The Nevada Union August 14, 2006

Students driven to build car

Team Sprite learns life's lessons during unique class

By Soumitro Sen,
August 14, 2006

Brian Powers, a 62-year-old high school teacher at the Ananda Living Wisdom School, got his first car when he was 12. It was a black rusty Model A Ford with the top cut off with a saw. "Someone just took the car and made a convertible out of it," Powers recalls with laughter in his voice. "They took off the fenders and the mufflers. That was the perfect first car."

Powers worked on the vehicle, and fixed it well enough to drive it in the orchard behind his Walnut Creek home - an experience that kindled his interest in working on cars. Fifty years later, Powers shared that passion last year with his students at Living Wisdom when he taught them to assemble a car from scratch.

"A couple of things happened all at once," Powers said. "Last summer, two of the girls (the project involved six girls), Leiya and Bailey, both approached me and asked if I would be able to teach them about cars. I had thought for a long time that this was something missing with all kids who get driver's licenses.

"Shortly after they asked me this, a friend in Reno said that he was going to sell a car that he had taken apart 25 years ago, and it was the perfect car for what we wanted. It was very simple. It had no smog on it. It had no roll-up windows. It was very small and - very important for the girls - it was very, very cute."

Powers and four of his students put together $2,500 and bought the car, a 1958 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite. Most of the vehicle, Powers said, came in boxes. It was in a completely dismantled form. Powers' class began working on the automobile from the second week of the new school year in fall 2005.

"The first two classes we had, I had all the girls bring their cars if they drove one or their parents' cars and we learned how to change a tire; that meant learning where the jack and the spare were," Powers said. "We learned how to change the fuses if one blew. We learned how to change light bulbs - headlights and taillights. We learned if the car stopped running, what to look for. We learned how to change wiper blades and fix dents."

The class was an extensive hands-on experience. Every Tuesday for the entire scholastic year, it would convene from 1:15 to 3:30 p.m.

"For most of the time, we worked on the body of the car," said 18-year-old Anna Preston, who graduated this summer. "Kent White (founder-owner of TM Technologies in North San Juan) came in and showed us how to smooth out the surface so that there were no dents in the car, and we spent quite a bit of time on that.

"Toward the end, we were sanding, and then we sprayed the underside of the car, and we were able to get a professional car painter to paint the car red. We were lucky to have people put in a lot of time with us."

Powers said the project received overwhelming support from the public, both local and national. The news of the project was spread primarily through the Web site, It led to people donating car parts, tools, and accessories.

"People have sent many, many parts that we needed for no cost and with no request of acknowledgment," Powers said. "This is what is important for the girls. Long after they have forgotten how to fix a car, they will remember that 50 strangers were kind and generous to send them parts because they believed the girls were doing an important thing."

An auction company has volunteered to auction the car in Phoenix in January, Powers said. "When they heard about the project they wanted it for their sale, with no registration fees and no commissions to us. They will promote it as a wonderful project, so the girls will have some money for college coming out of this."

Powers intends to finish the project by January. "We've finished the engine - we need to put that in," he said. "We have a little more upholstery to do, wire up the dashboard, and then a lot of tidying up."

It's been hard work - assembling a car out of auto parts stuffed in boxes - but the students seemed to have enjoyed themselves and learned a lot from the experience.

"It was really nice because more than putting a car together, it was learning how to do general maintenance of our own cars," said Bailey Dunwoody, 18, a summer graduate from Living Wisdom. "Most girls don't know how to take care of their cars in high school. "When I take my car to the shop I can tell them now what I think is wrong and can understand what they are telling me."

Hridaya Atwell, co-director of Ananda Living Wisdom School, said a knowledge of the mechanism of a car is "a life skill." "Sometimes, it is something simple, like changing a tire," she said. "So if you don't have a AAA card or you are out there on your own, you have to wait for someone to do it for you unless you know to do it yourself."

But hands-on projects are not unheard of at Living Wisdom. Last year, students from a physics class made a wind turbine that is now installed at Ananda Institute.

"The Ananda school system is called education for life and by doing projects like this, it gives you more experience on how to deal with life in general," Preston said. "We have a good academic program, but I enjoy learning about more practical things as well."




From Corky Coker's (Coker Tire) blog

Team Sprite

Tuesday October 23, 2006

"Now this is cool."

"We get several calls every day and hear some interesting stories behind some of the cars people are building…last week we got a call from Mark Endicott, the winner of a Coker Tire gift certificate at the Nashville British Car Club’s annual car show. He had been following which details the experiences of an awesome group of high school girls out of California building a 1958 Austin-Healey Sprite."

"This sounded like an amazing project, so we checked out their site. They said it best:"

“A group of high-school students pool their money to buy a car, it needs some work..but hey, how hard can it be to make an old car run? Sounds like something from the era of drive-ins and duck-tails? But here’s the twist, those 13 to 18 year olds are young women, and the car really was completely apart!”

