TSS HOT ROD: The sum of our parts! Week 1

The idea of “building a car” was presented to us back in the fall by TSS parents Mike and Kathy Gisby. More specifically, the car discussed is based on a 1933 Ford Roadster, a kit produced by a company called Factory Five. Initial thoughts…”How cool!” and “Wow, what an opportunity for our kids!” Of course, these comments were followed up with…”How?”

We all agreed that the combined efforts of the car experts at Altezza Restorations and the TSS students would result in an awesome experience. Our hope is that this collaborative effort will not only challenge our students, but also enhance their ability to collaborate, communicate, plan, organize, and problem-solve! So, we all gathered at the Gisby’s shop to figure out how to make this happen. Let the adventure begin…

Today was our first visit to Altezza Restorations, the Gisby’s shop in Bridgeport, CT. Upon arrival, all you could hear was, “a-h-h,” “o-o-h,” “cool,” and “I want one of those!” Joey would like this lambourgini…

The Gisby’s, along with Miles and Gus, gave us a tour of the shop. The students enjoyed seeing the cars displayed on the showroom floor, as well as those in different states of “restoration” throughout the shop.

We then gathered at the conference table for a chat about the kit and all the work it will take to craft this masterpiece.

This is where we all agreed on the definition of “HOT ROD” and decided to use it in the name of our car: TSS HOT ROD:
Any car with increased performance or customized in any way to a person or groups preference.

Finally, we got to see the beginning stages of the “TSS Hot Rod,” the space we will be working in, and many of the parts being prepped for its use in the coming weeks:

It became clear by the end of our visit that the final product (TSS Hot Rod) will be greater than the sum of its parts! The pieces of the car, the hands of the experts and students, the minds of all involved, and the passion behind this endeavor will be the driving force behind its success!

Week 1 Gallery

TSS HOT ROD: The sum of our parts! Week 2

Our second visit to Altezza Restorations included a very enthusiastic group of students. They loved the cars on the showroom floor that included everything from a 1929 Pierce Arrow to a 2017 Aston Martin!

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by… a homework assignment, a social studies or science project, your “to-do” list? Today we asked Miles and Gus how they approach restoring a car.
The boys noticed that the cars were in (many) parts and in different states of disrepair.

Miles explained that they break the process down into parts and start with the frame of the car. Sound familiar? We often encourage our students to break assignments down into manageable parts.

Some important points:

  • Everything on the car attaches to the frame in some way (kind of like our own skeleton)
  • The frames can be made out of steel, fiberglass, plastic, or aluminum
  • The process involves sanding, putting on “filler, sanding again, putting on primer, etc.
  • Students recognized that people who specialize in “body work” need to have patience and pay attention to details.
The frame of our TSS Hot Rod

The students saw frame work being done that created a lot of dust (left). All of the people working on the different parts of cars had their own rooms, or workspace. Jack Gisby, TSS student and son of Mike and Kathleen GIsby owners of Altezza Restorations, did a great job explaining to us the purpose and importance of the “painting room.” It is in this room that the paint is heated so when applied it sticks, dries faster, and hardens. The boys noticed that this space is very clean and “dust-free!”

Time went by quickly, and as one boy put it, “It felt like we were only there 3 minutes!” Yes, time flies when you’re having fun.

Week 2 Gallery

TSS HOT ROD: The sum of our parts! Week 3

This week’s visit to Altezza Restorations involved students new to the experience and a few who have already participated. We also brought along Mrs. Behn, definitely her first time on the floor of an automotive shop! Everyone enjoyed checking out the “cool cars” on the showroom floor and are great at following the most important rule: Do not touch unless you ask Miles or Gus first. One of them asked if they could sit in one of the classics, and the rest followed their lead!

Bea and Will loving the Lamborghini!

Bea, our first young lady to visit the shop, recognized right off the bat the time it takes to restore these cars. She compared it to the time it took Leonardo Da Vinci to paint the Mona Lisa. This visit reinforced the idea that it takes many people to complete a project like the ones in process throughout the shop. Each person works hard in their specialty area. They saw a person sanding, another person working on an engine, and another doing metal work on the body of a car. This last work station was most interesting to the group. Here they met Storm, the shops dog, and saw a car on a “rotisserie.” When asked what else sits on a rotisserie, they all chimed in “Chicken!” In this case, the restorer is able to turn the car and gain access to any part needing work.

Lyosha made another keen observation. He noted that the doors on our ’33 TSS HOT ROD have what were called “suicide doors.” I learn something new every visit! It is hard to tell from the picture below, but you can see to the left that the door is hinged to the rear of the opening. Lyosha used this slang term for doors on cars built mainly in the 1930’s that were hinged to the back of the frame. It was soon discovered that this type of door, if opened when the car is in motion, could be torn off by the force of air flow. This became a safety concern, forcing a change in design of automobile doors moving forward. However, this style is still used today by those who like to customize their own cars. One student noted that we are using this type of door because we “are making a replica of the original.” Yes!

In the last few minutes of our visit, Luca discovered the “Assembly Manual.” Earlier, Miles compared the Factory five kit to something everyone could relate to: a Lego kit! This discovery made us all thankful that we have a team of experts surrounding and supporting us through this awesome experience. There were observations made, questions asked, lessons learned, and enjoyment had by all in this week’s visit! Thank you!

