A former student had some car trouble toward the end of the 2014-2015 school year. Instead of weighing repair options, he decided to donate his injured vehicle to A K Smith Career Center Automotive Technology Class. It is a 1996 BMW 318ti. That same year, another student donated a Chevrolet V8 engine that needed a little work but was a nearly complete unit. We believed the engine could work well as a demonstration piece for engine repair lessons.
At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, a returning senior asked if it was possible to put an American engine in a German car. It was explained to the student and the class that, with enough time and ingenuity, almost anything can be accomplished in the shop. So, we set out to remove the non-running engine from the car and devising a way to make this larger, heavier engine fit in this little car. Who knew that the project would have exploded into a community outreach project?
After putting together a nearly 80 page lesson plan to make the work on the car relevant to the class curriculum, we approached local businesses and individuals to help us out with parts and supplies to get the car up and running again. Not only were we successful in obtaining most of the parts needed, there was enough publicity about the project that it attracted the attention of one of the world's largest auto parts manufacturers and several not-for-profit organizations.
VFW Post 2536 in Michigan City help immensely by purchasing $400 worth of safety equipment such as a roll cage and racing seat belt. Kniola Automotive chipped in and offered up a case of racing oil for the newly reassembled engine and a fire extinguisher (just in case). Ridge NAPA Auto Parts did their part with donations of a racing fuel pump, as well as greatly-reduced prices on parts and supplies we needed. Federal Mogul, a manufacturer of a great number of original equipment auto parts world wide, not only gave us the brake parts needed to make the car stop safely, but also donated a large windshield wiper assortment to help generate additional funds to keep the project moving forward. Wallen Auto, a local repair shop in Michigan City, was generous enough to give us an entire engine to use as a spare or for extra parts, as well as another automatic transmission to do the same.
Most of this generosity came after our project was approved by the school principal, Audra Peterson and the story went out to The News Dispatch, The Beacher, and Region Rides. Once the public was aware of what was going on at the school, the phone started ringing and the emails started pouring in.
Our goal is to enter the completed car in the 24 Hours of Lemons endurance race in the summer of 2017. The race is a series of events held nationwide at many race tracks across the country. In our region, the closest track is in Illinois. Rules dictate that the car cannot exceed a value of $500, making it very tricky to put together a competitive machine. The idea is to level the playing field a ensure that one particular car or team doesn't dominate simply because they have a bigger budget. When all cars are as equal as possible, it is much easier to focus on the fun and camaraderie that come with amateur racing. As a short-term benchmark, we want to hear the engine run before the class of 2016 graduates and enter it in the homecoming parade in the fall.