High School Struggles to Complete SEMA Show Build

Freedom High School auto shop instructor Jay Abitz doesn’t know if the ’85 Jeep his class was hoping to take to the SEMA Show will make it there in 2021 or 2022. The Freedom, Wisconsin, students had truck builds in the Sherwin-Williams booth at SEMA in 2017 (Toyota 4Runner Rock Crusher) and 2018 (’51 Chevy rat rod pickup).

After skipping 2019, COVID took care of the idea of building a Chevy “Square-Body” pickup for SEMA Show 2020, so an ’85 Jeep build was planned for this year’s show. “It’s frustrating,” Abitz said. “We have the talent, we have the vehicle and we had two successful SEMA experiences, but we can’t get the parts we need to finish the Jeep.”

Supply chain shortages are one part of the problem. It has also been impossible to find an ’85 Jeep parts truck. If parts don’t turn up, automotive technology students in the current class won’t get to go to SEMA as their older friends did. “I’d like to see them have that experience,” said Abitz, “But, unless we find the parts, it isn’t going to happen.”

The Jeep has been painted. The American Motors 360-cid V8 is installed. Suspension work has been done and the build team did get some tan carpeting that’s being installed in the hope that other parts will turn up before the plug has to be pulled.

For now, the Jeep sits in the shop so close, yet so far from completion. “Pushing back to 2022 might have to be the answer,” Abitz sighed, “But we can’t stop hoping for a miracle so the Freedom High School kids can rock Vegas again.”

Abitz said the group is primarily in search of brackets to attach accessories to the AMC engine. To help the Freedom High School class source parts, contact Abitz at jabitz@freedomschools.K12.wi.us.

John Gunnell

John Gunnell has been writing about classic cars since 1972. He is also the owner of Gunner’s Great Garage in Manawa, Wis. He owns 11 cars and seven motorcycles.

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