Jim Carpenter’s high school automotives teacher, back in 1975 – his senior year – didn’t want him to bring the old beater as a classroom restoration project.
The teacher didn’t want students starting projects that were too ambitious and might not be finished before summer.
But Carpenter had it all planned out and brought in the 1954 Dodge Regent, rebuilt the motor and got it running in time to drive it to his graduation ceremony at Maple Ridge secondary.
Forty years later, he was back in town from Peachland, with the old Dodge, to attend last weekend’s annual Maple Ridge secondary show and car dry grad fundraiser at the school.
Since acquiring the family car when he was in school, Carpenter has repaired, restored, nursed and driven the car everywhere – to BCIT when he was a student, as a commuter car, to Alaska and in parades.
“Pretty durable, solid car – and fairly economical on gas because it’s a six-cylinder, not an eight cylinder,” he said.
“It’s got overdrive, so it will go 70 mph and is fairly easy on fuel.”
The car now sports a deep green paint and rechromed bumpers, which may have impressed his fellow grads at the May 17 reunion.
Carpenter said many people wish they had kept their old cars.
“To still have the same car, to go the car show at your high school, I thought that was pretty neat.”
Back ‘75, bringing a 20-year-old car in for repairs in the automotive class would have be equivalent today to restoring one from 1995, he said.
“Today, it looks like quite an elegant, classy car because they just don’t make anything like that anymore.”
A photo captured the class of ‘75 gathered around the Dodge with Carpenter holding his graduation yearbook. He still keeps it in his car.
He likes high school reunions.
“It’s very interesting to see how people have changed and find out what they’ve done with the lives. Fascinating, very entertaining.”
One couple there met, while single, at their 25th high school reunion, then got married and showed up at their 40th reunion as a couple.
For Carpenter, the car was more than bridge between the past and the present.
It helped him launch his second career – starting his own company that supplies new parts, tires as well, to vintage cars.
“All stemming from that passion of this old car that was once my grandmother’s.”