LAWRENCEVILLE — The challenge was rolled out on Tuesday in front of a group of some of the best students at Maxwell High School of Technology.
Take a 2003 Chevrolet Impala with 155,000 miles on it — valued at $3,000 — and turn it into an award-winner. The silver sedan was introduced to 14 Maxwell students who were hand-picked to participate in a nationwide vehicle restoration contest put on by Quaker State. The school also conducted a baseline horsepower test on a portable dyno for a pre-competition starting point.
“It’s more fun to get the experience and also to represent Maxwell,” senior Brandon Szczesny said. “It’s going to be more fun than it is work.”
Added junior Layla Ponce-Pena, “I don’t think we look at it like work. I think we look at it like the experience of learning and developing our teamwork.”
The car was purchased and donated to Maxwell by Quaker State from a “buy here, pay here” lot in Conyers. On their initial glance, the students noticed that the car’s headlights would need some work, the driver’s door had a rattle and fluids were needed.
Maxwell’s group now has six weeks to restore the Impala, and will be judged on engine maintenance, performance and creativity, interior and exterior appearance and horsepower. The students from across Gwinnett are enrolled in automotive services, collision repair and maintenance and light repair classes.
“The first part of the engine part of the challenge is just maintenance,” teacher Max Chavez said. “It’s, ‘You bought a used car, and you want to make it road worthy.’ So you’re changing the fluids and filters and brakes and making sure it’s road worthy and safe. From there, the other stuff is creativity, which would kind of mirror a body shop and what kind of cool, custom paint they can do, or an interior shop, and then neat stuff they can do inside.”
It’s a high school version of sorts of the popular MTV show “Pimp My Ride.”
The six-week competition began on Tuesday, and the “Best in Class” challenge includes four other high school auto shop classes across the country.
Chavez said he was contacted in the spring to participate because Quaker State looked for representation from major markets around the country.
“The PR for us and the exposure for them to know what this school is all about, this little hidden gem, and the awesome stuff we do here,” Chavez said. “The thought behind the challenge is give a student a car and $2,000 and see what they can do with it.”
The six-week timeframe is “insanely fast” Chavez said, partially because these students only started the classes to learn these skills about 10 weeks ago.
“Beginner, first-year students, I’ve got to get them to a competitive level,” Chavez said. “It’s intense.”
Students will have creative freedom with guidance from teachers.
“We’re there for professional help,” Chavez said. “If they decide they want to paint the thing pink, then they can paint it pink.”
While Szczesny said he would defer to a team decision, he wants the car to have an original design, such as flames or Superman.
Each high school team will compete for a custom spread in Popular Mechanics, the opportunity to attend and participate in the December Mecum Auction in Austin, Texas, and prize money and scholarships for their high school.
The competing five schools will receive their vehicle and receive a $2,000 AutoZone gift card to purchase all necessary parts and supplies. Online voting will also be taken into consideration. All schools will be awarded a prize package from AutoZone that includes:
• Gold Prize: One $2,000 AutoZone gift certificate to the first place school
• Silver Prize: Two $1,500 AutoZone gift certificates each to the second and third place schools
• Bronze Prize: Two $1,000 AutoZone gift certificates each to the fourth and fifth place schools
All five schools will receive a professional mechanics tool kit from AutoZone for their shop class to further learn about auto maintenance.
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