A black 1966 Corvette that once belonged to a drug dealer has just been refurbished by a group of Ohio high school students and will now be used to promote an anti-drug abuse program run by the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office.
Two senior students – Marco Gonzales from Elyria and Megan Rehm from Amherst – spearheaded the repairs as part of the Lorain County Joint Vocational School (JVS) Collision Repair program.
“The car looked pretty good when it came in, but we were excited to work on it,” Rehm said.
Gonzales said they started the project by taking off all the decals, then removing the doors, the interior, door trim, and mirrors before starting to sand the body.
“After we sanded it,” Rehm said, “we primed it, sanded the primer, and then painted it. We also washed and waxed it about five times!”
The two students said the hardest part about the project was the hood.
“It was dented in, so we put a whole sheet of metal on top, glued it down with Bondo and then we had to sand it all down, prime it, and then paint it,” Gonzales explained. “It was a lot of work, but it turned out great.”
The Corvette was seized from a drug dealer in 1986 by the Lorain County Metropolitan Enforcement Group, a narcotics investigative unit that was the precursor to the current Lorain County Drug Task Force.
“We didn’t have a lot of time to knock too much out each day,” Gonzales said, who works at an auto detailing shop in Amherst and plans to attend college for automotive work. “We tried to push it as far as we could, though, and it all turned out pretty well in the end.”
Rehm described the project as “so much work and sweat,” noting that the class spent about three hours each school day working on the car. “It doesn’t run, but maybe our friends next door can work on that in the future. I’m working toward getting my CDL license for truck driving, but this kind of work is also something I want to have in my back pocket.”
Grant Koba-Nelson, vehicle maintenance coordinator for the sheriff’s office and a 1990 Auto Technology alum at Lorain County JVS, was impressed with the work done by the class.
“Repairing panels on new cars is almost just a ‘remove and replace’ type job,” he said, “but with a vehicle like this, it isn’t that simple. It takes a lot of finesse, and these students did a great job.”
Work on the car began in October, according to Lonnie Higey, JVS Collision Repair instructor, who said he appreciated the sheriff’s willingness to let the students work on such a special vehicle.
Sheriff Phil R. Stammitti and other members of his staff came to the school on April 20 to see the completed Corvette.
“The students did a beautiful job on this car,” the sheriff said, “and we appreciate everything they have done. This would not have been possible without the JVS. This is going to be such a great thing for us, and I just really want to say thank you.”
Stammitti said the car will be used in parades and in the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program “because this car is an eye-catcher and if the kids see this car, then it opens the door for them to come in and start a conversation with us.”
The sheriff said the car was delivered to JVS because its inability to run made it hard to transport to events.
“We came up with the idea to take the race motor out of it and put a stock motor in,” Stammitti said. “Then the idea came up to approach JVS about redoing the body and repainting it. These kids did a fantastic job, just beautiful. They also saved the county a lot of money with about 300 hours of their work.”
Koba-Nelson pointed out that the project was the first time this level of work has been done between the JVS and the sheriff’s office. “We exhausted a lot of avenues looking for someone to do this work. It’s an expensive process, and it couldn’t have turned out any better than this.”
JVS Superintendent Dr. Glenn Faircloth praised JVS High School Principal Jill Petitti for ensuring that her students have the right tools to complete a project like this.
“The kind of craftsmanship that our instructor is teaching these young people is extraordinary,” Faircloth said. “I happen to be a car guy so I know and understand what goes into these particular types of things, but these are young people and I think this work is outstanding.”