Students in the Auto Restoration Program at McPherson College have gotten their hands on something not just anyone could find.

For 15 years, the Auto Restoration Program has partnered with Mercedes Benz Classic Center in Irvine, California to allow students to be caretakers of the first car the company ever made.

"Mercedes Benz built replicas of the Benz Patton Wagon for their 100th anniversary and we are caretakers of one of those," said Brian Martin, director of the college’s program. "It was the first successful automobile over 130 years ago."

The college has had a long-lasting relationship with the company over the years and thought it fit for students to have the chance to work with the replica of the 1886 Benz Patton Wagon.

"We also have a number of graduates that work for the classic center and the director is on our board of advisors for the restoration program. Being the only restoration program in the country, the company felt it was good exposure for the students to have access to the heritage,” Martin said. “We’re going to take care of it well enough that we don’t have to tear it apart.”

Students had opportunities to do maintenance work on the vehicle, ranging from polishing, using refinishing techniques, paint work and taking apart smaller pieces.

“No matter what kind of cars the students like or just being car enthusiasts in general, this car is where it all began and that’s the most important thing they’re learning,” Martin explained.

The class also gets to share the heritage of the car by driving it around the McPherson College campus.

The class is currently working on putting minor parts back together and hopes to have it completed by May 5 for the annual CARS show at the college.

“We drive it around and tell the history of the car and people can come see it if they want to learn more about it,” Martin said.

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel.