Auto club takes Rising Star award in California competition

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 18, 2014

 The Roseville High School auto shop, along with the DRIVE One auto club, restored this 1931 Ford Roadster and took it to the Grand National Roadster competition in Pomona, Calif., in January.

The Roseville High School auto shop, along with the DRIVE One auto club, restored this 1931 Ford Roadster and took it to the Grand National Roadster competition in Pomona, Calif., in January.

Photo by Kevin Bunch

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ROSEVILLE — The DRIVE (Delivering Religion In Vocational Education) One auto club and Roseville High School’s own auto shop accomplished something in January that few groups of teens can claim: they had a vehicle entered in the 65th Grand National Roadster competition.

Auto shop teacher Paul Tregembo Jr. was also one of the people leading the club and went out to Pomona, Calif., with 15 of his students — and 12 chaperones — Jan. 21 with their restored 1931 Ford pickup truck. He said they earned the “Rising Star” award during the competition, which ran from Jan. 24-26.

“They were the only school to ever qualify for the AMBR (America’s Most Beautiful Roadster) award,” Tregembo Jr. said. “They showed well and were written up in numerous publications for being on par with everybody else competing, including the builders and companies that produced those cars, so that was a big plug for the kids.”

Paul Tregembo Sr., who has been teaching the auto shop class at the high school since 1967, said that while the roadster competition is a “winner-take-all” event, the general feeling was that their vehicle came in second place to a roadster that had a lot more time and money put into it.

He said that work on this truck started in September. Kids were working on it nonstop since then, even on days the schools were closed.

“We were here during the snow days, working on it until the custodians kicked us out,” Tregembo Sr. said. “We probably wouldn’t have finished without them.”

He said the students did all of the work on the vehicle except for the interior, as they did not have the expertise to work on that. A shop in Saginaw reupholstered the truck.

The truck was shipped out by semitrailer earlier in the month and arrived Jan. 22, in time for preliminary judging to take place and to get everything set up for the show itself, Tregembo Jr. said. They did find some time to go out and do some tourist activities, however.

The group visited Disneyland, the National Hot Rod Association Museum and got to work with a few television personalities, as well, he said, adding that everybody really enjoyed their trip.

“I don’t think there was any doubt about that,” he said. “They all want to go back; the weather was so nice compared to here. When we left California, it was 76 degrees, and when they got back, there was no school the next day due to a minus-26-degree wind chill.”

The school and the DRIVE One club could not afford to get the kids out to California, so students held fundraising drives. Tregembo Sr. said it cost around $1,200 per student, with Mark O’Brien, of O’Brien Ford, helping make up the difference when students were close but not over that threshold.

The kids also had to raise money to finish restoring the truck, with groups such as the Roseville Heritage Foundation stepping up and donating money for paint and other supplies, he said in October.

With the roadster show finished, Tregembo Jr. said everybody involved, including the kids, are currently trying to determine what they want to work on next. While they have some prospects, he said they do want to make another shot at the AMBR award for the 2015 show.

“We haven’t committed on anything yet,” he said. “We have options available, but it’s what is feasible for us in the time we have to complete it.

“Sometimes, (the kids) find it to be very exciting, and cool, and different, but unfortunately, it’s not feasible to have it completed in that period of time.”

Tregembo Sr. said the truck would be displayed at Autorama at Cobo Hall March 7-9 and will also be showcased at a few other auto shows in the region, including one in Cleveland.

In October, Tregembo Jr. said older vehicles are good places for kids to learn about auto repair and how cars work, since they are much simpler than modern computerized ones.

“It’s a different story for a new, computerized Taurus,” he said. “We give them some experience with the basics. We had (the truck) out in the parking lot, twisting wires to get it to run, and that’s as basic as you could get. You can’t do that with today’s computerized, fuel-injected marvels.”

Roseville High School Principal Pete Hedemark said the auto shop has proven to be one of the most successful career technical education classes (CTE) the school has, and that the dream of going to the Grand National Roadster competition is one the staff has had for a few years.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids,” he said. “The world is big, and I want the kids to see as much of as possible.”

CTE classes have been on the decline over the past decade, as schools emphasized going to college over entering the trades, but Hedemark said that trend seems to be turning around somewhat based on industry leaders talking about how they need more skilled-trades workers.

DRIVE One is based out of the Faith United Methodist Church in Macomb Township. The DRIVE One club has been associated with the auto shop for a couple years. Principal Pete Hedemark said it helps the kids get additional sponsorship for projects and lets students who live outside of the district participate in the auto shop program in the evening.

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