Morrisville State College Students Building Hot Rod Car From Ground Up for Syracuse Nationals Give-Away in 2011

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First it was a Mustang drag car. This time it's a Ford roadster.

Students at Morrisville State College are building a 1933 Ford hot rod from the bolts up.

They won't get to keep this shiny set of wheels though. The vehicle will be given away during a raffle at the Syracuse Nationals in 2011.

“We're excited to have this opportunity to build this for the Syracuse Nationals,” Ray Grabowski, assistant professor of automotive technology, said. “It is a valuable opportunity for our students to showcase their skills and talents and expand their knowledge in the auto industry.”

Work has already begun on the hot rod, a donation from Factory Five Racing, Inc., an American automobile company that designs and manufactures assembly kits for replicars and sports cars. Students in two auto labs are assembling the car from a kit containing hundreds of components that arrived in early April.

The suspension, chassis and body all came with the $20,000 kit. As for the engine, transmission, rear axle, wheels and tires—students will have to source those, hopefully with a little help from sponsors and donors.

The project is progressing quickly. Auto students have already put in the front suspension, hung the rear axle, assembled the rear suspension and pedaled it. When it's all said and done, they hope to rev the roadster with a 4.6 fuel-injected engine and give it a dazzling paint job, which is being put to public vote.

The community gets to decide the color for the custom coat, one of three color schemes and designs, heritage yellow, big red or lime fire.

Votes can be cast at

Amid an assemblage of car parts in a lab of the Automotive Technology Building, 13 automotive students are crafting the hot rod following a manual, blogs, forums, and various magazines. 

Supervising the actual construction team is Ron Alexander, automotive technology instructor, and Grabowski, both graduates of Morrisville State College's automotive programs.

Neither is a stranger to performance vehicles. Grabowski, a National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) licensed drag car owner and driver, built his first hot rod when he was 15 years old with money he saved delivering newspapers.

Alexander worked for 10 years as a technical trainer for Chrysler Corporation performing training on vehicles like the Viper, Prowler and Crossfire. He's owned several collector vehicles too and has built racing engines for competition.

Morrisville's rodder will be built according to specifications and guidelines provided by Factory Five Racing, but students will be able to make some modifications along the way.

“They'll modify parts if the fit of the component is not right or if they think of a different way to achieve their desired outcome,” Grabowski said.

Members of the construction team were selected for their varied skills and participation in the college's Automotive Club. Some are planning careers in mechanics, as advance technicians and eventually supervisors and managers, while others are interested in building high performance vehicles.

“We work with all skill types, from limited in one respect to very skilled in another,” Grabowski said. “This is a diverse project where all types of skills are needed.”

On another end of campus, 11 students in the college's Computer Information Technologies (CIT) programs are in charge of another phase of the project. They are managing the hot rod build for their Project Management class taught by Kenneth Patterson, associate professor of CIT.

“The CIT student team is providing the project management for the build along with actually developing many outside computer-related applications for the public to track and monitor the project real-time,” Patterson said.

That includes the normal project management tools expected of a project of this type: project plan, risk management plan, communication management plan, change management plan, scope statement, statement of work, status/progress reports, and monitoring schedule and cost against the plan, just like a regular project on the outside.
They've even created a Web site,, with a live camera feed in the auto building to monitor the vehicle being built.

The Web site will incorporate a photo gallery and many other features in addition to links to various sponsors, items of interest, live camera feeds, and social networks like Facebook and a Twitter-like interface.

With the hot rod's final completion date more than a year away, different teams of auto and CIT students will have the chance to work on it in upcoming semesters.

Their work will be showcased at car shows and at the Great New York State Fair, as a study in detail, even though the paint, polishing of chromed components, and final touches on the interior aren't in place.

The street rod will make its debut at this year's Syracuse Nationals July 17-19.

“We will actually be building the vehicle in front of everyone,” Grabowski said. “We want people to see some of the process of putting it together.”

That hands-on approach isn't anything new to auto and CIT students at Morrisville State College. Auto labs and courses have students immersed in many live aspects of the industry from performing mechanical work to running a business.

Project Management students have been involved with varied projects for sponsors all over the Central New York area from Web site building and feasibility studies, to marketing programs for startup businesses.

The roadster is just another chance for Morrisville students to get their gears in more and to learn about the performance part of the industry and the application of project management concepts and tools.

CIT students earn three credits in the class that provides them a chance to develop the management skills necessary to correctly manage projects in their chosen careers.

“There is no better learning experience than dealing with real customers and creating real projects amid the trials and tribulations that they manifest,” Patterson said.

The one-credit class in auto is tuning up students' knowledge in performance enhancements, vehicle stability controls, body electrical systems and emerging technologies found on higher end and performance vehicles.

“(Auto) Students are also learning problem-solving skills they'll use in the industry some day and they are interfacing with companies and suppliers,” Grabowski said.

Matt Quenneville, of Manlius, N.Y., president of the college's Automotive Club, is a member of the student team building the hot rod.

An automotive technology management bachelor degree major, he came to Morrisville State College specifically because of the availability of a four-year degree.

A native of Camden, N.Y., being a part of the team is broadening his horizons and giving him pointers that are helping him build a muscle car engine at home.

Aaron Johnson, of Long Island, an automotive technology management bachelor degree major, is gaining valuable skills he hopes will land him in a career working with performance vehicles, either building or fixing them.

“I'm learning so much that I can apply in many areas,” Johnson said. “Performance cars are so unique and that is the part I like. To be able to build someone exactly what they like some day is what I would love to do.”

“This class has offered me a tremendous opportunity to learn important skills to manage a project,” Richard Borba, an Information Technology: Application Software bachelor degree major from Freeville, N.Y., said. Borba is the overall project manager for the build.

“This experience has helped me understand what project managers go through in the real world, and how to apply it to my future career,” Joseph Stoffer, of Warsaw, N.Y., an Information Technology: Network Administration bachelor degree major, said.

Morrisville State College's automotive program started in 1933. Today, the college offers bachelor degrees in Automotive Technology and Automotive Technology Management and associate degrees in Automotive Technology and Autobody Technology.

Students work in technologically sophisticated environments in an award-winning Automotive Technology Building with nine state-of-the art laboratories and a showroom, and an Autobody Building with a modern-day lab, superior air purification equipment, a laser measuring device capable of determining frame damage, and a Garmat Paint Station.

Morrisville State College Computer Information Technology program offers six bachelor of technology degrees and three associate degrees in various fields of information technology.