While Sunday mornings are usually quiet when school is out for summer, there’s plenty of ruckus at Lakewood High School. With the shop doors open, music playing and tools winding, the students of the West Shore Career Technical Education District auto technology program are hard at work.
On Sundays, as many as nine incoming seniors come to work on a 1980 C3 Corvette at Lakewood High School, located near Cleveland, Ohio. Spearheading the project is auto technology instructor Mike Szittai, known as Mr. Z by his students.
“This is like building a car in a show like ‘Overhaulin’,’ it just takes longer and there’s more stuff to do,” Szittai explains.
The project began late last school year, when Szittai’s friend Ron Jones approached him about a build he had in mind for his father’s ’80 C3 Corvette. A sentimental car and family heirloom for Jones, the car also features an iconic bubble rear window that he couldn’t pass up adding to his car collection.
For the students, the car presented a rebuild opportunity: with a modern drive train and modern performance parts all going under the hood.
“He was going to do a big block, and I said you need something you can drive,” Szittai says.
With these classic vehicles often burning through gas and delivering a clunky ride, Szittai and his students are modernizing the Vette by upping the drivability and horsepower with an LS3 motor with upgraded camshaft and all new electronics, as well as a GM Performance 5-speed engine.
“We’ve had everything together, apart, together, apart. Now we are getting everything together so we can just roll the chassis, just the frame,” Szittai explains.
The students recently displayed the rolling chassis at the TRI Works Hot Rods booth during the 20th PPG Goodguys Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. TRI Works is co-owned by a former West Shore student, Ben Giuliano, whose company will be completing the Vette’s bodywork.
The plan is to have the body down at TRI Works’ shop in Tennessee around Thanksgiving. When completed, the Vette will have side pipes, flairs and a fresh paint job.
In the meantime, the senior class of West Shore will continue to work on the vehicle into the school year.
“We try to make it so it’s a good experience. All these TV shows you see on cars, this is it,” Szittai says. “This is what’s going on here. Except my name’s not Chip Foose.”