Would you like to learn how to build an LS engine for racing – and then actually build it?
Want to design a rear clip with a 4-link coilover suspension – and then fabricate, fit, and install it into a Mustang?
You can, in the Motorsports Vehicle Technology program at South Georgia Technical College.
I spent an afternoon with program instructor Kevin Beaver and three of his students, Garrett, Preston, and Dane, on SGTC’s Americus, Georgia campus and was very impressed by the curriculum, facilities, and goals of Kevin’s program.
Take a look at the curriculum:
- Introduction to Motorsports & Race Vehicle Systems
- Electrical Systems
- Motorsports Machine Tool
- Motorsports Welding
- Gear Boxes and Final Drives
- Fabrication Techniques
- Body and Chassis Design and Fabrication
- Engine Design, Building, and Testing
- Race Car Preparation and Testing
Kevin emphasizes that it’s not just theoretical. “It’s very hands-on,” he told me. “Probably 70% of our daily activities are in the lab.”
And that lab includes a full machine shop, with a lathe and mill; TIG and MIG welding capability; a CNC plasma cutting machine; boring and honing machines; a cylinder head flow bench; sheet metal brakes and rollers and stretchers; tubing benders and notchers; and a chassis dyno.
In the Fabrication Techniques class, you don’t just learn how to build a roll bar. You have to actually build one. Students cut, bend, and notch the tubing, and weld it up. The completed bar has to pass a certification inspection.
The Engine Design Building and Testing class explains the theory of making horsepower, but this semester Garrett, Preston, and Dane are actually building the LS that will be installed in the program’s Mustang test car. Kevin expects the turbocharged LS to make about 1,000 horsepower when it’s complete.
And something’s got to get that 1,000 horsepower to the ground. So in Chassis Design and Fabrication, students learn how to design a rear subframe and four-bar coilover suspension. Then they actually build it. Then they fit it into the rear of the Mustang and install it in the car.
Kevin’s students have also had the opportunity to work on racing go-karts (very successfully driven by Kevin’s 10-year old son), dirt track cars, Bandolero racers, and some street cars. (That’s Dane’s Mustang you see on the chassis dyno.) There’s even a racing simulator in the lab with programs for Road Atlanta and Atlanta Motor Speedway.
In addition to the classroom and lab experiences, Kevin regularly brings in industry experts and program graduates to give his students a first-hand look at what’s going on in the industry.
As amazing as these opportunities are, “This is an entry level program,” Kevin told me. “We have kids who come with just a passion for cars and performance, with no experience working on them before they get here. So my Intro class starts with ‘This is what an open end wrench is.’ Even kids who have worked with their dads on cars, might not know the proper name of a tool. We go through all that.”
A well-rounded education, and the full student experience are also very important at SGTC. Students in the Motorsports Vehicle Technology program also have to take English, Math, and Computer classes, along with a class on Employability Skills.
“I try to get my students to have a complete college experience,” Kevin said. He encourages them to take advantage of everything SGTC offers. Garrett, for example, is on SGTC’s Student Government and was a finalist for the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) this year.
Students are able to join the program at SGTC when they’re fifteen, and several of them have graduated high school and the Motorsports Vehicle Technology program at the same time. Kevin’s also had students graduate his program and then go on to four year engineering degrees with the goal of applying engineering in motorsports.
The program started in 2008 and Kevin joined the faculty in 2009. He’s well credentialed as the instructor. His dad has been running Beaver Racing Engines for almost 50 years, and Kevin worked with him all the way through high school and college, right up until he started at SGTC.
Since then he estimates he’s graduated close to 300 students. (Most students take about a year and a half to complete the program.) And his graduates are doing well, with 67% getting jobs in motorsports or a related industry. He’s had five women graduate the course. Three of them were going into motorsports marketing, but wanted to know the mechanical side as well.
I think it’s fair to be concerned about the future of hot rodding and motorsports – and whether they appeal to younger generations. But with programs like SGTC’s Motorsports Vehicle Technology Program, and outstanding instructors like Kevin, and impressive students like Garrett, Preston, and Dane and their predecessors, the future of the automotive high performance industry appears to be in great hands.
Photos by GHR, courtesy of South Georgia Technical College
Click here to see the photos of SGTC’s Motorsports Program