The directions to our TSS HOT ROD…
Not so bad!

Week 3 Gallery

TSS HOT ROD: The sum of our parts! Week 4

Week four started with the same question asked every week: “What car is under that cover?” The kids are all curious and fascinated by the many cars sprinkled throughout the shop, but the one that has garnered the most attention is the one under the cover: a 1967 Chevy Impala. The owner has chosen to store this very long car at the shop to protect it from the elements. Other favorites continue to be the Aston Martin and the Lamborghini:

Students observed both body work and painting in action. This picture below shows a person restoring a front end that is giving him a bit of a challenge. Miles told students that “nothing is ever perfect,” but the students noticed that many people were working very hard at painting, sanding, buffing, hammering, filling, replacing and ultimately, building or restoring the cars to their original beauty, and as close to perfection as you can get!

Each week the parts related to the TSS Hot Rod increases in number. This week, students were introduced to tire wheel control arms, spindles, tie rod ends and other suspension hardware.

It was another great visit to Altezza Restorations. The kids are ready to get their hands dirty and help install this engine when the time is right.

Week 4 Gallery

TSS HOT ROD: The sum of our parts! Week 5

Over our February break, Jack G. and Anders P. were able to spend some time at Altezza Restoration working on the TSS Hot Rod! Under the guidance of Miles and with the proper safety gear, these 2 boys, the youngest of the TSS students participating in this adventure, are adding their hard work and passion to this collaborative project.

This was the last visit to the shop with a group of students new to this experience. Instead of cars in the showroom, we were greeted by this guy…TSS students love dogs!

The Ferrari was a big hit this week…

And the Aston Martin too..

Body work was the focus of intrigue this week. The kids heard a lot of tap, tap, tapping and followed the noise to the back room where we found Pedro hard at work. The students were interested in what he was doing and he explained that he was replacing a rusted-out area on a car. He went on to spell out the beginning steps in the process…cut out the rusted part, attach a new piece, tap it into place and in the right shape…and so on.

This meeting of the minds brought about a couple of questions…
What color will the TSS Hot Rod be? (TBD) When will it be finished? (By June)

Another great trip to the shop!

Week 5 Gallery

TSS HOT ROD: The sum of our parts! Week 6

Excited, engrossed, eager-all words I could use to describe today’s group of students working on the TSS Hot Rod. This visit was the first time they donned their work gloves, rocked their safety goggles and got their hands dirty!

This lesson focused on the importance of the suspension in a car. In order to help students understand the purpose (comfort and a smooth, level ride) and parts (control arms, ball joint, springs, etc.) associated with a suspension system, Gus and Alex, both Altezza Restoration experts, provided the students with a hand-out and a video to get their motor running…

Once they had a better sense of what they would be working on we headed to our workspace eager to get our hands on some Factory Five car parts. Gus and Alex reinforced the importance of safety and the Assembly Manual and referenced both may times throughout our visit.

This is the ball joint that keeps the tire straight…

The directions…

The parts…

Putting them all together…

Attaching it to the TSS Hot Rod frame!

Many hands and minds played a part in today’s creative process. These boys will bring their excitement for this project back to school and continue to build interest in this amazing opportunity. The TSS Hot Rod certainly is shaping up to be the sum of its parts!

Week 6 Gallery

TSS HOT ROD: The sum of our parts! Week 7

It’s been 2 weeks since we visited the shop…March madness in the form of snow interrupted everyone’s schedule! Thankfully, we are in the capable hands of Miles and Gus who have done some work behind the scenes.

The clutch and break assembly along with the gas tank were put in the car on those snowy days!

The gang started with the video about the evolution of a car’s suspension system…

One good question asked: what is the difference between a wheel and a tire? The inside rim is the wheel and the rubber outside is the tire!

They all had to put on their gloves and grease up the parts…

The boys used wrenches in US standard measurements of 15/16 and 7/8…I usually test out all the wrenches to see which one fits! Then they installed the passenger front lower control arms.

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Week 7 Gallery

TSS HOT ROD: The sum of our parts! Week 8

A model car suspension:

Review: Tire or wheel?

Remember the wrenches mentioned last week… choices!

Getting their hands dirty…or greasy!

Putting all the pieces of the control arm together:

Now it’s time to attach it to the frame-go Lily go!!

All the kids love the modern, sleek and classy cars, but some still like the classics!

Week 8 Gallery

TSS HOT ROD: The sum of our parts! Week 9

Lessons learned this week:

The steering wheel turns the wheels…

Spindle nuts go on the ball joints “turret” side up (like on a castle!)

Can’t put a wheel on like this…

We need this…

Dust boots keep grease in and dust out!

The car needs brakes-doesn’t it? Disc brakes are attached…

Calipers and brake pads too…

We are more than the sum of our parts….

Week 9 Gallery

TSS HOT ROD: The sum of our parts! Week 10

Lessons learned this week:
Evidence of progress:
When you turn this…

All of this moves too…

The hub and spindle nut!

Hub first…


Put on the rotor…

Then the caliper…

Brake pads go on…

Inside caliper….

Wrench guy number 1 and wrench guy number 2:

Wrench girl 3 and wrench girl 4:

Suspension parts-spring and inside is a shock absorber: a combination old and new! 

Week 10 Gallery