CCSU Students Repair 1961 Dodge Lancer to Compete in ‘The Great Race'

Four students will make the nine-day trip from Rhode Island to North Dakota in the vintage car.

NBC Universal, Inc.

In its 39-year history, The Great Race has brought drivers through cities big and small. This year hundreds of people will be taking their classic cars through Connecticut.

That includes a group of students from Central Connecticut State University. They are repairing a 1961 fixer-upper for a big journey.

At CCSU, 12 students are part of the extracurricular Multi-Powered Vehicle Club, bringing designs on paper to life.

"This is a 24-foot outrigger canoe that we built last year, it comes in three sections,” Nate Breiling, a junior technology education major, said.

This semester the students want to do something different, so they are revving things up.

Their new project: at 1961 Dodge Lancer.

“It has a six-cylinder engine, and then when you sit in it, it feels like you're in an old sofa. You're just kind of sitting on springs!" David Sianez, a professor in technology education, said.

A student club buying a car is a pretty big deal.

"We did a lot of searching on eBay,” Alex Distefano, a sophomore technology education major, said.

"We looked at for a year for a good car that was in our price range,” Sianez said. "We just happened to find it on Facebook Marketplace.”

Now there is work to do.

"We're in the phase of making it more safe for us to drive,” Breiling said.

"Definitely going to be getting new tires, we're going to be changing the oil and stuff like that, getting the brakes and the rims done,” Distefano said.

Once it’s complete, the vintage Dodge Lancer is not going to sit in a garage. Three members of the club, along with a student documentarian, are taking it on the trip of a lifetime.

“It's going to be a lot of bonding, it's going to be, you know, four of us stuck in a car for nine days straight,” Breiling said.

They are competing in The Great Race. More than 500 people from around the world will be taking 120 antique cars on a 2,300 mile journey.

"It's kind of like a car rally-slash-race,” Luke Vermilyea, a sophomore technology education major, said. “A bunch of people will bring their old cars, so your car has to be from before 1974 in order to be able to enter."

The race is not about speed, but following instructions and getting classic cars through different checkpoints.

The countdown is on, because it kicks off June 18. On June 19, the drivers will travel through Connecticut.

“We're the only school that's doing it in Connecticut,” Sianez said. “The first day is all through Connecticut. So if you're around if you see our car, other cars, please honk your horn, give us some help and motivate us, and the students would love it!" 

The CCSU students are in a group called The X-Cup for high school and college students, and they are just focusing on the joy ride.

"We're not really in it to win the competition necessarily more to just take part. So you know if we get to a spot that looks really cool, we want to stop and take some pictures, there's no harm in doing so,” Breiling said.

These students, who plan to one day be teachers, hope to carry this experience with them into their future.

"As technology educators, in the future, we're going to need to teach our students about transportation. So this is a really a great learning experience for us more than anything,” Vermilyea said.

All while they are clocking miles and making memories.

"You only get to go to college once and do it once,” Distefano said. “So I'm just so excited for this trip, and it's just going to be such a learning experience."

The CCUS student filmmaker joining the club members will be documenting the whole trip across the country with photos and video.

Stay with NBC Connecticut for updates on the journey.  

Contact Us