By Mr. Robert P Johnson (Leonard Wood)October 15, 2010
For five Soldiers of the 55th Maneuver Augmentation Company, Oct. 6 proved to be a bittersweet afternoon - their entry into Toyota's Scion Battle of the Builds was finally completed ... and hauled away for judging.
Spc. Harold Yeo, Pfc. Nate Machowski, Spc. Joseph Schneider, Spc. Dustin Reed and Pfc. Daniel Ward had worked on their project daily since being given the keys to the Scion xB, July 23, by Toyota officials. Their presentation, based on rest and relaxation, was judged to be the best among all Army entries and gave the quintet the opportunity to create their vision using a real car and real cash.
"Team Sapper will now get the chance to go against the Marines and the Navy in the final judging," said Steve Hatanaka, Toyota Auto Shows and Special Events manager. The engineers were given a new Scion xB auto and $15,000 to create their entry.
To get a shot at winning the overall contest, a trip to Las Vegas, Nev., for the 2010 Speciality Equipment Market Association trade show, and $14,000 grand prize, the five Soldiers put in hundreds of man-hours to finish by the October deadline.
"We didn't track our hours, but I wish we would have," said Pfc. Nate Machowski. "Then, again ... with the hours we put in, we probably don't want to know how much time we spent."
Ward added that the team had worked on the vehicle seven days a week for nine to 10 hours each day.
"It's really bittersweet to see it go. On one hand, it's like losing your 'baby,' but on the other hand, you can now have a weekend," Ward said.
Machowski, who is credited with the design of the car, said the team spent $14,500 on the conversion. Their vision was a vehicle that represents rest and relaxation.
"We wanted something that didn't look like a beach cruiser, but would get people to say 'Hey, you should take this to the beach,'" Machowski said. "We didn't want it to scream 'beach cruiser.'"
"The majority of our work probably won't be noticed. We went to great lengths to make the changes look like they were factory-made," Machowski said. "For example, the entire back top was fabricated out of fiberglass, yet it looks like it just came that way from the factory."
A majority of their time and effort was spent on bodywork, said Spc. Joseph Schneider.
"We pre-cut everything and took serious precautions before we cut anything," Schneider said. "A lot of effort went into rounding the edges and fixing little things."
The Scion xB was transported to Seeger Toyota in St. Robert where it was prepped for shipment to the Toyota judges. An announcement of the final winner is expected early next week. Following the SEMA trade show, the car will be part of a traveling Toyota exhibit to different car shows.
"It was a lot of hard work, but the hardest thing is letting it go," Ward said.