Meet Mike, Our New Innovators Scholarship Intern
Tyler, Texas, native Mike Kirkpatrick jumpstarted his career in automotive repair soon after he snagged his first car – a 2000 Ford Mustang. A popular muscle car with the perfect blend of power and handling for a new driver, Mike’s pony car also came with three pedals and (eventually) a burned out clutch.
Turns out, however, that burning up your clutch may not be a bad thing after all. Especially when it leads to an opportunity to work with the world’s most respected classic Bronco builder.
As is the case with many teenagers, Mike didn’t have money for a mechanic to fix his car. So out of necessity, he elected to repair the clutch himself. After a trip to the store for some tools came lots of trial and error while learning on the job. Soon, Mike’s Mustang was back up and running.
According to Mike, “I really felt a sense of accomplishment after fixing my clutch, so I just kept working on my car as it needed repairs. I eventually realized my passion for fixing cars could be a career path. I began going door to door at all the local repair shops in town to see if I could get a job. That was when I was lucky enough to find Ralph, who owned a restoration shop. He gave me a part time job making minimum wage, and was truly instrumental in giving me a 360 degree experience in automotive repair and restoration.”
After several years working as an apprentice with Ralph, Mike found his way to the Carroll Shelby Automotive Program at Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. “I drove about an hour to and from the school every day in my ’75 Ford F100,” he added. “I’d show up early and leave late, which led to an early graduation and me getting this amazing internship with Gateway Bronco.”
As an intern at Gateway Bronco, Mike can be found at Station 4 where he’s a part of the final assembly – where the fit and finish of each Bronco is fine-tuned; or, at fabrication where he’s building exhaust systems and mastering his welding craftsmanship.
“There are so many great aspects about Gateway,” he said. “The level of team work here is like nothing I’ve experienced anywhere else. There’s no competition with the other mechanics. Everyone is willing to share their knowledge and experience, which means we can just focus on building the very best classic Broncos in the world.”
And when asked his advice for future mechanics? “You must be passionate about your work and willing to put in the time to really understand your craft. But once you’ve invested that time and earned the respect of your peers, opportunities – like working with Gateway Bronco – will open up.”
The Innovators Scholarship was a brought to life by Gateway Bronco’s Owner and CEO, Seth Burgett as a result of his drive to help cultivate the next generation of car builders. The scholarship was launched in 2021 at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, in partnership with the Carroll Shelby Automotive program at Northeast Texas Community College and McPherson College. The Innovators Scholarship is an 8-week program where students get real-life work experience at the Gateway Bronco manufacturing facility. The interns are given the opportunity to expand their education and gain valuable real world experience while being mentored by some of the best master craftsmen in the industry.
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