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Young Men at Work in High School Auto Shop Class 101

Today’s image is a press photo that appears to have been taken in the early-sixties of a high school Auto Shop class and garage; the name of the school and its location are both unknown. The instructor of the class is standing with his back to the camera at a work bench just to the left of the 1957 Ford two-door hardtop hood. The young man across from the teacher with the white short sleeve shirt is a look-a-like of the late racing car driver Dale Earnhardt.

At the far-right of the bottom of the image are an o.h.v. straight six-cylinder engine and behind it appears to be a Ford Motor Company Y-Block V-8 engine? On the left side of the photo are work benches with boys working on sub-assemblies and at the rear engines and short blocks.

Tell us what you can identify and what interests you in the photograph via M.G. LeRutte at This Was Americar.


44 responses to “Young Men at Work in High School Auto Shop Class 101

  1. The ’57 Ford is a relatively rare Fairlane model. Most hardtop buyers went for the Fairlane 500. Behind it is a ’59 Plymouth Suburban. It appears the parking light lenses on the Ford are replacements; the originals were white.

    • When amber turn signals come out 1963 or so, you could get some transparent paint to color the clear lenses amber. I remember J.C. Whitney had it.

      • You could also just replace the #1034 bulbs with amber bulbs. I did this on my ’59 Chevy in 1961 just to keep up to date.

  2. My high school didn’t offer auto shop, just wood and metal, and even those were being phased out (early ’70’s) It’s not even offered anymore. In a more accurate look alike, if this was a bit older, I’d swear that’s James Dean working on the brakes. The 1st guy on the left, appears to be working on a lawn mower engine.

  3. Many of the vehicles & components were donated by the manufacturers. The vehicles were usually pre-production or had shipping damage & in some cases flood damage. These cars & components were to be used for training purposes only & destroyed when they were no longer useful to the automotive program. Hopefully, the various manufacturers still support auto programs that still exist although most of them are only available at community colleges.

    • All these have automotive programs in Broward county Florida.

      Atlantic Technical College and Technical High School
      Creek Technical Academy
      McFatter Technical College and Technical High School
      Sheridan Technical College and Technical High School

  4. The in-line six engine is an old (probably a pre-war) Chevy six. The valve cover setting next to it is later but basically the same engine (194/216 cu in).
    Did auto shop all through high school (class of ’64). Groomed many of us for jobs in the auto trades. Not aware of that going on these days, not in HS anyway.
    BTW: Ford gave us some pretty nice stuff back then. A ‘new’ 221 cu in V8, precursor to he 260/289. All new but discontinued in ’63. Good for them, great for us.

  5. The six cylinder engine in the lower right is a Chevrolet 216 Stovebolt. There is a later model valve cover (235) sitting on the intake manifold of the ‘bolt.

    • Sorry gents but I’m going to have to go with a 223 cid Ford, 1954 and later. The distributor is at the front of the engine and the vale cover with the three double ridges is diffidently Ford. The loose valve cover is a 54 to 62 Chev 235 or 261.

  6. Also, those who mourn the loss of manual-arts training in high schools (as I do) may be interested in the book “Shop Class as Soulcraft”, by Matthew Crawford.

    • Bruce, this is a fantastic book – and many articles coming out now about shortages of mechanics. I had auto shop in high school, but back then (90’s) it was dying and really it was perceived as a “loser” class for burnouts and people who sucked at english and math. Too bad really since you need to be good at both of those things to be a good mechanic.

      Basic mechanical skills are so helpful and it’s such a lost art. If people only knew sometimes how easy and cheap it is to fix things, they would die that they had to call a “professional” to help them fix it.

  7. Like Howard, I had three years of wood and metal working. We also took drafting. These were mandatory, standard fare in the mid-60s for Midwestern schools. I really enjoyed all three and, yes, they were useful skills even for someone who did not plan a manual profession. I wish I could have taken auto repair as well. I doubt kids today would be interested–they have little love for cars unlike when I was growing up.
    Love the only guy not conforming to a standard color shirt opting instead for Hawaiian. Very likely the most popular kid in class who could get away with it or the class clown.

  8. Love this photo David ! Wish I had taken auto shop, but ours was fairly basic anyway. I would have said the guy with the short sleeved t-shirt looked like Gene Winfield at 1st glance. Sure would love more shots like this one, and also would have been so proud to have owned that Ford, ha ! Thanks.

