Car club 40 years in the making

In 2009, Marty Hostetler accepted a position at the Elkhart Area Career Center as Lead Instructor of Automotive Technology. Interestingly enough, Hostetler himself was an EACC automotive technology student in the ‘70s and it is with this experience, he became the “car guy” he is today. Hostetler was under the instruction of Mr. Hank Rakow, whom he reflects on, saying, “Hank was the best auto instructor the Career Center ever had. He was very instrumental in the career path that I took and helped me get my first job in the field.”  Hostetler never forgot what a great teacher Mr. Rakow was, it inspired him to come back and follow in his footsteps.

Hostetler’s career path ultimately came full-circle when taking inventory of the school’s project vehicles. Many memories came back to him as he had re-discovered the same 1973 Ventura which he’d worked on as a student nearly 40 years prior! “When I saw the car sitting in the shop, I thought, ‘Wow! To have a car that I had trained on as a student still here was a pleasant surprise!”  From that moment on, the plan was to see if the car could be saved and at some point restored. This particular car was the first car donated to the career center’s program.

The Pontiac was given to the Elkhart Area Career Center in 1973 as a damaged, but “new” vehicle. Due to structural damage it incurred upon transport to the local dealership, it would never be able to be registered and driven on the roads, but provided a perfect learning opportunity for students. As a project car and a learning tool, it has had lots of wear and tear over the years as the parts were constantly removed and other parts were damaged or lost altogether. This has provided new challenges and obstacles for Hostetler and the students.

The unexpected find was an inspiration in the many ways he could incorporate the Pontiac into the current curriculum. In addition to learning the mechanical skills that come with building a car, Hostetler also intends to teach his students how to plan and build on a budget. After several eager students showed an interest in working on the 40-year-old Ventura, he set out to make it happen. Hostetler and his students then began purchasing parts to repair or replace those that were worn, missing, or damaged.

As for the future of the car, several of Hostetler’s students approached him with a proposal of their own to keep the project going. They wanted to help organize a car club around the Ventura project. The club has been something Hostetler has wanted to do for quite a while. The Career Center Car Club is open to all EACC students and instructors who want to participate and have a desire to see the Ventura project through, including former Elkhart Career Center alumni, some who may have worked on the car in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The car club has two cars they are currently working on – the Pontiac Ventura and a 2001 Ford Mustang. The Mustang had been wrecked in the right front and with some help from outside sponsors, they hope to get it fixed up and repainted within the next year or so. Once the cars are finished, they will be taking them around to local car shows to display. Once the Pontiac is finished the club would like to take it to a national Pontiac show. The students who help will have their names put on a plaque that will be displayed with the cars. The club members currently meet on Thursday evenings.

For more information on the car club contact Martin Hostetler: