What every school needs - a Lamborghini

Shop students at Streetsville Secondary build one hot set of wheels


Students from Streetsville Secondary school in Mississauga pose with a Pontiac Fiero converted into a Lamborghini.

From Pontiac Fiero to Lamborghini Countach in 2,000 hours.

The hard work of 24 auto shop classes — over two years — and the dedication of teacher Jim Dinner turned the fantasy kit-car project into a real success for Streetsville Secondary School in Mississauga.

"A lot of people didn't believe we made it," said Grade 10 shop student Victoria Girard.

It was painstaking work, she added, "even removing the steering column (from the Fiero) took two weeks — we had to be careful not to cut any wires or strip bolts," said the 15-year-old.

"It was pretty fun," added Grade 12 student Dave Thomas. "I learned a lot of stuff — like I could not build a kit myself, it's way too much work."

Dinner, a certified teacher and mechanic, funded the entire project and now owns the car — "I've always wanted one" — but plans to sell it to pay for the students' next project, likely a Lamborghini Diablo. Dinner estimates the kit car is worth around $40,000.

In September, 1999, Dinner purchased a 1985, four-cylinder Pontiac Fiero with a five-speed transmission for $500, along with a $4,500 body kit for the 1989, 25th anniversary edition Lamborghini.

Students replaced the Fiero's four-cylinder engine with a more powerful V-6 — which involved computer, wiring and fuel pump upgrades. They also rebuilt the steering, brakes and suspension.

The Fiero was then stripped, and cut in half behind the driver's seat. The two halves were separated by almost 13 centimetres to fit the Lamborghini's frame, and welded together using steel plates.

The body kit itself had 21 panels — the wing doors themselves are three separate pieces — "and we reshaped every panel to fit," said Dinner. "It was a lot of work."

Dinner and his students even created the boxy console for the interior, which was overhauled as well. A parent recovered the seats in grey and navy leather.

"It's all glued, screw-nailed and staple-gunned," Dinner said.

`Every chance I get, I bring it in. I bring it in on parent-teacher night — I have parents come to see me without their children, just to see the car. They don't want to know anything about his or her marks.'

teacher Jim Dinner

Before it was painted — professionally, using three coats of silver metallic paint and five clear coats — a few students drove it around the school's parking lot.

"When (the project) first started, people wanted to see it," said Marc Laplante, a Grade 12 student. "But because of the slow process, people lost interest."

When finished, however, "a lot of people came around to see it."

The tires are new, and high-performance. Dinner even created a Lamborghini nameplate and signature bull for the back of the car using his computer, then having a plastic mould made. In total, he's put about $25,000 into the car.

He believes the car can reach 209 km/h, and has driven it as fast as 193.

The project has sparked an interest in auto shop at a time when the curriculum is placing an emphasis on academics.

"Every chance I get, I bring it in," he said. "I bring it in on parent-teacher night — I have parents come to see me without their children, just to see the car. They don't want to know anything about his or her marks."

"Some nights I stayed late, puttering, and kids from feeder schools — in Grades 6, 7, 8, — would come by on their bikes and peer in the windows. I'd invite them in and they'd say, `Really, I can touch it?'"

Tom Bates, head of the school's technology department, points out that auto shop involves a lot more than mechanics these days. Using cars donated by Honda and General Motors, students study computer, wiring, airbag and ABS braking systems.

Grade 11 student Dave Wells said he hopes to work on the next project, too, and plans to go to college to become an automotive technician.

For more information on the school's Lamborghini project, go to:

Streetsville Secondary School Auto Shop

If you have an idea for Cool Schools, you can reach Louise Brown at 416-869-4306 or Kristin Rushowy at 416-869-4828, or by e-mail at lbrown@thestar.ca or krushowy@thestar.ca