Gunners Garage

Young mechanics hope to do a SEMA show car

The team working on the car in late May included (l. to r.) Tim Van Veghel, Trevor Hintz, Cole Woods, Justin Hendrickson, Jay Abitz and Rick Paulick.


It’s said that if you drive through Freedom, Wis., on a warm summer’s evening, you’ll see dozen of garage doors raised and people working on old cars. There’s a couple of reasons for this: Bob Abitz and Jay Abitz.

Bob is Jay’s dad. He ran the auto shop at Freedom High School for 35 years, starting in 1972. Jay kind of took over about 10 years ago. Bob and his students worked mainly on everyday driver cars owned by students, teachers and community members. Jay finds the students get excited by old cars.

“I don’t want to do an old school program,” Jay told Old Cars Weekly. “I want to teach in ways that keep up with the current industry. Do I want to do old school cars? You bet I do, but I want to do that by using processes that are modern, like spraying Sherwin-Williams water-borne paint. We’re probably the only school in the country that has a Sherwin-Williams water-base mixing system. Or kids are using cutting edge materials and equipment, but we’re fixing old cars with them.”

The wall outside Abitz’s shop is lined with framed copies of national magazine articles about the Freedom High School auto shop program and the Freedom high School Auto Club. Jay started the club and the members include current students, alumni and other interested in old cars.

Several years ago, the Freedom High School Auto Club restored the only 1967 Mohs Ostentatienne Opera Sedan ever made. That was good for several big articles. More recently, teen-age club members have been helping younger kids build toy aluminum cars at the NEW Motorama Show in Green Bay.

The plan is to redo this Toyota 4Runner for SEMA.


To pay the kids back, show promoter Rick Paulick donated an old Toyota 4Runner to the club. As usual, the auto club members put that through their “Think Big” processor and came up with a plan to restyle the 4Runner as a “rock crusher.” Then, Rick Paulick threw out the idea of building the rock crusher version for SEMA. Now, Jay Abitz is talking to Sherwin-Williams about having the truck in its booth at the giant Las Vegas trade show.

The club is also working on this Chevy pickup.


Freedom High School Auto Club members are meeting on Wednesday nights to work on the 4Runner. It’ going to be a tight deadline, but Jay Abitz figures he can have the truck done by the end of August to get it to SEMA in November. All those car buffs in Freedom are rooting for the club.




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