The Reynolds-Alberta Museum has been offering vehicle restoration workshops for more than twenty years. And each year the workshops have increased in popularity making it increasingly difficult to land a spot in the class. Darren Wiberg, Head Restoration Services, said the Metal Finish Repair on Automobile Bodies workshop already had a waiting list in September. “Today we have 22 participants in the metal working workshop, but try to limit them to 20 so everyone can get as much out of the workshops as they can.”
Over the 20 years the workshops have attracted people from all over the world, the furthest being from a museum in South Korea. “We have quite a few repeat customers”, explained Wiberg. “They like the environment where they can learn new skills and get to visit with guys with a common interest.” Workshops offered were:
• Vehicle Restoration Process – Learn how to organize a body-off-frame, museum-quality restoration project.
• Mechanical Inspection and Assessment – Gain an understanding of how to evaluate, repair and maintain your engine and chassis.
• Metal Finish Repair on Automobile Bodies – Learn repair techniques for sheet metal body panels.
• Surface Preparation, Paints and Finishes – Gain an understanding of how to prepare, paint and finish.
• Vehicle Interiors, Trim and Exterior Detailing – Learn how to evaluate, repair and maintain.
Reynolds-Alberta Museum promoted the workshops by describing the motivation behind vehicle restoration. “Parked up against a fence in your back yard, fighting for space in your garage, or stored on your friend's farm, is a rare beauty awaiting restoration. In your mind's eye, she is the perfect vehicle restoration project. With some dedicated time and know-how, what a great car to take on the road! So what are you waiting for? Learn how best to approach your project at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alberta”
But Wiberg takes it one step further. “One of the things I feel that is important to the participants is that we are not only preserving the machinery, but we are preserving the skills and workmanship that went into building them in the first place. We teach them how to make body repairs without the use of body filler by making sheet metal body panels. They learn how to apply body solder and how to use a body file. You aren’t going to see that in another shop, at least in Alberta. It’s not fancy stuff but it provides skills and techniques to maintain the integrity of the vehicle. We are repairing vehicles without the use of body filler.”
The workshops provide training not available anywhere else in Canada. What makes them unique, says Wiberg, is the exclusive focus on old cars from a "museum-quality" restoration perspective. "I believe we elevate restoration to an art form," he says. "The challenge is to put our own personalities aside and be true to the original designers, the engineers and the people who built these marvelous machines."
The museum's Restoration Shop professionals instruct the workshops. Team specialists include a woodworker, a precision machinist and welder, and a bare-metal-finish body repairman, welder and painter. Together, they possess the skills once found in factories employing hundreds of trades people and specialists. Single courses cost $149.95, each additional course, $130.00 and all five courses, $619.95.
Wieberg’s pet restoration project
“This ’33 Ford is my pet project. What I really like about it is people from outside government see the importance of what is happening in our restoration shop. Three different car clubs, Edmonton Antique Auto Club, Central Antique Auto Club and South Antique Auto Club and the Friends of the Reynolds-Alberta Museum have supplied the ‘nuts and bolts’ (funding) for this project and our Restoration Shop is supplying the labor. We are also very grateful to our volunteers such as Dennis Chance and Doug Shepard who have been coming here regularly for 10 years. Dave Halliday, Keith Friesen and others are here pretty regularly as well. It gives you a different perspective on your job when people outside government are paying for the materials and people are donating their time. It makes me realize that I am not the only one who sees the importance of what we are doing here.”
The Reynolds-Alberta Museum will be hosting a display June 14th and 15th at History Road: the Ultimate Car Show where car enthusiasts can show off their restoration projects. “Gleaming paint, the curve of chrome and head-turning good looks will be on display. History Road is a spectacular display of more than 500 cars, trucks and motorcycles spanning more than a century of automotive history. The lineup features rare vehicles from Reynolds-Alberta Museum's collection and those of enthusiasts from across Alberta and western Canada.
"The workshops are just a beginning," says Wiberg, who has more than 25 years' experience. "I can show you the basic skills in part of a day and you can spend the rest of your life trying to perfect them."
Wiberg fondly points to a rusty, damaged vehicle through eyes that see a shiny, restored car. “This 1947 Cadillac was sold at Edmonton Motors with only 300 made. There is a story we will find on this car some place. It’s our history we are taking care of. The story of Alberta is here.”