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Mustang helps apprentices align their skills to industry's past

It wasn’t just the sound of engines turning in our Motor Vehicle workshop this week – heads were too as a stunning 1969 Ford Mustang paid a surprise visit.

The Classic American car, estimated to be worth £100,000, was used to prepare our final-year apprentices for their End-Point Assessments as they worked on the Fastback 428 Cobra Jet model’s wheel alignment.

College tutor Ian Coulson has restored the Mustang on behalf of Retro Classic Car – a dealership in Swainby, Northallerton – and pointed out how beneficial it was for the students to work on a car that is more than half-a-century old.

He said: “It’s great for the students to have a look at something a bit different and, when you’re in the industry, you never know what the next car will be that’s going to come into your workshop. It could be an American Classic Car and, if you can bring real life into the College, it shows that what we are doing is wholly relevant.

“We do all the modern stuff and have all the diagnostic machinery for students to use, but these Classic Cars demonstrate fundamentally how cars work and you have to understand this before you can understand the electronics. A car’s engine still works in the same way that it always has done – it still needs fuel, sparks and compression – but there is also stuff under the car that the students will have never seen.

“Some of it is quite archaic, but it shows you where the modern stuff has come from. Classic Cars are the roots of that.”

Ian, who also works as an MOT Inspector outside of College, has previously restored three of his own Ford Capris but admits that the Mustang represented a different challenge altogether.

Ian painstakingly restored the Mustang at his own workshop in Tollerton before bringing it into College

Retro Classic Car owners’ Adrian and Sam Harper – who are father and son – invited him to take the “black beauty” back to his Tollerton workshop after a visit to their showroom.

It proved a stern test of his mechanic skills but Ian believes the experience has improved his tutoring ability as he acquired new knowledge that he can pass on to our Motor Vehicle Service and Maintenance Technician Level 3 apprentices.

“I’d always wanted my next project to be a Mustang and, when I told Adrian and Sam that, they pointed at this black car languishing in the corner of the showroom and said, ‘Why don’t you work on restoring that for us if you want to learn about them?’," Ian explained. “It had been there for something like 15 years waiting for somebody like myself to come along and take it on as a project, so it felt a bit like fate.

“I had to almost put it back together, though, because there was a lot of parts missing. The engine didn’t run, the gearbox didn’t work, the brake pedal just went straight to the floor, the windows didn’t wind up and there were no electrics, dashboard, back seats or carpet, so it was a massive undertaking and a massive learning curve for me, but I’ve just about got to the end of the journey and the car is ready to go back into the showroom. I’ve really enjoyed myself and it’s been good for my own CPD (Continuing Professional Development).”

There are now plans for Adrian and Sam to bring more Classic Cars into the College Workshop and further broaden our students’ knowledge of vehicles from different eras.

Owen (left) and Elliott gain valuable wheel alignment experience ahead of their End-Point Assessments

Owen Shepherd, who was one of the students who worked on the Mustang’s wheel alignment and has served his apprenticeship with Canal Garage in Boroughbridge, agreed with Ian that the opportunity has helped widen his skillset.

“When a car comes into the workshop that you’ve never seen before, you can’t just look at something and say I don’t know how to do that,” he reasoned. “You’ve got to figure out what needs to be done and working on different cars helps you prepare for that and work things out.

“I’ve worked on a few E-Type Jaguars and done a few bits on them, so I’m not unfamiliar with older cars, but it’s not an every-day thing and I’ve never come across a Mustang before and working on cars like that increases your range of ability, because modern cars don’t have half the stuff these have on them.

“This car has the first steering box I’ve seen for tracking and, just looking underneath, you can see the difference. All the same stuff is there, but you can see how things have adapted and been modernised.”

Elliott Laws, who has served his apprenticeship with Alexanders Prestige in Boroughbridge, also welcomed the chance to get to grips with the iconic American motor.

“We get some really nice cars in where I work but not too many Classic Cars,” he pointed out. “Other than a Triumph Stag’s brakes and tyres, this was the first Classic Car that I had worked on, so it was a bit different, but all the principles are the same and working on different cars just widens your knowledge.

“At College, we’re used to working on (Vauxhall) Corsas and (Seat) Ibizas, so working on something like this was quite a treat and you never stop learning as a mechanic. There are people I work with who still haven’t worked on certain vehicles and I don’t think you can ever have worked on too many.”

To learn more about our Motor Vehicle Service and Maintenance Technician Level 3 Apprenticeship, please click here

For details of our current apprenticeship vacancies, visit here

If you would like further information on any of our courses and to meet department tutors, please consider attending our next Open Event on Wednesday 19th June from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.

You can register a place by clicking here