  9. At first seeing this picture it looked so familiar I was sure it was of my high school auto mechanics shop class. Several of the people looked just like guys I knew at the time, including our beloved teacher who was a bit short and all business. I even thought for a moment the 57 Ford was the one I drove for the best part of high school. We were allowed to work on our own cars with permission and if we had the time. Most of the time we worked on other peoples cars who only had to pay for parts as our labor was free. Our instructor, Mr. Freeze, made sure that all work we performed was done perfectly correct before it left the shop. As far as language, even the so called “bad boys” knew better than to use those four letter words around adults. I had forgotten how different guys dressed back then, jeans were the exception and slacks and button down shirts were the norm even in shop. I have always felt I learned a great deal from that class even though I made my living in a different profession. After looking closer, I don’t believe this is my class, but it must be the twin to my class. Thank you for the memories..

  10. Ford six for sure. Y block Ford 312 ?
    Life was different. Never will be that way again. I took refrigeration and appliance repair in high school. I’ve worked on automobiles instead for over twenty years. Shop classes are not offered anymore. A shame. …

  11. I took 2 years of auto shop at Tokay high in Lodi, Ca. After about 6 months my teacher noticed that he couldn’t teach me much, I had been working on cars for years, and I actually taught him a few things about scopes and air conditioning, so he made me like an assistant to the teacher, I still had to do all the work, but the guys could come to me for help. This was ’72-’74. Auto repair is now taught at the local Technical College here in Northwest Washington State.

  12. Actually, from time to time, Hemmings does a thread on young people restoring classic cars, which is always refreshing to hear. No where near the scale of the 50’s and 60’s, but again, with what cars have evolved into, there’s really no need. Heck, people today can go their whole lives, and never have a flat tire( which is why it’s such a catastrophe when it does happen.) And I, like many others, learned by trial and error. Today, that’s just not possible without some outside training, and I hear those schools are struggling, as well, for students.

    • Not many young people want to get their hands dirty today. Auto mechanics and service techs are in the most looked down upon by society – I know as I have experienced it many times.

    • You’re right, Howard. When your ball joints and wheel bearings are permanently sealed, when spark plugs last 100,000 miles and ignition is electronic, when a computer decides your fuel mix rather than a little spring-loaded screw at the bottom of the carburetor, then you no longer need the skills these kids were learning.

      On the one hand, I always enjoyed working on my cars — dripping oil into the grease cups on the starter and generator, packing grease into the wheel bearings. It felt good to know how all the systems on the car functioned. But modern cars are certainly more convenient and longer lasting. More practical, less fun.

  13. Late to the party here but I took shop all in Jr. High (W,M,D) and Auto Shop in High School (Class 1971). My claim to fame was the kid who set the most shop rags on fire. We had to place a shop rag on the exhaust manifold while adjusting the valves. To reduce smoking from the oil, they told me. Being prone to perfection my rags would burst into flames every time. And the shop teacher would bellow from the other side of the garage, “Paul! Are you setting my rags on fire again?!?”

    Later in college, my buddies and I made a trip from SJSU to Tahoe to a cabin one of their folks had. On the way we had a flat tire on a 1963 Ford Galaxie we nick named The Roach Coach for obvious reasons. Four guys, flat tire, no problem. We decided to do an Indy pit stop on HWY 50. Must’ve looked funny to others as we changed that flat in record time.

    Kids these days don’t know what they are missing. Can’t really hot rod a cellphone.

  14. We did not have auto shop in my high school days (’57 grad) but every service station had its coterie of loiterers — like me — so we got an education that way. Sadly no one needs their points filed and set any more … ūüôā

  15. When I was in High School from 1958 until I graduated in 1961 our High School had a wood shop, Metal shop and an auto shop. All fully equipped . Also drivers- ed was free. Sad that high schools have none of it today and drivers- ed costs up to $300.00 per student.

  16. Bought my 1st car, ’46 Ford Convertible in Junior year HS 1958. Got a Mechanics Manual and tore out the old flathead. Read that book, front to back. Fully rebuilt a 265 Chevy engine, new special motor mounts, bell housing, etc. Put it all back together in that Ford, all self taught. Not a single day of trade school as I was in HS college classes. I even taught myself how to paint cars. That experience re-paid itself over the years as I maintained my own vehicles back then. Not anymore, sad to say.

