Friday, February 23 , 2018, 5:06 pm | Fair 60º


Hancock College Auto Shop Students Rev Up Efforts to Contribute to Their Cause

Proceeds of engine built by students to benefit Blaine Johnson Memorial Foundation

Students in Allan Hancock College’s automotive technology program aren’t too young to remember the late drag racer Blaine Johnson.

“I used to actually watch his races,” said Troy Showalter, a 22-year-old Hancock student who recalls seeing the Santa Maria native race before he was killed in a crash in 1996.

Most students know the name because a sign above the shop dedicates the space to the Blaine Johnson Memorial Foundation.

Much of the expensive machining equipment the students use was also donated by the foundation, which has given well over $400,000 to the program and college scholarships since its creation by Johnson’s family in 1997.

To give back, a group of students decided to build a car engine from scratch, and then auction it off to benefit the memorial foundation’s annual golf tournament.

“They do so much for this auto shop” said student Kevin Strawder, 28, of Santa Maria. “What better way to show our appreciation than to show them what we have learned? Unfortunately, what happened to Blaine was a tragedy. We wouldn’t be able to do this without (the foundation).”

A core group of five students has been working since the summer to build a hot-rod Chevy 350 engine they say can fit into just about any vehicle.

Besides Showalter and Strawder, the group includes David Fletcher, 23, of Lompoc; Arthur Olivo, 32, of Santa Maria; and Tom Yee, 26, of Santa Maria.

Yee called the engine the group’s “masterpiece.”

Most students in the group decided to build the engine as part of a special projects course, in which students typically work alone.

Hancock student David Fletcher of Lompoc makes last-minute adjustments to the engine he built with classmates from scratch. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
Hancock student David Fletcher of Lompoc makes last-minute adjustments to the engine he built with classmates from scratch. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Donations were raised to pay for the $2,200 in parts needed, and students dedicated more than $1,300 worth of labor whenever they could find the time.

Strawder would work a graveyard shift and then came into the shop to work most of the day.

“We’ve learned a lot,” he said.

The students say they hope to make the auction an annual event. Their engine went for $2,100 during the auction last week.

Hancock auto technology instructor Patrick McGuire said the market value of the engine was around $4,500. He added that the students still got a kick out of the fact that their engine went to Shawn Langdon, a drag racer currently on the team of Blaine’s brother, Alan Johnson.

“The big thing is this was their idea; I tried to talk them out of it,” joked McGuire, explaining the impressive amount of time they gave to the project. “What they really get out of it is craftsmanship, teamwork.”

Johnson was killed when his engine exploded at the finish line of the 1996 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. He was 34.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >