America’s Most Beautiful Roadster Contenders-Taking on the “Big Guys”!

High school program gets kids involved in hot rodding

2014 GNRS, hot rod pickup, hot rod header pipes


One of the benefits of carrying a media pass at some of the big show events is you have access the regular guy doesn’t have…which is why we write about it and share it here! Heading into the 2014 Grand National Roadster Show I was psyched to see some of the finest iron in the country, all shined up and waiting for the crowds to come and gawk, stare and drool over.


Got caught just a bit off guard, though, inside the main building where the contenders for the America’s Most Beautiful Roadster competition was happening. It was early Friday before the crowds got inside so all the cars  were being set up inside their display areas with the required buffers, wipers and waxers doing their thing on every vehicle.


One display stopped me short because it was being swarmed by what I thought were “high schoolers”…you know those young human beings we old timers don’t get to see too often at rod and custom events. It’s just not natural.


2014 GNRS, Grand national roadster show set up



2014 GNRS, America's Most Beautiful Roadster, high school hot rod


But here they were, a whole batch of kids who appeared to know exactly what they were doing making the final prep on a really wild looking roadster pickup that had the craziest set of pipes sticking out of each side of the engine bay I had ever seen.


There had to be a dozen of ‘em! They were polishing, setting up various parts of the display, rounding up last minute details like lighting and mirror placement. Looked to me like these kids had everything under control and they had a pretty good audience going as people stopped to take a second and third look at what was going on.


The signage proclaimed “Roseville High School” and I thought, “if this is a high school project, I’m headed back to wherever these kids came from!” I remember my “shop” classes being all about wooden ducks for the wall and ashtrays for Grampaw. Not nearly as cool as a ’31 Ford roadster pickup sporting a beautiful dark red paint job, bright red chassis and suspension and…those pipes!



Groups of adults (or at least people older than the kids inside the display barriers) were watching the setup and I approached one who seemed to know what was happening. “Yup, we’re from Roseville, Michigan. First time here. The kids built the car as part of a high school program back home. You probably should talk to that guy over there”, he pointed toward one particular guy. Turns out he is Paul Tregembo, Jr., who oversees an organization called DriveOne and is auto shop teacher at Roseville High School.


hot rod pickup engine


DriveOne is responsible for pulling together the resources and providing a place where students can get involved in a program that has a history going back to 1973. “My Dad (Paul Sr.) was the auto shop teacher at Roseville before I took over,” Paul Jr. explains. “He began doing project cars with his classes back then and they took on all sorts of projects.” He said the shop classes would do restorations and modified vehicles and generally would finish them for sale at auction where proceeds could be funneled back into the program so more projects could be developed.


“Got to around the mid-1980s and Dad found it more difficult to work around the legal issues involved with liability and ownership,” Paul Jr. describes. “Things kind of fell off for a while because he wasn’t always able to get private ownership established, though they were doing specific vehicles for people who were footing the entire bill for a build.”


2014 GNRS, hot rod pickup, custom bed wood

2014 GNRS,

custom medusa emblem


DriveOne was organized in conjunction with a local church and students from other schools were invited in with some guidelines established that made the students accountable to the group in order to stay involved. Volunteers now, in addition to Paul Jr. and Paul Sr., provide tutoring for such things as welding, woodworking, vehicle design and even assistance for filling out job applications and forms for college scholarships. This is obviously a bigger effort than just learning how to polish things up for a car show.


“This is the 96th car that Roseville has been a part of,” Paul says when asked how many of these have happened before the AMBR entry arrived in Pomona. “And the kids not only have been fully involved in the build, but they also had to arrange the fundraising needed to get all 15 students out here to California.”
With airfare, hotels, meals and other expenses, costs ran between $1200 and $1500 per student. “We have 26 total people in the crew including the 15 students,” Paul Jr. explained. “We’ve never done anything quite like this, but we thought the students would appreciate being able to be a part of something as historical as the Grand National Roadster Show. And they are excited to be here.”


Roseville High School auto shop team


While most of the vehicles the Roseville program handles might take anywhere from 12-24 months to complete, this pickup, dubbed MadUsa, was completed in five and a half months. “We wanted a vehicle we could handle,” Paul Jr. said, “and we voted among the students what might be a good candidate. The idea for a pickup truck seemed right so we went hunting for the right candidate to begin the process.”


A likely vehicle was found in Ohio that included the rolling chassis and much of the sheet metal. “Some parts of the sheet metal were prototype pieces from Brookville so we had to massage some of those to make everything right,” Paul Jr. said. The truck sports a 650 HP mill with an exhaust system that begs for attention. “We themed the truck MadUsa in a take-off of the Greek goddess Medusa who had a head of venomous snakes for hair.” The theme is carried out through the radically twisting exhaust that shoots from each side of the engine bay and in small creative drawings of the goddess that is sprinkled throughout the vehicle including at the very bottom of the radiator shell where she resides in a 3-D metal rendition.


2014 GNRS AMBR contender, high school hot rod pickup


One of the students actually designed up the initial look for the truck, taking some inspiration from a Ferrari photograph he had seen. But all the students get an opportunity to be part of the project, whether they have specific experience with a certain process or not. “We work to get everyone involved and it is that team spirit (and access to lots of hands) which makes the cars come together fairly quickly.”
While DriveOne is primarily made up of high school students, there are some student members in seventh or eighth grade, which brings us to how Paul Tregembo Jr. sees this program benefitting kids on a much higher level.


“The kids know they must be willing to be committed to help the team achieve its goals,” he explains. “But they also get some valuable lessons in how to work with people, how to communicate, how to really put in the effort needed to make something like this a success.”
The next stop for the truck is the Detroit Autorama in March and the group is busy finishing up another vehicle (an ’80 El Camino) that will accompany MadUsa as a second entry.


Paul Jr. says the truck will also be part of shows in Cleveland and Dayton before it is retired from the show circuit.