One-of-a-kind ride: CTEC students attach BMW front to Toyota pickup

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer 

COLUMBIANA — If you saw it traveling down the highway, you might have to do a double-take just to believe your own eyes.

The project—a 2001 Toyota Tacoma that sports the front end of a 1987 BMW 325i—is the culmination of three years of work by automotive technology students at Columbiana’s Career Technical Education Center.

The one-of-a-kind ride will be on display Saturday, April 3 at the Birmingham Zamora Shrine’s Fourth Annual Zamora Wheelz Car Show in Irondale, in addition to other future events.

“Everything that’s been done on that car has been done by the kids,” said CTEC automotive technology instructor Robert Irwin. “My kids did all the body work, took the bed off the truck and put a fuel pump in it.”

The only exception, Irwin added, was the paint job, which was done courtesy of Mark McCary, collision repair technology instructor at CTEC. Irwin estimated that about 50 students had a hand in the project, which cost only about $600.

“Students just kind of fall in love with a project,” he said. “That’s a big thing in education is project-based learning. Students have a tendency to learn more when they’re doing a project because it’s a long-term thing.”

The Tacoma, which had significant front-end damage, was donated to the school in 2017. It had low mileage and happened to end up parked next to one of two BMWs from which the front end parts were obtained. Irwin saw the two vehicles side-by-side and suddenly wondered what they would look like combined. Coincidentally, upon measuring he found that it would work out just right.

Now dubbed the “Germanese L-Camino” with a letter “L” deliberately in place of the Spanish word “El,” the finished project is a unique build indeed.

“A student who graduated two years ago saw it on Facebook and just fell in love with it again,” Irwin said. “A lot of kids have really put their time and effort into that, and to see it finished, even though it’s not a real elegant showpiece, it was done by 16-, 17-year-old kids that had ambition and the passion to want to build a project.”

Alston Blackburn of Vincent High School said he learned how to do body work using body filler. He also sanded and prepped the vehicle for painting.

“My favorite thing is how unique the vehicle is,” Blackburn said. “I would tell people about it and have to go into detail explaining what it was. The people would say, ‘Oh, how cool and unique.’ That would make me feel even more special.”

Brayden Denson, also a student at Vincent, said using the body filler taught him patience while working on the project.
“I added metal to the front quarter panels, (did) most of the body filler on both sides, sanded most of the body filler, painted some of the accessories, rolled in the bed liner, stripped the rims of old paint, applied body filler and glue to the front bumper, and put some of the accessories back on after it had been painted,” Denson said.

Members of the class are also crafting trophies for the Zamora Wheelz car show out of car parts. They traditionally make trophies for Columbiana’s annual Liberty Day event but were unable to do so in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, Irwin is optimistic that the “Germanese L-Camino” will not only showcase his students’ work in the future but will also demonstrate how donations help further education. He also expressed appreciation to his classroom’s sponsors in the community.

“It takes sponsorship help in these type of programs because we don’t have an endless bank account,” Irwin said. “You’ve got to have stuff to work with for these kids to learn how to do stuff.”