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Granite City High School students helped restore a 1937 Dodge Plymouth for car enthusiast Steve Williams, who has rare neuromuscular disease that prevented him from rebuilding the vehicle himself.
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GRANITE CITY — Cruising down the highway in a 1937 Dodge Plymouth, enjoying the honks and waves of approval from passersby and fellow motorists, traveling the same roads others may have traveled when a 1937 model was hot off the assembly line.
That’s a dream car enthusiast Steve Williams had on his bucket list. But a diagnosis of primary lateral sclerosis put his project of assembling that dream car on hold.
A rare neuromuscular disease often diagnosed in those older than 50 and characterized by weakening voluntary muscles, Williams’ condition required preservation of energy as well as the need for a wheelchair. It seemed he would never get to take that ride.
Close friend Jim Pashdag was determined not to allow Williams’ dream to die. He began visiting car shows, looking for ideas and assistance.
“At a car show in Bethalto, Jim asked me if I had any garage space,” said Allen Kirgen, a fellow car enthusiast.
Although he didn’t have any space to offer, Kirgen knew of a way he could help.
“I teach ED classes, including one automotive class per year at Granite City High School,” he said. “I suggested contacting Eric Hill, the vocational automotive teacher, and seeing if he could help.”
Hill agreed to take the car and have his students complete what they could during the spring semester. The dream was brought back to reality as Pashdag and Williams brought the non-running car to the high school’s automotive shop.
Throughout that semester, the students successfully installed the wiring harness, carburetor, master cylinder and new brakes. As summer approached though, the Plymouth still was far from running.
“Steve was making arrangements to bring the car back home, but (the others) convinced him to leave the car,” Kirgen said.
Despite losing his students to graduation, Hill continued to work on the car, and his fall semester students picked up the challenge of completing the project, replacing leaking gaskets, installing a new radiator, door poppers, electric windows, gauges and the gas pedal.
Williams’ Plymouth now runs and is soon to be returned to his home.
“All that is left is to mount the seats,” Jim said. “They are making frames for the seats so they will raise three to four inches higher for Steve.”
Today, it appears a shattered dream has been repaired thanks to a caring car enthusiast, an automotive teacher and his students. The many people involved with the project are looking forward to seeing Steve take that drive.
For information, visit www.dodgecharger.com.