By Chad Simon
All five customized Jeeps will be auctioned through program partner Bring a Trailer during an event called “SEMA Week of Customs.”
Five high-school auto-shop programs across the United States participated in the SEMA High School Vehicle Build Program by customizing five ’96–’06 model-year Jeep Wrangler TJs during the spring semester.
The SEMA High School Vehicle Build Program aims to introduce high-school students to the automotive customization hobby and lifestyle through real-world, hands-on educational experiences. The vehicles were delivered to the participating schools in early February. Students have since learned about automotive customization by working with donated aftermarket products and interacting with 14 industry members who have visited the schools.
“The build helped to enforce what is already taught here—problem-solving skills and schedule management,” said Ed Stevens, automotive instructor at C.D. Hylton High School—one of the participating schools. “The students gained much insight into what it takes to do these sort of projects correctly. The build also helped to create new partnerships that will continue with us, and it also helped strengthen the ones we already had. Every year we take another step up and continue making the program and its impact on the community stronger.”
All five customized Jeeps are now complete and will be auctioned through program partner Bring a Trailer during an event called “SEMA Week of Customs.” The online auction event will launch Monday, July 15, with the release of one vehicle per day for five days. Each Jeep will be live for bidding for seven days following its launch date. Proceeds from the vehicle sales will be reinvested back into the program to fund another round of builds and the overall expansion of the program.
Each Jeep build features between 40–60 products and all of them have custom Katzkin leather interiors. The following are some of the highlights of each build and the names and locations of the participating schools:
Santa Fe ECO, Santa Fe, New Mexico
’05 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport
SEMA partnered with Santa Fe ECO in 2018 to pilot the high school vehicle build program in which they built a ’15 Jeep Wrangler that was auctioned off for more than $56,000. The sale of this vehicle allowed the program to expand to five builds in 2019. The students of Santa Fe ECO turned out another awesome build—a ’05 Jeep Wrangler that uniquely features a vented hood, trail doors, a 3.5-in. suspension kit with a 5-in. stretch from Rock Krawler Suspension and has undergone a full body repaint. This Jeep will be auctioned July 15.
Comstock High School, Kalamazoo, Michigan
’04 Jeep Wrangler Sahara
The Comstock High School auto-shop class in Kalamazoo Michigan, made excellent use of local resources and connections for their ’04 Jeep Wrangler build, including a program alumnus that is now a local body shop business owner. This is the program’s only hard-top Jeep that even includes a locally sourced donated roof rack from Just Jeep’N Stuff. Other unique features include LED headlights, full carpet replacement, bumpers, tire carrier and rock sliders from JcrOffroad, a 4-in. Skyjacker suspension kit and a fresh coat of paint. This Jeep will be auctioned July 16.
C.D. Hylton High School, Woodbridge, Virginia
’02 Jeep Wrangler Sport
The students of C.D. Hylton performed a frame-off restoration on their ’02 Jeep Wrangler; they even painted the vehicle’s chassis. Along with the customization, the students did extensive work under the hood to ensure this Jeep runs with no issues. It has received a full body repaint, brand-new windshield from Safelite, front-door weatherstrip from Steele Rubber Products, a new hood from LQK/Keystone and a Rancho Suspension 3.5-in. short arm suspension kit. This Jeep will be auctioned July 17.
Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Santa Ynez, California
’97 Jeep Wrangler Sport
The ’97 Jeep Wrangler from Santa Ynez sits on 37-in. Atturo Off-Road Tires with Black Rock Wheels and topped with an American flag-themed bikini top. This build is fully outfitted with Rugged Ridge products and also features a T-REX grille, Superlift Suspension 4-in. lift kit and LLumar window tint. This Jeep will be auctioned July 18.
R.L. Turner High School, Carrollton, Texas
’04 Jeep Wrangler X
The ’04 Jeep Wrangler from the students of R.L. Turner caught the attention of Dennis Collins of Collins Bro’s Jeep, who visited the school and donated the build’s winch and front bumper. The build also features custom seatbelts from Seatbelt Planet, Rolling Big Power wheels and a Painless Performance trail rocker. This Jeep will be auctioned July 19.
The program notably generates support from aftermarket industry companies that sponsor the builds through product donations and scheduled visits to the schools to perform product demos or talk about the industry with the students. The 2019 program’s Jeep Wrangler TJs were sponsored by 32 companies that donated 220 products. They included:
- 4 Wheel Performance
- Advance Auto Parts
- AFE Power
- Atturo Tire
- Bloomfield Manufacturing Company (Hi-Lift)
- BOLT Lock
- Collins Bros Jeeps
- Diode Dynamics
- Eastman Chemical Company (LLumar)
- Husky Liners
- JcrOffroad Inc.
- Just Jeep'N Stuff
- Katzkin Automotive Leather
- Omix-ADA (Rugged Ridge)
- Painless Performance Products
- Pilot Automotive (Rolling Big Power)
- QuietRide Solutions
- Rancho Suspension & Shocks
- Rock Krawler Suspension
- Skyjacker Suspensions
- Steele Rubber Products
- Superlift Suspension
- The Carlstar Group/Cragar Wheels
- T-REX Truck Products Inc.
- Truck’n America
- Twisted Automotive
- Unicorn Tire
Program partners included the following:
- C.D. Hylton- Chris Cervenka, Chris Cervenka Photography
- Comstock High School - Mike Basse, Beam Photography
- R.L. Turner High School - Tyler Pfaffenbach, Collins Bros Jeep and Made Brand Studio
- Santa Fe ECO – Gerry Ruelas Photography
- C.D. Hylton High School - Car Spa Dealer Services
- Comstock High School - Auto Image
- R.L. Turner High School - Southside Trim
- Santa Fe ECO - Accessories Unlimited
- Santa Ynez Valley Union High School - Dealership Services Direct
- BJ Leanse, Go Rhino
- Carol Walsh, Southside Trim
- Chuck Morrison, Truck'n America
- Daryl Hutson, JcrOffroad
- Dave Ludington, Jeep’N Stuff
- Dawson Druesdow, 4 Wheel Performance
- Dennis Collins, Collins Bros Jeep
- Jose Pichardo, Eastman Chemical Company
- Kelli Mallicote, Bodyguard Bumpers
- Kevin Taddeo, Add On Auto
- Matt Moore, Retrax
- Steven Sala, Eastman Chemical Company
- Matt Reasoner, Retrax
- Rory Connell, Advanced Accessory Concepts
- Kathryn Reinhardt, Pilot Automotive
- Tory Hudson, Bob Cook Sales
In its inaugural year, the 2018 student custom Jeep build program between SEMA and the Santa Fe Early College Opportunities (ECO) Auto Shop Program in Santa Fe, New Mexico, raised $56,175 to help fund this year’s project.
Learn more about the program at www.sema.org/student-builds.