A Girl and her Car By Gwen Goins
Autumn recalls attending a local car show at the speedway as she browsed through lines of fixed up cars. For her, affording a new car wasn’t a reality, but she was inspired to build a car of her own like the ones at the show. Suddenly, it seemed possible to construct a car customized by her and for her, and she knew what she wanted: a 1971 Chevrolet Nova.
After determinedly searching for two months, Autumn settled for the 1973 model, paid her dad back, and bought two engines off of a friend for a total of $1200. She also purchased the 1971 Chevrolet Nova’s bumpers to put on her car, the main difference between the two models. Using the automotive garage her eighty year old neighbor owns, Autumn began working.
Photo: the back of Autumn 's soon to be car.
She used a cherry picker to drop one of the engines in, a process that took hours, and filled it with oil, hoping the car would start. She was dismayed when the oil quickly poured out of the bottom; not only was the head gasket completely ruined, but two of the eight pistons, important components of the engine, were too.
After a visit to a car warehouse, Autumn replaced the pistons and the rings around them, and completed a few other small replacements. She held her breath as she placed the engine back in her car and let out an excited whoop when she heard the purr of the engine beside her.
Photo: Autumn sitting next to her car.
The next few weeks involved sanding down the whole body of the car, using sheets of sandpaper to scratch all of the paint off until the remaining surface is as smooth as glass.
Once, she decided to drive it around for a bit during this process. She was surprised when the car started overheating, forcing her to pull over on the side of the road. She realized her 350 V8 engines were too big, so she stopped often on her way home, waiting for her car to cool down. Undeterred, Autumn installed a fan that generated more wind, appreciating the problem solving skills the process was teaching her.
Photo: Autumn filling the dents of her car with putty while smiling happily.
For the rest of summer, Autumn labored away on her car. She put putty on dents, re-sanded the body, added fiberglass, fixed the huge dent in the back with a hammer and wielding tools, and straightened out the body line.
By the time school started this fall, she had finished priming it and was satisfied with her work.
Photo: Autumn proudly standing next to her car.
Overall, the experience of building her first car has been "worthwhile" for Autumn Mitchell. She has learned to push on even when she wanted to “drive the car off a cliff.” As a result, Autumn is extremely proud of everything she’s accomplished, her face lighting up just thinking about her almost finished car and joking, “I consider my car my best trait."
Photo: Autumn cleaning the underside of her car.