Out of this World
It wasn’t much to look at parked in a heap of dust and cobwebs. Five decades earlier, the rusted and abandoned vehicle was a spectacle to behold, but now, the classic car was almost unrecognizable.
A man had bought the 1959 Ford Fairlane 500 Galaxie Skyliner with hopes of restoring it, but was unable to finish.
So the car sat untouched for years, and was nothing more than shredded seats, dented fenders, rusted chrome and a few scattered engine parts by the time it came to Russell Butler, coordinator of the Auto Collision Repair and Refinishing program.
“It was in really bad shape and needed a lot of work,” Butler said.
In 1936, the auto collision program began at Idaho State, and to celebrate its 80th anniversary, the faculty and students were looking for a major project to mark the milestone.
“We wanted to showcase our ability to completely restore a car,” said Dave Treasure, chair of the Trade and Industrial Department. “We’ve been an auto body leader for eight decades, so a restoration project of this magnitude made sense.”
Central to the restoration project was William Eames, a 1957 graduate of the ISU College of Pharmacy. When Eames heard initial plans about the anniversary project, he jumped at the opportunity to financially support ISU’s efforts. Eames, the son of a tradesman and a devoted friend to the ISU College of Technology, paid every expense related to the undertaking.
In addition to restoration-related costs, Eames also provided full tuition scholarships to each student working on the project. During an eight-week summer term, students spent their days in a special topics car restorations class. The class had been previously cut a few years earlier due to limits on financial aid, but through the generosity of Eames, the students were able to have the unique experience of restoring a car from start to finish. The students earned college credits in addition to valuable industry-related skills.
During the eight-week class, seven students and two instructors focused their efforts on returning the corroded classic to its original glory. One of the biggest challenges of the restoration project was repairing the retractable hardtop roof. The 1959 Ford Fairlane has a complex mechanism to lift and retract the hardtop underneath the rear decklid. The entire process is done without the use of hydraulics, and it required a lot of assistance and local expertise to repair the intricate electrical components.
“This was an ideal project for the students in our program. It required a lot of troubleshooting skills and teamwork to complete. Each student gained hands-on knowledge that will positively impact their future employment,” said Butler.
Each student was responsible for an assigned section of the car to focus on during the eight-week course. The students directed the restoration of their specific area, with the help of community members taking the class as a hobby.
“Having this opportunity to work on the Ford Fairlane has taught me to undoubtedly pursue a career in the auto collision industry,” said Martin Zurita, a student in the auto collision program. “I am grateful for the opportunity to pinpoint my career focus while still in school rather than out in the industry.”
The exterior of the Ford Fairlane was painted torch red and colonial white, and the interior received new matching upholstery. The final project made its public debut at the homecoming parade. Following the completion of the project, Eames pledged an additional gift to purchase tools and supplies for the auto collision program.