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Pasadena High School’s Unique Model A Ford Club is Only-In-the-Nation Campus Initiative for Vintage Car Restoration

Published on Friday, November 17, 2023 | 5:20 am

Pasadena High School hosts a one-of-a-kind Model A Ford Club, standing out as the sole organization of its kind nationwide situated within a high school campus. 

This exceptional club, dedicated to restoring and preserving Ford Model A vehicles from the late 1920s and early 1930s, distinguishes itself not only for its uniqueness but also as one of the few Los Angeles area programs focused on automotive technology.

Dr. Wilbert Smith, the Club’s Director and a former Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Board Member, emphasizes the invaluable hands-on experience the club offers.

“When kids have an opportunity to learn how to use their hands, use tools, and at the same time use a little bit of their own ingenuity, they not only save money, they have a sense of accomplishment,” Dr. Smith said. “There’s no better feeling than looking at a ‘before and after’ and knowing that you’re the one that’s in the center of it.” 

The transformative process begins with the cars arriving at the Pasadena High School shop devoid of fuel and in disassembled conditions. Students painstakingly rebuild and restore these donated vehicles, aiming to turn them from mundane pieces into captivating automotive gems fit for the road. 

“You don’t see many clubs that involve hands-on work, especially with cars and I thought it was exciting to have at my school,” said Club President Jessica Torres, 11th grade. Torres started working on cars with her dad. “I enjoy older cars. They’re better than today’s cars.”

Remarkably, the club operates solely on donations and proceeds from a drawing for a fully restored Model A, offering donors a chance to win the immaculately refurbished Ford in exchange for a $100 donation.

Art teacher Todd Dirks is the current Club Advisor. Under his guidance, the club has seen a surge in participation, now boasting around 40 devoted teenage members engrossed in reviving these vintage vehicles.

“Dr. Smith is paying it forward because he’s already made a career doing other things and he’s giving back to society by helping with our kids,” Dirks said. “He teaches the kids about tool safety. He also instructs the kids on parts of the car, how to get it ready, how to take apart the motor and put it back together.” 

The resurgence of interest in practical automotive education through clubs like this has received praise from vintage car enthusiasts, signaling a potential revival of hands-on learning experiences. For Club Vice President Nate Fulford, 10th grade, the allure of car refurbishment appears almost hereditary, influenced by a family history steeped in automotive passion.

“I’ve always liked cars and I just wanted to know how to work on them and my grandpa was really into cars,” Fulford said. “He used to work on them and build them, my uncles too. That inspired me to join the club.” 

The club’s ongoing project involves restoring a 1931 Model A hardtop roadster, anticipated to hit the road by next spring. 

For those interested in joining the Model A Club or contributing to its endeavors, more information is available at

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