October 1, 2019

Auto Repair: from DMACC to the Garage

Auto Repair graphic

For much of last summer, senior Matthew Blitvich’s rust damaged Mazda Miata took up the majority of his parents’ garage. With the clear coat starting to peel and fade, Blitvich was committed to fixing it up on his own. During his junior year, he enrolled in Auto Collison, a class offered to Ames High students through the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC). His motivation was simple: “If I did a good job at DMACC, then I could just paint it myself.”

Blitvich enjoys working on cars but understood the complexity and art of painting an automobile. The DMACC class spent much of the first semester on body repair. Students were given fenders to fix up by taking the dents and gashes out of. “The second semester we started painting and did around 3 colors per fender, then one custom paint job as the last one.” The last project was to paint and build a child’s peddle car. This was when Matt tested out the color he wanted for his Miata.

Equipped with the knowledge and courage to take it on himself, he jacked up his car and started taking it apart. First were the tires, then the bumpers, hood, trunk, doors, and mirrors. After sanding it down to the bare metal and original primer, he filled in the dents and cuts and welded the body to fit fender flares. Next was priming and painting. To create an effective and functional paint booth, he hung sheets of plastic around his car using PVC pipes and furnace filters and an old fan for ventilation. With the knowledge gained from his DMACC class, he was able to use the correct technique for both painting and the clear coat. Once everything was dried, he reassembled the car he always desired. 

Matt funded this project on his own by working for The Cafe and detasseling throughout the summer. Proudly, his mother Helen said, “We don’t own a paint booth and we weren’t going to buy one either so Matthew built his own paint booth.” They did contribute just over $300 of the $4,100 total project bill. For both his parents, that contribution was worth the price of watching initiative and follow-through from their son. Matt sees auto repair as a hobby, but also as a back-up plan. He currently plans to pursue Mechanical Engineering at Iowa State University next year.