PONTIAC — After sitting in a tool shed for nearly half a century collecting rust and mice nests, a 1950 Ford F3 pickup truck has been revived for a Pontiac family and featured on national television.
Velocity channel's "Garage Squad" selected for restoration the truck owned by Pontiac Township High School biology teacher Paul Ritter. The truck originally belonged to his grandfather, Karl Kohlman of Weston.
On Wednesday, the show's lead experts, Ronnie Gregurich and Cy Kellogg, visited with automotive and welding students at the Livingston Area Career Center in Pontiac.
Delores Ritter of Peoria, who is Ritter's mother and Kohlman's daughter, said she learned how to drive in the "workhorse of a truck" on her parents' farm.
"We used it like a tractor. We drove it to pull the hayloft rope, hauled feed for cattle and loaded it with grain to plant it in the field. Once the engine died, it sat in the tool shed for 47 years," she said.
The TV show's crew worked on the truck in Paul Ritter's garage in Pontiac, sanding away the rust and painting the interior a sea foam green. A white, leather bench seat was added, as well as a new steering wheel and dashboard gauges.
The rest of the truck saw a new engine, suspension and brakes among other repairs. The crew decided to preserve the well-worn character of the exterior, complete with dents, scratches and a stencil on the cab doors reading, "Karl Kohlman & Sons."
"The toughest part was making sure all the new parts and old parts fit together. We were scrambling to get it done with the limited time we had," said Kellogg, electrical and engineering specialist on the show.
The episode aired Sept. 13 but still is available on the show's website.
Livingston County high school automotive and welding students crowded around the vintage vehicle, checking out the engine and asking the crew about the restoration process.
Peeking under the hood, PTHS senior Brendan Johnson said he was impressed by the final product.
"It means a lot that these guys from the show came out to talk to us. You can tell they take a lot of pride in their work," he said.
Jake Albertson, a Flanagan High School junior, said he enjoyed chatting with the lead members of the show.
"These guys took time out of their busy schedules to show us what it's like in the field and why they do it," said Albertson. "I like to work on cars and I'd like to get a job building race car chassis. After talking to them today, it reminded me to never give up on my future."
Gregurich, drivetrain specialist on "Garage Squad," said that was the goal of their visit to Pontiac.
"We want kids to stay involved in school and work hard to achieve their goals. I'd like to get out to more schools to do this. I want to check up on these kids to see where they are in five years," he said.
Kellogg said the members of the show encouraged students to "keep at it" because they were once teens in the same situation, up to their elbows in motor oil and tinkering with every engine they could get their hands on.
"Do what you love. That's the takeaway. It's how we got to where we are today," said Kellogg.
"It's a part of our dad and mom," said Delores Ritter. "They're looking down from heaven and I have no doubt they'd be thrilled to see it restored. It meant a lot to our family."