For Bonita Vista High School students like junior Roberto Ballardo and senior Diego Toloza cars are not just a means of transportation, they are a passion. For this reason, they have joined the Automotive Technology class taught by automotive instructor Ben Hazel, where they can take on big projects that revolve around restoring and upgrading the cars.
“For me it was very cool to see how engines functioned, how the concept of an engine, internal combustion work, and how all the gearing and the transmission [function], it really interested me,” Ballardo said.
As a first year student, Ballardo has restored a 1966 Ford Mustang, a 1991 BMW 318i 3 Series, 2001 BMW Z3 Roadster, worked on a 2005 BMW 325i E46 and a 2001 Toyota Tacoma. Over a span of two years in the class, Toloza has fixed a Ford Bronco II, worked on a Volkswagen Beetle and has even lifted a Mazda Miata.
“My Bronco had an eight inch lift. My bug is a Baja Bug, I bought that from an off-road guy. When I had the Miata I wanted to do something like that, because originally I wanted to sell the bug and have another off-road toy, so I had the Miata as well,” Toloza said.
Both Ballardo and Toloza said that they seek to get a career within the automotive industry. Ballardo is looking into mechanical engineering and Toloza’s plans are to get a part time job after high school to save some money and then go to community college to take automotive classes.
“I want to do some custom fabrication eventually, [have] my own garage, my own race team to compete and build race cars for people. [I want to] actually build the car, instead being at a dealership working on it,” Toloza said.
Ballardo developed a passion for cars three years ago when he got his first car. He mentioned that before taking the Automotive Technology class, all his knowledge about cars came from his own research. Toloza on the other hand has had a passion since an early age as cars are prominent in his family.
“My dad used to be a mechanic when he lived in Mexico, and then when he came over here, he went to school to become an auto technician. He used to own a company. He had a semi-truck and we used to work on cars,” Toloza said.
Ballardo and Toloza help other students as well to grow in the automotive field. Junior Elyjah Flores said that in often occasions he has received help from Toloza while working on his car during class. In addition, Ballardo explained that he worked with Toloza while doing his restorations.
“I think now it could be a great opportunity for not only us to work on cars, but for other people involved because I know one can inspire people. That will be a great opportunity for them to see how other people work on cars and how they can eventually do it themselves. The thing about working on cars yourself [is] the amount of money that is saved,” Ballardo said.
Hazel stated that both Ballardo and Toloza are talented and committed students. He added that it is rare when a student like Ballardo or Toloza comes into the class with mechanical skills. Hazel went on to explain that both students are hardworking and high achieving.
“I have had more fun in the past two years with these group of kids, than I have had in a long time. I wake up every morning chomping at the bit to get to school, I like being here. And I like being with my knuckleheads, and the cast of characters that I have had in the last years, has been very fun and rewarding for me and I think conversely, they are getting a lot of it,” Hazel said.