By John Robert
The past two years, the Auto Shop students at Trenton High School have had an extra special project to work on.
Thanks to Jim Schneider, uncle of Dr. Michael Doyle, the school’s principal, the shop has had a 1980 yellow Corvette taking up residence while the students restore it.
“My dad would take me to the Indy races at MIS every year when I was a kid,” Schneider explained, “and he always liked (Roger) Penske and his yellow cars. So, when I got back from the Vietnam War, I decided to buy one, in a way to impress my father.”
Schneider’s dad died when he was 28, but the car remained a symbolic tribute to his memories of time shared with him at the race track and elsewhere.
After driving the car himself for many years, and even passing it down to his daughter to drive, eventually the car ended up sitting in his garage for more than a decade.
This long period of inactivity rotted and rusted the car, locking up almost every moving part of it, and he knew to get it in driving condition would require an intensive and expensive restoration effort.
At first it seemed like something of a lost cause. When a family member offered to buy the car, he refused to sell it on the grounds that it would be too much work and money to repair, and he wouldn’t allow them to take on a money pit.
However, Doyle happened to suggest to his uncle — who he is very close to and considers more like a brother — that the students in the school’s Auto Shop class needed a project.
Schneider, who tells the story now with a mischievous laugh, told him, “Oh, I have a project.”
Yet, last year, on the day the car arrived at the school, Auto Shop teacher Bryan Monaco thought it would be a short project.
“When I first saw it, I told Mr. Schneider I thought we’d have it done it two or three weeks. But it took us a week just to get the tires off!” he said with a laugh. “It’s an example of what can happen to a car when it just sits without any preparation for that kind of extensive inactivity.”
Nearly all the car’s moving parts had become rigid, including the engine, and it wouldn’t even roll. It had to be brought in on a flatbed tow truck and forcibly moved into its spot. Due to the age of the car, parts have to be ordered from a number of different providers, and often progress is halted while the class waits for the next part to arrive. All expenses on the car are paid for by Schneider.
Like Monaco, the students laugh, too, at the pains the car has given them, but are thankful for the great learning opportunity. The car has been a great source of pride for the class. Monaco has even allowed students to come in on Saturdays or after school to work on it, an opportunity many have seized.
Steve Kosa, a senior, and Tyler Tarris, a junior, are two students who have put as much work into the car as anyone in the class, and said the project has been extremely engaging and fun. They attack it with enthusiasm, and it has exposed the class to a side of auto repair, restoration, that might typically not be explored in a high school auto shop class.
“I want to see it finished before I graduate,” Kosa said. Of course, some of that desire is incentivized by a pizza party that is planned to celebrate that occasion.
The students and Monaco hope the car will be finished by spring, so with the class’s continued determination, Kosa may very well get his wish.
“They’re doing me more of a favor than I’m doing them,” said Schneider, who is looking forward to seeing the completion of the restoration and the fond memories it will preserve.
Filed Under: Current News, EducationTagged With: auto shop, news, Trenton, Trenton high school, trenton news, trenton trib
UPDATE: On July 14, Jonathan Robertson accepted a Corvette Stingray, gifted to the Metropolitan Community College for Robertson’s SkillsUSA win. Enjoy the photos.
Our original story, posted on June 28, 2016:
It’s been a sweet ride for a recent Metropolitan Community College graduate. Not only has Jonathan Robertson brought home the silver for MCC, he is also the reason the MCC-Longview campus will be the home of a brand new Chevrolet Corvette.
Robertson and fellow MCC-Longview classmate Quinn Kielty put the skills they learned through the General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program (GMASEP) to the test as regional finalists in the SkillsUSA 2016 National Leadership and Skills Contest, in Louisville, Ky.
From June 20-26, SkillsUSA, a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce, hosted students from across the country in series of competitive events.
“Pretty amazing week indeed,” says the students’ mentor and coach, David Patience, automotive department coordinator at MCC-Longview.
The SkillsUSA Championships are competitive events showcasing the best career and technical education students in the nation. Contests begin locally and continue through the state and national levels.
“Both Quinn and Jon won gold medals at the state level, just to qualify for this amazing event,” says Patience.
Thousands competed in the multi-million-dollar event that occupied a space equivalent to 16 football fields.
Robertson excelled in an automotive service technology contest, where contestants were run through an array of 12 stations plus a written exam. These 12 stations were designed to test every relevant skill in the automotive industry, from precision measuring and meter usage to customer service.
A silver medal was presented to Robertson on June 24 for his work. He also received numerous tools, service equipment and scholarship offers as part of his award package.
Kielty did MCC proud as well. “He did an excellent job of explaining and demonstrating proper service procedures on automotive drum brake systems,” Patience says.
Kielty landed solidly in the nation’s top 20 with a 14th place finish.
MCC Longview automotive program will also be receiving a vehicle donation from General Motors in recognition of Robertson’s win. Patience says the donation is expected to be in the form of a 2016 Corvette.
Click here for our story from April 2016 about the regional contest winners from MCC.
About MCC-Longview’s automotive program: The automotive training programs are accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. The facility is bright, spacious and well-stocked with tools, equipment and components. MCC has a fleet of more than 60 late-model cars for training purposes.
About Skills USA: It’s a national organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in technical, skilled and service occupations, including health occupations and for further education. SkillsUSA was formerly known as VICA (the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America).