Monster trucks to crush class project

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DENVILLE – Students in the Auto Body II class at the Morris County School of Technology are counting the hours until their latest project is crushed beyond recognition.


“It’s gonna be devastating, but we’ll be glad to see it getting crushed,” said Zachary Pechman of Parsippany, one of the students who just completed a custom paint job on a “crush car” heading to Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford for Saturday’s Monster Jam Path of Destruction show.


The ill-fated vehicle — an old Saturn sedan — was delivered to the school by Monster Jam as part of a partnership between the monster truck show producers and vocational schools around the country. Teacher Lou Rosso said this is the third year that the Morris County kids have participated in the program.


“(Monster Jam) wanted to participate with vocational schools, promote the schools and the sport, and how people could make a living in the industry,” said Rosso, an instructor of collision and refinish technologies. “Monster Jam is a worldwide thing, it is hugely popular, so we said yes.”


As part of the lesson, he instructs the students to treat Monster Jam and its needs as a customer. In this case, they wanted a crush car designed to reflect the theme of Saturday’s show.


“Last year the theme was zombies because they had a new zombie truck,” he said. “So we turned a Crown Vic into a zombie police car. (The crush car designs) have progressively gotten more entailed. Last year’s car was better than the first-year car. This year’s is better than last year.”


The theme for this year’s show is Legends of Monster Jam, “and the two greatest legends are Grave Digger and Maximum Destruction. All the kids voted and they voted for Grave Digger.”


“Basically we went to town on it,” Pechman said. “We did slogans, we made tombstones with other monster truck names on them.”


Thursday morning, Monster Jam announcer and TV commentator Scott Douglass paid a visit to the school to inspect the green-and-black beater, which arrived without windows to ensure safety.


“They did all this work just for us to come and crush it,” Douglass said. “We just love it. To see the great work they do here and Lou’s classes that we’ve been involved with for the last couple of years. For us it makes a lot of sense because so many of these folks who have an interest in mechanics are what we need. We’ll continue to build more monster jam trucks, build more events, go all over the world now and, who knows, maybe few of these guys will end up on the crews. But they’ve got to get the great training, and here’s where it starts.”


Douglass was especially amused by one improvisational addition to the Grave Digger crush car by student Derek Novak of Jefferson — a deliberately-crude sign on the back that reads “Student driver; caution.”


The school’s association with Monster Jam continued with a scheduled class trip to a go-kart track in Jersey City where they will meet with some of the drivers and try out the track. Saturday, Russo and his class will board a bus to the stadium, where their car will be displayed along with the trucks outside during a pre-event pit party.


Then comes the main event, which will sound the final bell for their project.


“It will be crushed, annihilated by several monster trucks,” Rosso said. “I think there’s 18 monster trucks and this poor little car is going to look like a pancake.”


The entire experience, Rosso said, is tied back to education and exploring career opportunities beyond auto mechanics and repair.


“This is a trade and a business, but it is also an art form they are learning here,” Rosso said. “Even though we have deer hits and accidents, there’s a multi-billion-dollar industry out there in restoration and custom work.


The Monster Jam is being filmed for future national broadcast on Fox 1 sports at a date still to be determined.


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