Auto shop project becomes showpiece at motor exhibition

Posted: Wednesday, May 09, 2001

The upcoming Classic, Custom and Antique Auto and Cycle Show will feature 37 cars and trucks, 10 to 12 motorcycles, some loving care and a lot of hard work.

Students in Steve Squires' advanced auto shop class at Juneau-Douglas High School are among the participants who have restored vehicles that will be displayed 6-9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Hall.

The students have been working since September on a 1971 Ford Bronco that Squires bought for $3,000 as a student project. He's put in another $4,000 of his money to buy parts. Students ordinarily work on their own rigs in class, but don't get the chance to see a project through to completion in this much detail.

"Squires supplied the parts. We just put it together," said senior Richard Smiley.

The truck had 114,000 miles on it, didn't run and looked shabby. Students rebuilt the engine, put in a new suspension, installed some performance parts, which are larger than stock parts, and eventually will redo the interior.

Ralph Kaiser and Nick Adamson, who will compete in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Contest in Anchorage this week with another vehicle, did much of the engine work on the Bronco.

"When I bought it, the kids kind of made fun of it because it was old and dumpy-looking. I think they're kind of surprised at what it looks like," Squires said.

The students' work ultimately will help other students. Proceeds from the car show's $5 admission will go to six JDHS student activities that don't benefit from gate receipts of their own, such as the art and auto clubs and cross-country and volleyball teams, said organizer Stan Ridgeway, a Juneau School Board member and car buff.

The show will include a 1931 Plymouth, a 1963 Studebaker Avanti, a 1954 Jaguar, a 1953 MG, and a Plymouth Prowler and a Dodge Viper from the '90s. Cycles include a fully restored 1975 Goldwing, a 1943 BSA, a 1921 Henderson and two Triumphs from the '60s.

"I had been noticing on nice summer days all these classic and antique cars you'd see on the road," Ridgeway said. "And you wouldn't see them for months. I decided it would be neat to put them on display where everybody could see them."

Ridgeway will bring his 1975 Volkswagen convertible with the original upholstery, the original tool kit that hadn't been unwrapped when he bought the car in Juneau six years ago, and a gas heater.

Volkswagens were notorious for having poor heat, Ridgeway said. The heaters robbed exhaust heat from the manifold and pushed it through the car by the engine fan.

"In very cold weather it never got hot enough to heat the car," he said. So some people bought heaters that burned gas from the gas tank.

"People always joked that the gas heater used more gas than the car did," he said.

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