Classic Car Club members restore ‘a Vette for a Veteran’

By David Karas | Correspondent

Members of the Classic Car Club stand with the vintage Corvette they are in the process of restoring. The 1978 vehicle is owned by a Marine. Courtesy photo

Members of the Classic Car Club at St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, are doing a lot more than just admiring hot rods these days – they are volunteering their time on an overhaul and restoration of a vintage Corvette.

And the project, more than just a learning experience, is their own way of giving back to someone who has served the country.

Patrick Smith, club moderator, said that students saw his old 1978 Corvette and enjoy watching various car-related programs on television. They approached him about starting the club, which has hosted annual fall and spring car shows at the school for the past three years.

The group’s current focus – its first major restoration project – came about after Smith’s neighbor, a U.S. Marine originally from Oregon, was transferred to a base out of state. The transfer left him without a place to store the 1976 C3 Corvette he one day planned to restore. Smith appealed to the faculty to identify a place to store the vehicle, when school principal, Steven DiMezza, stepped in and offered a parking spot on the campus for the vehicle.

As time went by, more and more people would pass by the car – and the question arose, Smith said, “Why don’t we just fix it up for him?”

With the Marine’s blessing, and with the support of an alumnus’ tire shop and the local chapter of the National Corvette Restorers Society, the club got to work.

“We now plan on making the Corvette a really nice ‘driver’ that he can enjoy with his young family,” said Smith who dubbed the project, “Restoring a Vette for a Veteran.” Students have already raised more than $5,000 for the restoration.

Senior CJ Hanson, 17, a member of St. Monica Parish, Jackson, and president of the club, said, “I am going to bring my knowledge and hard work ethic to the Vette.” He added that the most appealing aspect of the project is “serving those who served us, and saying thank you in our own way.”

Fellow senior Padraic Smith, 17, was drawn to the project because of his own family.

“My uncle Timmy is a Purple Heart [recipient] from Iraq and drives a beat up truck that breaks down,” said Smith, a member of St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville. “I take pride in helping a veteran with his ride.”

As club moderator and in his role as assistant athletic director, Smith said that service is a consistent component of life at SJV.

“Our athletic team racked up thousands of hours of service at NJ Veterans Memorial Home, serving elderly and disabled veterans over the past few years. Serving our veterans is just part of who we are here at SJV,” he said, describing service as the “hallmark” of how the school community “lives the Gospels.”

“Doing something for someone else and expecting nothing in return is a tenant of Catholicism, and our students get it,” he said.

To date, the car has new wheels and is running, and members are next looking to work on the power-steering system. The club plans to present the vehicle to its owner in the spring.

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