before.”
Like Kennedy, Pax noticed that some of the hardest work was in the details. He said that surprised him, but in the end, he could tell it made a huge difference.
“It was just really cool knowing that all the hard work I put into that actually won multiple prizes,” Pax said.
Pax became involved with MAAP by “just showing up and helping out” for a few months until he was eventually offered an internship at the end of his sophomore year. Pax said he’s eager to continue to work on the Porsche to where Kennedy can drive it in a reliable and comfortable way.
“I hope the students at JMU take advantage of this opportunity,” Kennedy said. “Had this been at my college, I would have had a hard time staying away from it when I was going to school. It’s an extraordinary thing. To me, it’s an equivalent to having somebody that is nationally recognized in any academic field.”
Contact Carley Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.