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Clearbrook-Gonvick School District: Restoring a classic car used as class project

Students in Ross Faldet's advanced technology class at Clearbrook-Gonvick High School, restored this 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe as a class project. For the past two months, students, staff and community members have sold raffle tickets to fund the project. At 2 p.m. today at Pumpkin Days in Gonvick, students will be handing over the keys to the winner and new owner of the car. Submitted photo

Students in Ross Faldet's advanced industrial technology class at Clearbrook-Gonvick High School restored a 1969 Ford Mustang Coupe, a class project that took almost two years to complete.

Painted silver with black stripes, the Mustang has a custom-built grille, shaded windshield, black upholstery and a retractable antenna. Approximately 60 students helped to strip, repair and refinish the car in time for the Pumpkin Days Vintage Car Show today in Gonvick.

Faldet started the project last year after getting approval from the school board.

"The school board had faith in (Faldet) because of his good reputation as a parent, coach and community member," said Clearbrook-Gonvick High School Principal Lon Burgess. "The board voted unanimously to approve his project. When budgets are tight sometimes you have to look at what's best for kids and go for it."

Faldet purchased the vehicle in October 2008 for high school students in his advanced technology class to work on. The class includes students who have previously taken at least one of the core industrial classes at Clearbrook-Gonvick, such as welding, small engines, woodworking and cabinetry.

Last year students had a 45-minute class period to work on the car. This year students were able to use a two-hour block of time. Students also were given the option, and sometimes extra credit, to work on the vehicle during evenings, weekends and summer break.

Burgess said he would occasionally monitor the class project to see what students were doing.

"It was fun to see students actively engaged and enthused to be in school," Burgess said. "The students were actively involved in the process."

After assessing the car for the first time last year, students disassembled it and stripped it down to bare metal. Then they welded a few replacement panels and undercoated the floor pans, frame and hidden areas susceptible to rust.

This year, students assembled and rebuilt the 351 Windsor engine, rebuilt the C-4 transmission, assembled a locking differential, reupholstered the seats, installed a new headliner and carpet, rebuilt the dash and installed digital instruments, reassembled the body, primed and painted the car and all the components, rebuilt the steering and suspension, installed a disc brake conversion and installed a stainless steel exhaust system.

From the planning of the project's timeline to the ordering of parts, Faldet said students were behind the project's helm. However, since Clearbrook-Gonvick does not have an automotive program, Faldet said students had to rely area businesses for tools, equipment, facilities and expertise.

"Area automotive repair shops have been very receptive of helping our students out in any way they can," Faldet said. "This project would not have been possible without the generosity of numerous people throughout our community. We are grateful."

At one point, several Clearbrook-Gonvick students took a field trip to Northwest Technical College to use its facilities to bore the cylinders and machine the engine block.

In answering why Faldet chose to purchase a Mustang, he said, "the Mustang is an American classic that's popular among all age groups."

The Mustang, he added, is a vehicle that is easy for students to learn about because it's fairly easy to work on and parts and materials are readily available. Because funding for the project depended on raffle tickets being sold, the project also had to be something people would want to buy.

According to Faldet, the advanced industrial technology students worked on the car on a daily basis and "part-time" students, those who had already graduated or who were in other classes, worked on the car on occasion.

Faldet said one of the reasons he chose to have students refurnish a car was to give students exposure and skills related to a variety of professions, such as auto mechanics, vehicle maintenance, collision repair and refinishing, upholstery, electronics, welding, sandblasting, machining and restoration.

"This project is also an example of the power of teamwork," Faldet said. "When everyone contributes with the project and helps each other, it all comes together in the end."

The Clearbrook-Gonvick school board initially funded the cost of supplies and parts needed to refurnish the vehicle. Several local businesses gave the class discounts on parts and products. Faldet said any donations from local businesses and community members and the money from raffle tickets will be used to repay the school district.

Additionally, students, staff and community members of the school district sold raffle tickets, tickets. The winning raffle ticket will be announced today at Pumpkin Days in Gonvick. The winner receives the ownership title to the Mustang.

Now that the car is completed, Faldet said students are anxious to find out who will win it. He looks forward to finding a new project for students to work on this school year.

"The Mustang did its job," he said. "Kids were exposed to different skills and careers. It will become a memory that they will never forget. It really is a community project. There are a lot of people's finger prints on this car."