Speedy auto body work by East Ridge High School’s students is quickly earning the school a fast reputation as one of the most advanced high school auto body classes in the nation.
Working with corporate partners and community relationships, Teacher Bill Barto has been able to provide unique opportunities for students in the Automotive Collision, Repair and Refinishing program. The opportunity presented by the Braille Battery Race Team is earning the school some well-deserved kudos.
The Gymkhana Grid Nissan 350z was showcased at Daytona International Speedway (photo provided by AutomotiveAddicts.com).
“We were so impressed at the skill level and top equipment at the school,” stated Braille Battery President, Blake Fuller, in a company news release. “The students did such an amazing job on the Hot Rod Hybrid car that we hoped they could piece together a very crashed race car and bring it back to its original glory.”
The wide body Nissan 350Z had seen two years of drift racing with both rear fenders destroyed and a front end that consisted only of shredded pieces of fiberglass after impact with a concrete wall. The car was then retired and sat in the Braille warehouse for three years before the 2013 X Games inspired ideas for a new life for the racecar.
The new X Games sport, Gymkhana Grid, was the brainchild of the Internet driving sensation, Ken Block. This head-to-head rally race pitted two cars on mirrored racetracks, both trying to be the first to cross the finish line, but with obstacles that were similar to drifting and ultimate car control. These All-Wheel-Drive Supercars would go on to compete in the Red Bull Global Rally Cross at the same event. The Braille team began to imagine the retired Nissan wide body drift car in an Unlimited Two-Wheel Drive Class, which would allow it to once again compete at the track.
Students went to work overhauling the racecar. According to Chris Brewer from AutomotiveAddicts.com, “the eye-catching Gymkhana Grid Nissan 350z sponsored by Braille Battery, Nissan North America, and GO PUCK (and many others) was showcased on the infield during the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross (GRC) event at Daytona International Speedway August 22-23, 2014. The restoration was a labor of love, painstakingly restored by auto body students from Clermont, Florida’s East Ridge High School using PPG paint materials, the radically customized 350z looks absolutely stunning in the bright Florida sun.”
The Gymkhana Grid Nissan 350z will also be showcased at the 2014 SEMA Show, an automotive specialty products trade event, on Nov. 4-7 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“I am proud to partner with PPG and I look forward to a long and productive working relationship with them and Braille Battery,” Barto said. “It’s great to see the involvement of these corporations, and we hope to build on these for the students’ benefit.”
The Automotive Collision, Repair and Refinishing course at East Ridge High School is part of the school’s robust Career-Technical Education (CTE) programs, which also includes 13 other programs such as Allied Health Assisting and International Business. Career and Professional Academies provide students the opportunity to earn industry certifications. The appropriate industry certifications for the Automotive Collision, Repair and Refinishing program are the National Automotive Technology Education Foundation’s Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Automobile/Light Truck Technician in the areas of Nonstructural Analysis and Damage Repair and Painting and Refinishing.