The club at Pasadena High School (PHS) is one-of-a-kind, just like the classic cars its members are determined to rebuild.
By News Desk
Dedicated to the restoration, preservation, and enjoyment of Ford Model A vehicles manufactured between 1928 and 1931, it is the only Model A club anywhere in the nation that is based on a high school campus. It is also one of the only programs in the Los Angeles area geared towards automotive technology.
“When kids have an opportunity to learn how to use their hands, use tools, and at the same time use a little bit of their own ingenuity, they not only save money, they have a sense of accomplishment,” said Club Director and former Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Board Member, Wilbert Smith, Ph.D. “There’s no better feeling than looking at a ‘before and after’ and knowing that you’re the one that’s in the center of it.”
The cars in the shop at PHS are not filled up with gas nor are they started until they’re completely taken apart, rebuilt, restored, and then rolled out to the parking lot. The goal is to transform a drab, donated car into a show-stopping vehicle ready for the road. No school funds are allocated to the club. Since it first started at PHS in 2016, the club has been relying solely on donations and proceeds from a drawing for a restored Model A. In exchange for a $100 donation, donors get a ticket for a chance to win the finely finished Ford.
“You don’t see many clubs that involve hands-on work, especially with cars, and I thought it was exciting to have at my school,” said Club President Jessica Torres, an 11th grader at PHS who first started working on cars with her dad. “I enjoy older cars. They’re better than today’s cars.”
“Once we started rolling, kids started coming,” said Club Advisor and PHS Art Teacher Todd Dirks, who noted that the club now has about 40 teens dedicated to working on these vintage vehicles.
Mr. Dirks says he’s grateful to Dr. Smith for giving students direction and inspiration. Both car experts enjoy guiding club members on Thursdays after school and watching the amazement on students’ faces when the engine roars to life after all that hard work.
“Dr. Smith is paying it forward because he’s already made a career doing other things, and he’s giving back to society by helping with our kids. He teaches the kids about tool safety. He also instructs the kids on parts of the car, how to take apart the motor and put it back together,” Mr. Dirks said.
Many schools across the nation stopped offering auto body classes back in the 1980s and began steering students in other directions. Some vintage car fans believe this type of practical hands-on education needs a jumpstart. For Club Vice President Nate Fulford, a PHS 10th grader, car refurbishing might run in the family. Coincidentally, f-o-r-d are the last four letters of his name.
“I’ve always liked cars, and I just wanted to know how to work on them, and my grandpa was really into cars. He used to work on them and build them, my uncles too. That inspired me to join the club,” Fulford explained.
The group hopes to have their 1931 Model A hardtop roadster ready to ride in by next spring. If you are interested in joining the Model A Club (PHSMAC) or you would like to make a donation, visit pusd.us/phsmac.
We hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, please consider supporting the Colorado Boulevard’s journalism.
Billionaires, hedge fund owners and local imposters have a powerful hold on the information that reaches the public. Colorado Boulevard stands to serve the public interest – not profit motives.
While fairness guides everything we do, we know there is a right and a wrong position in the fight against racism and climate crisis while supporting reproductive rights and social justice. We provide a fresh perspective on local politics – one so often missing from so-called ‘local’ journalism.
You can access Colorado Boulevard’s paywall-free journalism because of our unique reader-supported model. People like you, informed readers, keep us independent, beholden to no outside influence, and accessible to everyone.
Please consider supporting Colorado Boulevard today. Thank you. (Click to Support)