Features
Truck project worthy of 'Extra Credit'
Look out, Mid-America Trucking Show. These students mean business.

By David Tanner, associate editor

W hen the shop dust finally settles, the diesel technology students at Clarion County Career Center in Shippenville, PA, will have a lot to be proud of. For the third year in a row, they will have rebuilt and customized a project truck to show truck quality. The truck will end up at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY.

If the first two trucks are any indication, the 2004 Peterbilt 379 will be worthy of its title, "Extra Credit."

Instructor Donnie Doverspike and a crew of 38 students making up the morning and afternoon classes in the diesel technologies department have stretched the frame from 262 inches to 315 inches, removed and remounted the engine and transmission, cut down the sleeper and mounted the fifth wheel. In mid-December, they were gearing up for custom paint and body work.

It's a valuable experience for them and provides them with skills they can use later if they choose.

"We want the guys to learn everything from front to back, the engine and drivelines, everything from changing a light bulb to doing a major overhaul," Doverspike told Land Line.

The class worked on the body of the truck at Jones Performance Products in West Middlesex, PA, about an hour's drive from the school in Shippenville.

It was at Jones that the nuts-and-bolts work done at the school shop transformed the project into a show truck – complete with a customized exterior and professional paint job.

"We're learning how to refurbish, how to rebuild, and make a truck look almost brand-new," said second-year student Tom Gross, age 17. "It's going to be black with a stripe going up the side, and it's going to have a racing flag. And it'll look nice," Tom said.

Dave Jones, owner of Jones Performance Products, donated the space in his "dream shop" and time by his creative team to bring the students' vision of a paint scheme to life. He also donated the hood and the fenders.

"These guys have built a couple of trucks already, but they've never really had the facilities to do the paint job the way that they really want to, so we invited them down here to do it professionally," Jones said. "They're doing the artwork."

Although the second- and third-year students in the three-year diesel technologies program at Clarion County have seen the process play out already, the first-year students are going through a truck build for the first time.

"I'm looking forward to getting into the motor because I don't know much about motors yet," first-year student Mitchell McDaniel, 16, said. "We have to learn by doing it."

The classroom setting that Doverspike oversees at the Clarion County Career Center emphasizes the hands-on approach. There are desks and a chalkboard, but the real learning comes from getting under the hood.

In addition to building a show truck, the students also work on trucks brought to the shop from the county or local haulers.

Students learned in December that one of their prior project trucks, dubbed "Class Act," has been sold. They have a similar goal for "Extra Credit."

"They get a truck that needs work – and they fix it up, make it roadworthy, and take a field trip to the truck show," said Doverspike, himself a part-time trucker in his seventh year of instruction at the center.

"It teaches them a sense of pride even though the truck doesn't belong to them."

The Clarion County Career Center Construction Technology division is supplying custom cabinets for "Extra Credit.

Carl Carstens at Rockwood Products donated the truck, and Rockwood will install some finishing touches on the custom interior.

"They've done a great job in getting the kids involved in the project and making sure it is the kids' project," Carstens said. "This truck is going to be impressive. It's a neat shop."

Carstens said he hopes the Clarion project will inspire a school out west.

"Ultimately, what I'm hoping to see is another school in the west pick this up and run with it next year," he said. "We want the east to meet west in 2012."

During the Mid-America Trucking Show in March, the finished truck will appear in the sponsors' area. It is there that crowd's reaction will let the students know if their extra credit and after-hours field trips to work on the truck are paying off.LL

Supporters

A number of supporters will join the students at MATS. So far, here are the contributors to the project, along with their donations:

  • 4 State Trucks, Chrome Shop Mafia – battery boxes, steering wheel, 2,500-watt inverter, bumper and bumper flip kit;
  • ALT Wheels – 10 wheels;
  • Firestone – eight FD690 drive tires and two FS590 steer tires;
  • Fontaine – No Slack II fifth wheel with 36-inch slider and mounting rails;
  • Jones Performance – standard fiberglass hood, ETC long fenders, rear fenders, filler panel, paint booth and painter;
  • Lincoln Chrome – 8-inch Y pipe, 8-inch 90-degree elbows, 55-inch spools, and 4-foot West Coast curve top stacks;
  • Pittsburgh Power, Diesel Injection of Pittsburgh – reprogrammed ECM;
  • PPG Industries– paint, paint supplies;
  • RoadWorks Manufacturing – lighting and stainless steel accessories; and
  • Rockwood Products – complete interior in addition to the truck itself.

The crew at TruckGuysTV.com have also committed to giving the project and the program maximum exposure on their site.