  17. Auto mechanics was one of several vocations offered when I was in high school. Only problem was they wouldn’t let girls take the course. I especially liked the 57 Ford Fairlane. I personally like the Fairlane over the Fairlane 500. I had a 57 Fairlane 500 two door H/T and have would gladly traded my room mate for her Fairlane two door H/T

  18. As a life-long automotive guy, I decided to make teaching it the final frontier. I taught high school automotive class in NC for 8 years starting in 2007. Unfortunately the curriculum held to strict modern guidelines, geared toward passing the final exam. It was very scripted and did not lend itself to any creativity to teach the real things needed for becoming successful in the industry. Common Core even gutted the classes that had the know-how and ability to help oneself learn a trade with minimal up-front investment to make a very good living. This caused my conscience to drive me to go back to the private sector.
    Most modern, Snowflake-type students would also rather text on their cell phones and do enough to earn a D, than do hard work to give the nuts and bolts needed to succeed in the workplace. Getting young men to work on cars – even their own, was like pulling teeth. My students that did do hard work now work for some pretty big names in racing. I keep up with them to this day.
    This article and pictures are refreshing to read and see about a time my parents speak about. It will be those few successful ones that see the value we see in the older ways that will pick it up and carry it on. Perhaps this is the way it has always been.

  19. I’m going to take a wild,shot in the dark guess,provided we ever find out,that that’s Automotive High School in NY

  20. I took auto shop in 1954, quite different than the photo. All we had to practice on was a well worn WW2 Jeep.
    Every class had to overhaul that engine, I’m sure it was the most cared for Jeep ever.
    I got to install a used V8 in my ’37 coupe. Also remember rebuilding the tranny in a Terraplane.
    The instructor lived just across the alley from the shop. He would take roll call and go home for the next 3 hours! Needless to say not much got accomplished in the way of automotive skills.

  21. Yeah, shop classes. We had most of them in JrHS. Wood, Metal, Electric, Drafting, Print, and also Agriculture. Made a nut tray and some other stuff in W, hammer, chisel and something else in M, motor and telegraph key in E, fell in love with Sophia Loren in D, namecards and other things in P (still remember the type layout and why the little boxes differed in size), carrots and radishes in Ag. Car shop came in HS, but I never took it, though I did see some of the good stuff they made. Like some many here, I learned my skills on my own tinkering with my ’59 Ford through some iterations (292->312->390->hot rodded 390) and bikes (Suzuki 80, Matchless 500, Kawa 250 that ended up going crazy fast for a while), back to a ’57 Ford (in-line 6->that hotrodded 390->406!) among other things. IMHO, kids today need hands on classes like that, despite all the goofing off that went on, because a lot of the skills taught stick with you and provide another way of analyzing and tackling problems… kids need to get their hands dirty. That includes the girls as well. As you can tell, this was all ’60’s era stuff.

  22. Yep
    Auto Shop was the best still use what I was taught to this day
    We had to take metal shop as a Freshman first
    Then three years of auto shop
    Mr. Albert Cox was our shop teacher
    At Helix Hi La Mesa,Ca
    Class of 1957
    I stuffed.a 56 Olds engine in to a 51 Chevy with a La Salle three speed transmission , Olds rear end

  23. It is too bad that shop classes of almost any kind no longer exist in North Carolina high school. As a retired teacher I tried get the powers to be that not all kids want or need to go to college but would benefit from this trade classes in high school, but to no avail.
    I do take a exception to the comments that today’s kids are lazy and only want to be tied to their cell phones (and other electronic gagets). There a lot of hard working kids out there, some of which would like to have had the opportunity to work in auto mechanics and other shop related jobs. I have spoken with several kids I taught in the past who have gone back to community college (after having gone to a regular 4 year college) to take courses in the fields we are talking about here. Too bad they didn’t get a head start on things while in public school.

    • Agreed that not all kids are lazy and tied to devices. A good many of them are, but it’s those 1/3rd that roll up their sleeves and dig in that end up really succeeding in a manual labor jobs. It should be mentioned there are also a good many adults that are also tied to devices and can be deemed lazy. Hard work is not innate to human nature. Is is learned by example. What is rarer than this is the desire to preserve and learn the “old ways” of doing things. That’s why I love the articles on 15 liter fire breathing, chain driven racers and T head automobiles found on this great site.

  24. McPherson College in McPherson Kansas has a degreed course in auto restoration. Jay Leno and Hagardy insurance are sponsors. They have an auto club and a car show every spring. I learned about leather fenders from a student and watched a timed car build off there.

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