Max Pygman’s love for cars started during auto mechanics class at Decatur High School in 1949. While life has taken this 1959 Millikin graduate on many detours, the road always leads back to his first love, the Mercedes-Benz. "I restore Mercedes from the 1950s; they are my favorite," says Pygman, owner of Maximum Benz.
At MU, Pygman, (who was known in those days as Richard or Dick) spent many hours with friends in "Campus City," the housing provided for veterans. He estimates that Korean War veterans made up 20 percent or more of the student body at that time. Spending time with fellow veterans helped, he says, "There was a social structure and a bond." He recalls fondly that professor Edward Ploenges, then assistant dean of veteran affairs, "made a difference; he was a fantastic instructor," Pygman says. Pygman also credits Carl "Doc" Head, professor of engineering and industry, and Bryce K. Brown, assistant professor of mathematics, for making Millikin a worthwhile experience for him. "One of the proudest moments of my life was when I was handed my diploma and graduated from Millikin," he says.
In the 1970s, he rediscovered his joy for restoring automobiles. Since that time, he has restored several cars as a hobby, the most famous being a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 220 Cabriolet A owned by folksinger Arlo Guthrie. He met Guthrie while living in Connecticut. After Pygman had done some work for Guthrie’s fellow musicians, Guthrie approached him and an agreement was struck. The "ground-up job" (total restoration) took more than 6,000 hours, and Pygman presented the car to Guthrie last September. When Guthrie came to town to retrieve his car, he made a special concert appearance at Millikin’s Kirkland Fine Arts Center.
Since that time, Pygman was featured in the September/October 2003 issue of Star, the Mercedes Club magazine. This restoration buff doesn’t just work on other people’s cars, however. He is also the proud owner of a Millikin blue 1967 Mercedes 250s, which he hopes to drive in the 2004 Homecoming parade alongside his brother, Don, also a 1959 graduate.
The scenic route is the road Pygman travels these days. His philosophy is that life should be enjoyed, and restoring cars is one of many things that he does for fun. What’s his next fun project? He has a 1953 Mercedes-Benz 170 Sb in his garage, calling his name.
Read the complete profile in the Summer 2004 issue of Millikin Quarterly magazine.