Auto body program gives students valuable experience

By Linda Kennedy

While most local high school students are finishing research papers or preparing for finals that will occur in just a few weeks, students of Jeff Goddard’s Joppa/Massac High School cooperative auto body program are currently working on something that far exceeds what most people would expect of a high school level automotive class.

The class is wrapping up a project that has taken several weeks to complete — replacing the frame of a Toyota FJ Cruiser.

“The Cruiser belongs to an acquaintance of mine who purchased the vehicle partly because of its good condition not realizing how severely rusted the frame was,” explained Goddard. “Because, to look at the exterior condition of the vehicle, no one would ever suspect what was hidden underneath could be so bad.”

After hearing the predicament the owner of the Toyota was in, the instructor offered to let his students do the work, saving the owner thousands of dollars in repair.

“Most of the students were in disbelief when they learned what needed to be done to this vehicle, but many of them have stepped up to the challenge and are making great strides in accomplishing this seemingly impossible task. It has proven to be an amazing opportunity for learning and gaining valuable experience,” said Goddard. “I am impressed with this year’s group of students. Having the ambition to tackle a project of this magnitude is commendable.”

Goddard stated that it took the students a few days to unhook all of the wiring, brake lines, fuel lines and various other parts and fasteners. “After this was accomplished, it was an impressive sight to see the body lifted several feet into the air to allow enough room for them to drag the frame out from underneath it.” The owner was able to purchase a pre-owned frame and now it’s just the matter of putting the Cruiser back together and returning it to the owner.

  “My hope is this project may give each student the confidence needed to attempt formidable tasks they are sure to face in the future,” said Goddard, adding that the Toyota is only the latest of several projects the class has completed this year.

  “There is a lesson here for all of us. The frame is a part of the car that is mostly taken for granted and subsequently neglected. Before purchasing a vehicle, take a moment to not only look underneath the hood but underneath the car or truck,” concluded Goddard.