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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Eric Preston, 36, attached brackets to the chassis of a 1966 C10 pickup in one of the auto shops belonging to Western Iowa Tech Community College.

For the past nine months, Preston and other WITCC automotive technology students have been rebuilding the 50-year-old truck with all-new, state-of-the-art accessories.

“(The customized vehicle) will still have a retro feel of a vintage truck,” Preston told the Sioux City Journal. “But it won’t drive like one.”

The project began when the school’s automotive program was invited to display a vehicle in Las Vegas at the 2017 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, the largest automotive-based trade show in North America, WITCC automotive instructor Shane Sampson said.

“Last year, I was attending the SEMA Show in Las Vegas with (WITCC auto body instructor) Tim Hardyk when the two of us struck up a conversation with representatives from Accele Electronics,” Sampson said. “We mentioned it would be great if our students could build a vehicle for next year’s SEMA Show.”

The representatives of the Cerritos, Calif.-based mobile electronics manufacturer agreed to sponsor the project.

“They especially liked that this would be a learning experience for our college students as well as the high school students that we teach,” Sampson said. “Tim and I liked it because all of our students will be recognized in a very big way.”

The truck, which is slated to be completed and shipped in the mid-October, will be on display Oct. 31-Nov. 3, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Still, there’s a lot of work to be done.

“Tim’s students are working on the body of the Chevy while my students are working on the chassis,” Sampson said. “It may not look like it now but we’re in pretty good shape.”

He said purchasing this particular Chevy C10 wasn’t by accident.

“The truck was originally built in 1966, the same year that (WITCC) was founded,” Sampson said. “This is a tribute to the school.”

For Preston, having a truck displayed at the SEMA Show is the equivalent of being in the Super Bowl.

“I’m one of the students who will be going to Las Vegas for the SEMA Show,” he said. “This is gonna be so much fun.”

Unlike Preston, Joseph Hauswald has attended several SEMA Shows in the past.

“SEMA shows are the best,” the 20-year-old WITCC automotive technology student said. “But when I go this year, it will be different. I’ll be able to say I had a hand in building one of the entries.”

In addition, all of the automotive technology students will eligible to compete in the SEMA Show’s “Battle of the Builders” and may have their work critiqued by celebrity judges like Chip Foos, star of TLC’s “Overhaulin'” series.

Though Hauswald knows it will be a long shot to even make it into the top 40 of the “Battle of the Builders,” he’s keeping his fingers crossed.

“I never thought my class would be invited to customize a vehicle for the SEMA Show but that happened,” he maintained. “Just goes to show what can happen.”

And, if Sampson has his way, what happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas.

“We have an auto program in a small community college in Iowa,” he said. “Being asked to build a truck for the SEMA Show for the first time is something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”


Information from: Sioux City Journal,