Mark called us to talk to one of our Customer Representatives and got a hold of Casey Coker, who actually happens to be a fellow Sprite owner, and was thrilled to hear these girls’ story. He generously donated his gift certificate to the girls to buy them a beautiful set of 520 x 13 Firestone whitewall tires to the project! Thanks Mark!

Since then, Casey has been corresponding with Brian Powers, the girls’ Autoshop Teacher. He told her, “There are several aspects about the project that people love: all girls, asked for by them as a class…four of them actually saved up the money (very low income area) and purchased the car…completely, and I mean completely apart, every aspect of restoration, even hunting for parts with the right date code…but most important, this has brought out the best in everybody it touches.”

It’s great to hear about young people, especially girls, involved in such a cool hobby! Since getting involved in the adventure, Casey realized she didn’t have a good picture of her ‘61 Bug-Eye Sprite, so she went out that day to have one taken. Check out them whitewalls!

Casey Coker's 1961 Bugeye Sprite

(Casey Coker is Corky Coker's Kid-say that 10 times fast!)



From the January 2007 issue of Classic Cars Magazine (UK) pg.15






"From Bluegrass to Bugeye....How a group of teenaged girls went from singing in a restoring this 1958 Austin and selling it for thousands at auction. KNX 1070's Randy Kerdoon has the answer."










Living Wisdom students Bailey Dunwoody, left,and Anna Preston work on putting together a 1958 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite.
Submitted photo

The fruits of Living Wisdom's Team Sprite are displayed in the 1959 Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite.

Members of Team Sprite at Ananda Living Wisdom school pose with parts of the automobile they put together as a class project.

The dash, carpet, one door and one seat are finished. They were waiting for a driver's side seat rail, one of the few parts missing when the car was brought home. One has been donated by a dealer in Australia.



Words of Encouragement from the web

"This is a really nice story! Brilliant! Congratulations to all concerned!!"


"I only have one question.  How much will we (my wife and I) have to pay to teach at the school?!?!"

"Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!"

"Zen and the art of bugeye maintenance?" I only wish that I had you and your "crew" around when my 356B was rusting into the ground"

"This is way kool."

"I'd like to add my praise too. I'm glad to see the women of tomorrow being empowered like this."

"Fantastic! I wish I were a little closer but if I can be of help also, please let me know! Good luck with the project."

From: Glasgow, Scotland: "What an interesting thing to do for a project. Its a shame more schools don't have that sort of opportunity, and interest in these cars."

"Now that's just pretty damned cool!! I'll wager those girls are having a complete blast!!! "

"I started to restore my Bug Eye (the first time) when I was 17. Just makes me want to fly out to Ca and help."

"It looks like the girls are having a great time while learning. Wish school was that much fun when I was going through it! Let me know if you ever teach that course on the East Coast."

"That’s great! I had two 59’s and a 60 when I was in High School and college. I learned to rebuild engines, wiring, the relationship between exhaust restriction and horsepower, suspension… and most importantly – the cost of owning/repairing a car.  I think it’s a great experience that you have/are giving the girls."  

"Great pictures, the young ladies did a very nice job and should be very proud."

"good luck and it is great what you are doing."

"I am IMPRESSED!!!!"

"I know the skills and fun you are having (unusual skills for women) will last you your life time."

"I have followed your posts on the Sprite/Midget list for some time now and really love what you are doing with your project."

" Don't you love it when a girl is into cars? Especially, when they are young - then they grown up to be beautiful, your best friend, and can fix your car to boot." 

"What a great idea you're doing out there. I checked out your website and it's a really neat concept. We need more of this type of thing .I have two girls, 26 and 33, and both of them are "car smart", thanks to dear ole dad. I never took it to the level you're at, but we definitely need more of this."

"I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school in the 70’s, the only practical training courses available to girls showed you how to make a cake and type."

" I like what you are doing in your school.  At the time I was restoring my first Austin-Healey, I was also going to school for Mechanical Engineering.  I think I learned as much or more working on the Healey as I did in school."

"I would like you to know from a man with much experience with young people. Five children and 12 grandchildren. You are teaching much more than about Bugeye rebuilding. That is just the tool to expose them to some valuable life lessons. Caring, sharing and learning how to ask for help when needed. You are to be commended."

"I just wanted to say way to go to the team of young ladies putting together the Sprite!  My father and I spent many hours in the garage together working on his Austin Healey and Bug Eye Sprite and those memories will never be forgotten.  I know the memories that are being created in yall's garage will never be lost either.  Keep up the great work ladies!"

" I have all granddaughters, your example gives me hope. Hehe"

"You've got to send this story to a car magazine, it would make a terrific article, and whoever took the photos really caught the enjoyment and dedication of the girls. We loved every page!"

"just saw the web site from a link on coker's road trip to SEMA in Las Vegas. It is soo soo cool and beautiful to do what you are doing. I've been prowling around resto's and customs the better part of 40 years and some of the fondest memories are when I was a young teen with my friends working on our first projects. These memories out weigh the concourse level buicks for Hershey or any other projects that I've had a hand in. I wish you all the very best in life and hope that you enjoy all that this has to offer."

