- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

AUBURN, Ind. (AP) - When a head gasket breaks in a classic car, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile museum doesn’t take it the nearest repair shop.

It calls in the Pit Crew.

The Pit Crew is an all-volunteer force that takes care of the more than 120 cars in the museum’s collection. As on the NASCAR circuit, the Pit Crew readies automobiles, but this race is one of automotive permanency.

Registrar and volunteer manager Lindsay Wharton said the museum has nearly 100 volunteers, including a dedicated group of 15 men in the Pit Crew.

“The Pit Crew keeps the museum going,” Wharton told The Star (http://bit.ly/1kXuJaS ). “They’ll keep the cars alive for the next 200 years.”

Repairs range from simple to difficult, from filling tires with the proper air pressure to changing an antique head gasket.

To join the Pit Crew, the men are required to have a mechanical background or experience with cars. The Pit Crew meets every Monday to work on projects. Somewhere in that time, Wharton said, they always find time to break for lunch.

Most of the men are retired, but some still work full-time jobs. The crew added another work day on Thursday evenings for those who work and enjoy volunteering at the museum.

The group’s legendary leader, John Rosener, is the longest-serving volunteer at the museum. He joined 20 years ago when he saw an ad in the paper. Retired, he thought volunteering would be a good idea.

“He can know what’s wrong with a car by listening to it,” Wharton said. Rosener has another hidden skill, fixing clocks.

Rosener, along with the late Paul Casebere, started the Pit Crew in 2007. The museum’s newest building, the Collection Conservation Center, was dedicated in their honor in 2012. The center is where the Pit Crew works to restore and maintain automobiles. It also has gallery space for educational events.

Andy LaRowe, another volunteer, used to work at the museum in his youth. Today, he works at Steel Dynamics and makes time to volunteer.

The men in the Pit Crew are there, Wharton said, because “They love old cars.”

When the museum receives a donated car, the Pit Crew prepares it for storage. All fluids inside the car are drained, and the battery is removed. If fluids remain in the car, it will cause deterioration.

The museum’s curator, Aaron Warkentin, said it’s important to keep cars in running condition to preserve the automotive heritage. Warkentin said he doesn’t want the museum to be viewed as a static collection of cars.

“We’re not a car collection,” Warkentin said. “It’s a museum about society and how it influenced the make of the cars.”

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Information from: The (Auburn, Ind.) Star, http://www.dekalbstar.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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