“SJV Overhaulin’: A Vette for a Veteran”


David Bayha , Writer

The Classic Car Club has a major project on its hands. According to Patrick Smith, club moderator, the members are currently restoring a 1976 C3 Corvette. On the surface, their project may seem like an ordinary repair. But the boys have a bigger purpose in mind: to surprise a US Marine by restoring his ride.

Smith says that the Marine is his former neighbor who was relocated to an out-of-state army base in 2017. “He’s originally from Oregon and doesn’t have any family in NJ. He had no place to store the Corvette. At that point, it had sat for a while and was not running.” With no one to hold onto his classic car, the Marine was out of options. That’s when Smith stepped in.

Smith emailed the faculty and staff of SJV with the dilemma, and many teachers offered to keep the Corvette at their houses. However, the car reached its current spot in the SJV parking lot by the generosity of the principal. “Mr. Dimezza said, ‘he’s in the military and we support veterans; he can store it here until he gets settled in.”

When it arrived, the classic coupe was in disrepair. It barely ran, and it needed new paint, tires, and wheels. Still, the Corvette’s iconic styling made it stand out at SJV, compared to the Honda Civics and Jeep Wranglers that occupy most of the school’s parking lot.

Noticing the broken gem, Smith claims that “students, parents, teachers, and maintenance staff had the universal idea: Why don’t we just fix it up for him?”

After asking the Corvette’s owner for permission, the Classic Car Club began to raise funds and gather supplies to do the restoration. Over the past year, the Club has raised more than five thousand dollars in monetary donations, and received many of the tools they will need to repair the car.

The Club also has a firm backing in Mullaney’s Tire and Car Center of Matawan. Owner Joe Mullaney, an SJV alum, has donated thousands of dollars worth of time and parts toward the vehicle. Mullaney powder-coated the wheels, installed four new tires, and has given club members valuable advice on repairing the Corvette. Smith also noted that an anonymous donor offered to paint the car at only the cost of materials.

As of Oct.17, Smith says that the car is now running, and the next thing they need to fix is the power-steering system. When winter rolls around, the Club will transport the vehicle to an indoor garage where they can work on it with a lift. Luckily for the boys, Smith has restored C3 Corvettes in the past, and is the current owner of a 72’.

The Classic Car Club plans to present the vehicle to its owner in Spring 2019. According to Smith, the project is the club’s attempt at having its own ‘Overhaulin’ episode. Although Smith’s neighbor knows that the students are working on his car, he is unaware to what extent. With that in mind, the club members look forward to inviting the Marine to SJV, unveiling their work, and surprising him with a restored vehicle. At the very least, they will be giving it back to him in better condition than it was.

If you’d like to support the Club in its “overhaulin’” endeavors, you can contact Mr. Smith at psmith@sjvhs.com. Smith notes that anyone interested in donating their time, talent, or tools to the project is always welcome. The Club is especially looking for parents and grandparents with automotive experience. Smith says that, “the Classic Car Club is for SJV students who have a passion or interest in classic cars or automobiles in general.” New members are always free to join.