Mike Fisher had no problem keeping his students attentive in class — not with a nearly 100-year-old car sitting in the bay.
Fisher teaches auto mechanics at the Area Career Center and was contacted recently by a friend who owns a blue 1928 Model A that Fisher had tuned up while at a private garage. Every spring, Fisher changes the oil and readies the engine for the summer cruising season.
This time, however, the owner called to say the engine was misfiring. Fisher happily agreed to look it over — and figured his auto-shop students would be just as keen.
“I brought it in the night before when there were no students here and when they were coming in for class the next day they weren’t exactly going into the classroom, they were all converging on the car,” Fisher said, laughing. “It’s been difficult getting other work done here the last couple of days.”
Thursday, Fisher and a team of five students were craning over the engine trying to determine whether the source of trouble was the plugs or cylinders. In doing so, Fisher taught them old-school diagnostic techniques — what to watch for, what to listen for — on an engine that has absolutely no computer to signal where the problem might lie.
“It’s much simpler,” Fisher said when asked to contrast the Model A motor to today’s electronically-enhanced engines. “We don’t have any vacuum hoses and don’t have any wiring in the way — nothing. You open the hood and there’s the engine. That’s it.”
The Model A thus makes for a good teaching tool. The students, too, clearly enjoyed working on a vintage automobile built a year before the Great Depression struck.
“It’s been an interesting experience to work with a car that doesn’t have a computer or full-blown engine,” said Brady Holman, 16, of Peru.
“It’s pretty fun — a new experience,” said Daniel Lopez, 19, of DePue. “There’s no computer at all. You have to learn how to do it a different style.”
Lopez wistfully acknowledged he won’t get to drive the car once it’s fixed. He doesn’t know how to operate a manual transmission and Fisher isn’t certified to teach the kids how to drive a car, only to fix one.
“And I wouldn’t let them test drive a 91-year-old car,” Fisher said firmly.