An old coal shed hid a forgotten treasure, and now folks in Fentress County are trying to rally the community to preserve it.

"I was born in '75 so this car has been in that shed since before I was born," Mike Wood said.

The car was in an old shed sitting on a layer of coal dust.

"Almost 50 years in a barn in Pall Mall, Tennessee, it's going to be a rust bucket," he said.

But when they pulled it out this August, it was in surprisingly good shape.

"I think we can get it cleaned up and preserved and keep it from being damaged further," Wood said.

The vintage automobile Wood is working to preserve isn't any old car. The 1957 Pontiac Star Chief belonged to Sgt Alvin C. York. He was a famous WWI hero who was awarded almost 50 medals for his service. After the war he came home to Fentress County.

He started a school in Jamestown. In 1927 York Institute opened.

In 1941, Gary Cooper portrayed him in the movie "Sgt York."

Then in 1954, after several strokes and bouts with pneumonia, he was pretty much confined to his bed and his wheelchair.

"The 82nd Airborne Association heard about this and in 1957 they thought, hey, he's our hero. We're going to give back. And so they had this Pontiac Star Chief black on black modified to accept his wheelchair," Mike said.

They removed the passenger seat and built two grooves in the floorboard to accommodate the wheelchair wheels.

"The day they gave it to him there were close to 4,000 people in attendance. It was a big to do. They designated 8-20-57 as Sgt. York Day in front of York Institute which was his namesake," he said.

History fascinates Mike. He works for a bank but is also the volunteer web master for the Fentress County Historical Society. The car is his new passion.

"The sergeant kept his drivers license through the day he died even though he was unable to drive. He kept that license as part of his dream that one day maybe he would get to drive this fine automobile at the time," he said.

He's made a few posters to appeal to the community to save the sergeant's Pontiac because the community owes a lot to the sergeant.

"Most of the people in Fentress County graduated from York Institute and that's because of Sgt York," Wood said.

He got a good deal on new tires and a local guy refinished the rims and friends from work helped wash it. All those improvements were made in time for the Homecoming parade at the York Institute a couple weeks ago.

"Got a lot of thumbs up from older guys," Wood said.

Restoring the car is a way to honor Sgt. York and emulate that generous gift made 60 years ago.

"It's humbling to think that those soldiers would get together and take up their own money and do such a great act of kindness for one of their idols, for one of their role models," Wood said.

The next stop for Sgt York's Pontiac is the Great Pumpkin Festival in Allardt this Saturday, Oct. 7.