ARA Members Take Up the Pedal Car Challenge

Cover photo: Owner of PJ Collision Mike Martens (L) and painter Dave Litke (R). (Photo: Burhan Osman)

It is no secret that the automotive industry is struggling to attract talent, and extraordinary challenges require extraordinary creativity and leadership. These B.C. shops stepped in to provide both through a unique challenge for youth interested in the automotive trades.

by Kara Cunningham

Through its AutoCareersBC program, the ARA and BASF teamed up for an innovative event, the Pedal Car Challenge. The goal of this province-wide event was to encourage youth to consider the automotive industry as a viable career choice.

The automotive industry offers many different career paths that students may be unaware of or have limited exposure to. The purpose of the Pedal Car Challenge was to introduce students to sustainable careers in the automotive trades and provide mentorship.

Six participating schools in B.C. were each given an antique pedal car (a human-powered toy car), to design, modify, and paint. The students were also provided with mentorship and guidance from the ARA’s industry partners (BASF, Color Compass Corporation, and Craftsman Collision). The project concluded at the end of May, and the pedal cars—made by both students and professionals—were unveiled during the ARA’s 2022 Collision & Glass Trade Show in Surrey.

Frank Hurt Secondary School students present their work at the ARA’s Collision & Glass Trade Show.
(Photo Burhan Osman)

During the evening ceremony, students from Surrey’s Frank Hurt Secondary School, along with their instructor, Manpreet Grewal, presented their beautiful pedal car and spoke about the fundamentals of vehicle design and manufacturing that they learned while working on the project. Two of the students even stated that participating in this project made them think of choosing automotive as a career.

The completed pedal cars will be auctioned off at an extra special event, the ARA’s 70th Anniversary Celebration, which will be held in Whistler from September 30 to October 2. This remarkable 70-year milestone will be celebrated through the retrospective theme, Through the Decades. The auction will help raise funds for the Automotive Retailers Foundation Inc. (ARFI), a program that offers scholarships and bursaries to individuals pursuing a career in the automotive industry.

Initially, the Pedal Car Challenge was kicked off by three teams of collision repair and restoration professionals who took up the challenge of restoring three different pedal cars to extraordinary effect. The goal was to provide models that would inspire the students. 360 Collision Centres, PJ Collision, and Rust Valley Restorers all stepped in, each coming out with a Pedal Car Challenge story of their own.

360 Collision Centres, Rick and Daryl Francoeur

360 Collision Centres is owned Rick and Daryl Francoeur. Located in Abbotsford, the shop is one of British Columbia’s most recognized and highly manufacturer-certified shops. With over 55+ years of combined experience between them, the brothers can create or customize anything with wheels, and more. The shop has been a member of the ARA for a long time, so when the ARA contacted Rick and asked if they would paint a pedal car, they agreed. 

The car reflects the passion and expertise that 360 Collision Centres is known for.
(Photo courtesy of 360 Collision Centres)

“To kick off the event, three teams of collision repair and restoration professional took up the challenge of restoring three different pedal cars to extraordinary effect.” 

“I thought it would be a fun little project,” said Rick. “And there’s obviously a shortage of technicians, so we thought it would be fun to get involved with the cause. We have a lot of apprentices that work here.”

Most of the metal work was done by Rick’s brother and partner, Daryl, and Darren Emmerson did all of the paint work.

“We gave the car lots of cool character,” said Rick. “We envisioned what a kid from the 40s would want to have, so we lifted up the front end and put a hood scoop on it. We put a box on the back because we thought kids would want to pack stuff, and we stretched everything out. We put in new upholstery and made the headlights work—all kinds of neat stuff. It took over a month to do the work.”

Rick hopes the car will help raise money for the foundation, but he also has the end-user or owner in mind: “I really hope that little kids actually get to use these cars, maybe some disadvantaged kids. I hope that whoever buys them donates them to the Christmas bureau or something like that.”

PJ Collision, Dave Litke and Team

Located in Vanderhoof, B.C., PJ Collision is also an ARA member. Aside from collision repair, the company also handles restoration work. So how did Dave get involved with the Pedal Car Challenge? 

“Our paint sales representative, Mike Bradley at Color Compass, asked us if we would be willing to do a custom paint job on a pedal car,” said Dave. “Mike explained what it was about, and that the ARA would be auctioning these custom cars off for charity. The ARA supplied the car, and we would be using BASF paint. I was interested because I do custom work when I can. I used to do a lot of this work for the Harley Davidson dealership in Prince George.” 

