Bringing the Community Together with Classic Cars

Classic Car Firebird

‘Mechanic’ and ‘priest’ are not two words you would normally find together in a sentence, and yet in Gallup, New Mexico, a priest successfully restored a classic sports car with the help of his community. Having been under the hood of the 1969 Pontiac Firebird Convertible for several months, Reverend Matthew Keller, from Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Mexico, refurbished the muscle car to near-new conditions with the help of donated equipment from the community.

You’d be forgiven for thinking he then spent his spare time driving around his town, enjoying the fruits of his labour. However, a few months later, the classic car was raffled off at a parish fete to raise funds for the local priestly formation program.

The competition was open to everyone all over America. The lucky winner though, was Debbie Diaz Vasquez, a resident all the way from Phoenix, Arizona. However, she grew up in the Gallup area. Having heard about the raffle through a friend on Facebook, she promptly bought four tickets to be in the draw to win the ’69 Firebird. She didn’t expect to win, but merely wanted to help raise money for one of the poorest communities in the state – a community that she came from.

Reverend Matthew Keller was thrilled to hear that the restored classic car had been won by someone who had roots in Gallup, New Mexico.

V8 for Vocations

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to restore a car. V8 for Vocations is a community fundraiser program that restores classic cars, and then raffles them off, with the funds going back into the community. Active and retired professional mechanics and car enthusiasts – whether parishioners themselves or not – all come together to share a passion for classic muscle cars. It just so happens that raising money for the seminary is a by-product.

V8 for Vocations began when Reverend Matthew Keller merged his love of classic cars with the duties of overseeing the Gallup seminarians. By turning his hobby into a fundraiser, he was able to get everyone involved in a collaborative project that put funds back into the community.

After turning the three-car garage at the back of the Sacred Heart Cathedral into a mechanic shop, future seminarians, car lovers, Catholics and non-Catholics all volunteered their time and effort to help restore classic cars. Refreshing the V-8 engine and cream interior, as well as updating a few mechanical features to make the ’69 Firebird sound for American roads, was all made possible with help from volunteers in the community.

Now, in its third year, V8 for Vocations has had the pleasure of restoring a 1972 Chevelle Super Sport, a ’75 Corvette Stingray, a ’72 Chevrolet Chevelle, a ’57 Ford Thunderbird and a ’78 Pontiac Trans Am.

Why do classic cars bring a community together?

Whether you’re a die-hard muscle car enthusiast or simply find cars a necessity, everyone can appreciate the beauty in a classic sports car. Even though modern cars are more reliable, handle better, and are much more economical, there’s still a lot of appeal left in a classic muscle car. We like to think it’s because classic cars can transport us to a bygone era where vehicle production was largely a manual process, performed by craftsmen with an eye for detail. Pair that with the fact that they are in limited supply and you’ve got a hobby that ticks all the boxes when it comes to art, history, engineering and design.

Across Australia, many classic car owners organise and get together for regular car meets. Usually held during the day, the organisers choose a public spot, such as a large car park, where everyone and anyone is invited to come along and admire the vehicles. It gives a chance for car owners, newbies and classic car enthusiasts to swap maintenance advice, stories, and socialise with like-minded people in their community. People are also encouraged to take photos of the vehicles. It really is fun for the whole family. Car meets are also one of the most interesting ways to bring a community together. After all, where else will you find a heavily modified 1972 Holden Torana parked next to an ‘07 Alfa Romeo Spider?


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