"I love what you ladies have done with your Bugeye, Very Cool Indeed. Keep up the Great Work, there is an old Shaker saying "Hands to work, hearts to God." It's a pretty good guideline."

"that is one gorgeous car ... your team has truly done an outstanding job! congrats !"

"I see not one thing in the engine room that is not concourse quality."

"Would love to see some more engine room pics though. That one is to die for, I saved it for reference."

"Holy COW!! Lead work!!! That's a lost art, AFAIK... Your "kids" are getting training most "commercial" folk don't have! Everyone is too far into 'convenience' now. "

"The standard to which you are restoring the car is so far above the original build quality, the car will be a "One of a Kind" Frogeye. It's stunningly beautiful. Congrats to the entire group. Superb work. "

"Top notch work!"

"Better then original."

"Great work to all at Team Sprite."

"Truly superb!!!!"

"You, and your team are brilliant!!!"

"All the things that the girls are learning will stand them in good stead throughout their lives."

"Excellent work. You and the girls have much reason to be proud of the work you are doing."  

"I can't wait to see what the auction goes for. Hope it is on the speed channel."

"Very nice, you want to rent those kids out?"  

"My compliments, truly stunning vehicle."

"When do you plan the big day of key turning, and will you post video?"

"Great, great job, you should all be very proud. I'll also be ordering your  CD's. My daughter has a Christian Rock band and she'll love it."

"I have followed your progress on the Bugeye Yahoo Group and you must be commended for the wonderful job you have all done in restoring our favorite past time."

"Every time I look at your progress pictures I say to myself, "Wow!"

"...and even more importantly is the involvement of young people. Wow its so great to see that. You have given them a change to learn things about themselves and british cars that rarely young people and especially young ladies have an opportunity to learn.I give you and your team an A +!! Keep up the good work".

"You and your team have done a wonderful job and someone will get a great Bugeye because of you all's efforts. Not only have you resurrected a wonderful car you have taught the girls an wonderful lesson and skills that they can take through life with them. Job well done."

"I'm glad that you and your students had such a good time working on the car. Even if they never to any auto work again, they will always be able to be proud of what they did."

"That's going to break a few hearts when that sells Brian. It's evolved from a learning tool into a desirable, beautiful car."

"Just a note to let you know that I have been watching your project. I have both a seventeen year old daughter and a 58 Bugeye, (My relationship with the car is almost twice as old as with my daughter) and I appreciate what you are doing in terms of empowering the young women comprising your crew. So, I vicariously enjoy your work by watching from afar."

"My relationship with my Bugeye started in the summer of 1976, when I bought her from a friend. The friend is long gone, and the car has remained as my daily driver all this time. Consequently, I have pretty much rebuilt, painted, dismantled, examined, replaced or kludged every piece at least once. My experience is different than yours in that my car is used and abused, and has been modified over the years with an eye for reliability and performance. With that said, let me know if you think I may help."

"Good grief - That car is gorgeous!!
When and where will the auction be? (and PLEASE don't tell my wife that I asked!!)."

"You know this little red car may just set the new price standard for Bugeyes."

"...this is a story that needs to be told. "

"I am complety smitten by that car -congratulations!"

" Just want to wish you good luck on the last weeks of getting the sprite together. The website is fantastic and I am so touched at how many people have showed their enthusiasm and support. Congratulations, well done! And God speed."

I have shared this story with my students several times this year, since finding your project. Please let the girls know that they are the inspiration for several 13 year girls to do whatever they are interested in and not letting the facts that they are "girls" get in the way! I have enjoyed watching the "boys" find out that girls can and do participate in traditional "Guy" activities and the discussions of what a person can do (some of the guys still won't believe some guys like to sew and cook and some girls like to work on cars and hunt...)Your Team Sprite has been the inspirataion for several lively and interesting conversations in my classroom. Thanks you! and congratulations....Your project is my dream!

I can't remember ever learning of such an inspiring story, my proverbial hat is off to all involved.. A teacher who started with the basics and went the full length to body and paint, leading, etc Girls who have the ambition to take on a project car that others have given up on, while still in high school, as a beginners induction to the car repair and restoration genre Giants in the industry that helped get the word out (Corky Coker, RM auctions, Classic Cars Magazine) This is marvelous stuff, and I hope word gets out to; Jay Leno, who writes a column for Popular Mechanics, Readers Digest, and Car Craft... they all seem to be as keen on things like this as I am. To quote dear 'ol dad Gray Baskerville (legendary Hot Rod figure) "Reet!"

Thanks again for sharing your story with the group.

Everyone who I have told your story to loves it. Great work by all. I am proud of the team and envious of your accomplishments.

The pictures were VERY nice and I agree with Jack, you "cleaned up well"!! You all look very happy!

Congratulations Team Sprite. Now with that car sold what is next?

Absolutely magnificent! You've outdone yourselves on this project and I
must say I am proud of you all. It is an honor to have watched this taking
place over the internet.











The following article appeared in the July 07 issue of RM Magazine. For information on RM Auctions and their excellent magazine click on the cover to your left