Dave said it felt good to work on this project despite the challenges: “It took some time to complete when fitting it into a busy production schedule—our shop is amazingly busy. It wasn’t easy finding time, especially with fire, floods, and pandemics going on.” 

PJ Collision enjoyed the custom work and the challenge of fabricating various parts.
(Photo Iva Kestrankova)

“I had to do some fabrication,” said Dave. “I built wheelie bars, changed up the wheels, and made a different axle. I used a bathroom hand-rail cut in half to make the side pipes as well.”

Dave also built a shifter—and it looks like a shifter. “The shift arm I used came off of one of my old Impalas,” said Dave. “The base is a socket with an adapter in it, and the shifter fits perfectly into the adapter. Also, I ended up cutting out the pedals and building a floor. The car weighs about 30 pounds. You just see what works and what you can adapt to work.”

Finally, it was time to paint. “Painting the car wasn’t rough, but the car itself was rough the way it came, so I had to fill seams and use high build primer to smooth it out before spraying the candy green flake base colour,” said Dave. “I then sanded it down again to mask out and spray the scallops, and I painted the bumpers and grill silver. I finished off with ruby red tail-lights and recleared three times to smooth out any masking lines, then added the old school hot rod decals.”

Rust Valley Restorers and Ideal Auto Wrecking

Mike Hall‘s fondness for vintage cars and his team’s passion for restoring them is the leitmotiv of the TV show Rust Valley Restorers. Mike’s shop, Rust Bros Restorations, is located in Tappen, B.C. The team became involved in the Pedal Car Challenge when the ARA approached Clint Wilson, owner of Ideal Auto Wrecking (Chilliwack) and asked if he could assist with the project. Clint’s response was, “Of course!”

Clint, a collector, has had a long-time fascination with pedal cars, ever since he was a kid: “Not a lot of people are going to remember this, but they made a movie called Bugsy Malone in the late 70s.” It was this 30s gangster-type story starring all kids, and it was a musical with Scott Bo and Jody Foster. They all had pedal cars that looked like old mobster rods, and they would peddle around with their toy machine guns and shoot cream at each other. Those pedal cars intrigued the heck out of me back then, so I wanted one. I have many now.”

The Rust Valley Restorers’ pedal car was unveiled on TV this past March in Episode 6, Fuel to the Fire.
(Photo courtesy of Rust Valley Restorers)

Moved by the idea that the pedal cars would be auctioned to support the ARA’s foundation and scholarship fund, Clint approached his friends at Rust Valley.

“The ARA has done a lot for me over the years,” said Clint. “I want to give back however I can. I already knew the Rust Valley guys because they had restored my 66 Pontiac on the TV show. When I told them about the project, they said, ‘It’s a good cause. We’re in!’ So then I donated one of my cars and delivered it in the trunk of my Pontiac, and then they restored it and did the unveil on TV (Rust Valley Restorers, Season 4, Episode 6).

Mike handed the project over to the team’s apprentice, Cassidy Mceown. Clint was awestruck by the results.

“The unveiling was really neat,” said Clint. “When I brought it, it looked like a rough piece of junk. It was an old English pedal car that had seen better days. It was dented from one end to the other, the old wheels were rusted, and there were rubber strips that served as tires. One of them was coming off, and another was missing half. They ended up putting new wheels on it.

“Everything has been replaced,” said Clint. “They built a hood and a little tail gate that opens and closes. They made a steering wheel, put in a lift kit, lights (with battery), front and back bumpers, and a custom grill. They also gave it a snappy paint job with racing stripes.

Clint noticed another important element during the unveiling. There was a yellow handprint on the back quarter panel. During this time, the horrific legacy of the residential school system was just coming to light, and the Rust Valley crew wanted to draw attention to the issue. They invited a First Nation’s woman, Tonita, and her daughter, Leah, to participate. In the episode, Tonita said, “This is for Every Child Matters. It is to raise awareness for all the residential school survivors.”


Off to Parliament

Upon completion, the ARA brought two of the pedal cars, the ones completed by 360 Collision Centres and PJ Collision, to Victoria to showcase at a recent meeting with the B.C. government. The ARA board used the cars and the Pedal Car Challenge concept as an opportunity to discuss industry challenges with respect to attracting young people, women, and Indigenous people into the automotive trades.

The pedal cars proved to be a wonderful ambassadors, much enjoyed by attending MLAs and ministers. The pedal cars designed by 360 Collision Centres, PJ Collision, and Rust Valley Restorers, including the ones designed and modified by the schools, will all be on display and up for auction at the ARA’s 70th Anniversary Celebration this fall. Make sure to save your spot. We look forward to seeing you all there!