Calera students practice “dying art and trade”

Several Calera High School students are forgoing their summer freedom to get some extra hands-on knowledge in shop and engineering.

July 28 five students huddled beneath the rusty remains of a 1957 Studebaker that they’ve taken apart and are in the process of rebuilding in the high school’s shop.

Led by Brian Copes, pre-engineering teacher at the high school, the students are participating on their own and are not receiving class credit for their work.

“I’ve had all these students in class at one point or another,” Copes said. “They enjoy it and just want to be a part. They’re not getting anything from this except knowledge.”

Copes said the skills they’re learning this summer are a dying art and trade and can be marketable in the job force.

“We see the high-skill level work force retiring and not enough skilled laborers replacing them. Here at a time when they’re phasing out many high school shop-style programs,” he said. “I’m trying to get these kids re-engaged to working with both their minds and their hands.”

The goal is to rebuild the truck by the end of the school year, Copes said. The truck is in good working condition but has rusted and is worn down.

“The truck ran when we got it,” he said. “But we’re going to make it back into a show truck, back to its original condition. A little spit and polish you could say.”

Stuart Dudley, owner of the car museum Old Car Heaven in Birmingham, donated the truck.

The students are also receiving help from B.A. Rodz-Kustomz, a restoration shop in Alabaster. Vinny Madrigal, owner of the shop, will walk the student through the process of rebuilding the truck from taking the car apart to paint and upholstering.

“Taking it apart goes quickly, “ Copes said. “Putting it back together is going to take a bit of time.”

The students don’t seem to mind the time or the work during the hot summer days.

“The only hard part is when the bolts rust together,” said Sean Reardon, sophomore at Calera High School.

Junior Kyle Brasher also enjoys the work and says he doesn’t mind giving up his time during the summer.

“I have old cars at my house but this one I got to work on by myself,” he said. “It’s a whole different challenge. “

Brasher said he’d like to go into engineering after graduation and several of the other students said they’re also interested in making a career out of the skills they’ve learned this summer.

Once the truck is finished, Copes said Old Car Heaven might be willing to buy it back from the students to put in the car museum in downtown Birmingham.

Copes said they’d like to use the money to get another car to rebuild with the next group of students.