The Great Race: High school automotive class project comes full circle

The Model A speedster used by the Nelson/Schindler Racing X-Cup Team was a project nearly 20 years in the making. Driver Chad Nelson was one of the original builders working on the car in the ’90s as a high school automotive class project. Now, the car will serve the team in this year’s Great Race.

The Great Race, which pits two-person teams against the clock and against each other, begins on June 23 in Traverse City, Mich., and heads north around the Great Lakes – through 19 cities, two countries and four states – before finishing July 1 in Dearborn, Mich. The X-Cup Division is designed for high school/college/youth group teams.

Chad Nelson and Brandon Schindler

1930 Model A Ford Speedster No. 30

Team name/sponsor: Nelson/Schindler Racing

Car’s history: The Ford was once a high school automotive class project, and Nelson was one of the original builders in the 1990s. The group’s sole purpose was to compete in the Great Race, and they became the first high school students to do so. However, after competing in three races, school-board cuts ended the automotive program and the car was torn down. Nelson and his father eventually acquired the car and began to rebuild it, but when Nelson’s father died of cancer, the project ended again. Later, a local high school automotive instructor picked up the baton and worked with his own students to return the car to its former glory – and enter it in the Great Race. Unfortunately, before that could happen, the Great Race fell on hard times and was canceled. But the Great Race returned, and so has the Speedster.

Team: Nelson and Schindler know each other through the car’s participation in the VCRA-sanctioned Hemmings Challenge from 2008-2010, when they competed as part of the Terrier Tech Race Team.

Chad Nelson, 32; Titusville, Fla.

Education: Mechanical Engineering/University of Central Florida (2002)

How did you become interested in classic cars? My father also had a love of cars and racing. My mother chipped in too by going to the races while she was pregnant with me.

Do you own a classic of your own? In addition to the Model A, I own a 1964 Ford Mustang Coupe.

Road rally experience: Took part in the Great race five times and the Hemmings Challenge three times. “It is really gratifying to once again be working with students to help them get interested in the sport.”

Future plans / career goals: Having worked in professional auto racing for 10 years already, I now own my own insurance business and hope to one day soon start my own antique racecar restoration business.

What do you hope to accomplish in this event? Finish every day of the race, stay on course and stay on time. If we do that, I think we will be toward the top.

Brandon Schindler, 21; Titusville, Fla.

Education/School: AS in Automotive Technology GM ASEP program; attended Seminole State College; graduated in late 2011.

How did you become interested in classic cars? My love of classic cars first started as a young child when I would lend a hand to my father and family when repairing cars in the driveway. I started to drift more toward classic cars through my deep interest in history.

Do you own a classic of your own? I currently own a 1973 Chevrolet Corvette, but I plan to attain many more cars over the coming years.

Road rally experience: Competed in the Hemmings Challenge three times.

Future plans / career goals: I plan to attend University of Central Florida and earn a degree in Mechanical Engineering, hoping to someday work in professional auto racing.

What do you hope to accomplish in this event? I hope to run well and toward the front, quickly overcome any adversity/mechanical issues with the car and have a good time competing and reuniting with people I’ve competed against in earlier VCRA rallys, which are always a blast.

Read next Up next: The Great Race: The Crooked Road Racers X-Cup team makes a last-minute switch
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