‘They gave it their all’

Photos by Victor Ribeiro TOP: The 2002 Chevy Impala ‘test’ car that Kearny students worked on. BOTTOM: Automotive class students who participated in ‘Best in Class Challenge.’
Photos by Victor Ribeiro
TOP: The 2002 Chevy Impala ‘test’ car that Kearny students worked on. BOTTOM:
Automotive class students who participated in ‘Best in Class Challenge.’


They gave it their all in a six-week “heat,” but, alas, they lost the race.

Kearny High School automotive class students went fender-to-fender against auto shop classes from four other high schools in the Eastern U.S. in a competition to recondition a pre-used car into a “showroom-ready product.”

The “Best in Class Challenge” contest, co-sponsored by Quaker State and Auto- Zone, gave the participants six weeks to diagnose what was wrong with their vehicles, devise and implement a fix-up plan with parts furnished by AutoZone, and make the car look as presentable as possible.

Each team’s performance was judged and rated by NASCAR Spring Cup Series racer Paul Menard and Tommy Pike of Tommy Pike Customs. Part of each team’s score factored in community support, as measured by people posting online “likes” for their team.

The order of finish, from first to last, was as follows: Maxwell High School of Technology, Lawrenceville, Ga.; Satellite High School, Satellite, Fla.; Iredell Statesville School Automotive Tech Center, Troutville, N.C.; New Tier High School, Winnetka, Ill; and Kearny High.

Raw scores were not available, as of last week.

Although the 34 KHS students who participated won’t have a shot at advancing to the next level of competition in Texas, they do get to keep the vehicle they worked on – a 2002 Chevy Impala provided by Quaker State – as a teaching tool for the auto shop class.

They also got a $1,500 AutoZone gift certificate and a $1,000 scholarship grant.

Kevin Pryblick, KHS business technology supervisor, said the Kearny kids were up against it from the get-go since their competitors attended schools with full-time vocational automotive programs.

For example, he said, “they had paint booths,” he noted. “We didn’t. The judges liked shiny cars.”

Since restoring a vehicle’s “exterior finish” was one of the categories that the judges rated, KHS was at something of a disadvantage there, Pryblick said.

Automotive teacher Victor Ribeiro agreed that factor was an obstacle his students “struggled a little bit” to overcome. “We had to paint with a rubber coating,” he said.

Still, Ribeiro added, “our kids were able to work on reallife problems they experienced with the car. They diagnosed those problems and they made repairs. They learned how to work together to come up with, and to execute, a plan.”

The Impala’s wheel bearings, cooling system and intake manifold all needed restoration work and, when AutoZone could not provide a needed part, the students had to adjust and come up with modifications to the initial plan, Ribeiro said.

As for attention to detail, “the students were fabulous,” Pryblick said. During time on task, “they were on target all day.”

No question about it, Ribeiro said. “Our kids worked real hard and some even came in on their days off to work on the car.” The team collectively put in about 150 hours on the project, he estimated.

“It was a great experience and we’d also like to thank the community for voting for us,” he added.

Pryblick and Ribeiro are hoping the school gets another crack at the competition next year. “Our program is growing every year,” said Ribeiro.

And maybe, as the high school addition project nears completion, the program can

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