It’s arguably the one car that’s most synonymous with the late Paul Walker and the ultra-successful “Fast & Furious” franchise.
And Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center (EWCTC) students are going to design one just like it.
EWCTC students will team with the crew from Blackout Tinting, a Unity Township customization shop, to design a replica of a 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse — or the famed “Green Car” from the “Fast & Furious” movie franchise.
“For me, it’s really unique,” said Mike Weinell, Collision Repair Technology instructor at EWCTC.
“This is my sixth year (at EWCTC), and we haven’t done anything like this. I’m excited about it. They’re going to keep it at their business, it’s going to be at car shows and they’re going to promote our kids and our school.”
Josh Poponick, owner of Blackout Tinting, is a 2010 Greater Latrobe graduate. He attended EWCTC initially as a culinary student and went to the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg for criminal justice.
Poponick’s passion for cars and “Fast & Furious” took him down his current path with Blackout Tinting.
“I love cars and I wanted to do something on the side to make extra money,” Poponick said. “The only thing I could afford to get into was window tint. I had 200 bucks to my name, I bought a roll of window tint, I taught myself with YouTube videos and 10 years later, it grew into this.”
But it all started before that for Poponick, years earlier with “The Fast & Furious,” specifically the “Green Car” that Walker drove from the 2001 original movie — the one with the black hood, a blue paint streak on the door and a heightened gray rear spoiler.
“I’m obsessed with ‘Fast & Furious,’” Poponick said. “That’s what got me into cars, and a lot of guys my age, that’s what got us into cars. Pretty much, most of the guys at my shop would agree that ‘Fast & Furious’ was a big reason we got into cars.”
The “Green Car” is part of the movie’s opening scene, first appearing outside a stadium parking lot where Walker revved the engine and took off in speeds excess of 140 mph before testing its brakes to a spinning stop. It’s also the first car Walker’s character used in a street race against Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, in the movie.
“I’ve literally wanted to build that replica, probably for 10 years, so I guess that was always on my mind,” Poponick said. “It was just too perfect because it’s a cheap enough car to work on, there’s nothing crazy expensive about it and they’re readily available.”
Weinell understands the importance of Walker’s “Green Car” in the “Fast & Furious” movie series.
“It’s one of those things where a lot people got their interest in cars from those movies,” Weinell said. “It’s an exciting movie and a really cool franchise, which makes the car even more nostalgic with more of a mystique about it. It’s the first car from the first movie. We wanted to get the actual car and he’s willing to spend the money and buy everything to make the original car.”
Poponick said that he was at the SEMA Auto Show in Las Vegas when he walked past a replica of Walker’s car from “Fast & Furious.” That’s where he envisioned the idea of building the famed vehicle with students at EWCTC.
“I’m just really excited because it exemplifies what got us into the car culture,” Poponick said. “I’m super excited to work with the students, too. That was me 10 years ago, obsessed with cars and just wanting to get my hands dirty. That’s much more fun to me than just building a car. I think it’s going to be cool.”
Weinell said that it’s not just the collision repair and automotive technology students who will be part of the project. He added that digital media students will film and document the project, while graphic communications and more also help.
“The kids are excited,” Weinell said. “We’re going to involve different projects in the school as well with this project. It’s not just my class.”
Weinell, who is also the wrestling coach at Derry Area, added that this project is a different avenue for students interested in automotive technology or collision repair as a career.
“It’s a new field out there, a new pathway for the kids to go into,” Weinell said. “The business is changing. It’s not just turning wrenches nowadays. They still need people to tear cars apart and tear door panels off, but there’s a lot more to it. Every car, you have to program it on a computer, so these kids have to do those kinds of things, too. It’s just a different pathway.”
Some of those skills include installing graphics, window tint, detailing and more. Poponick wants to stress to students that they can do more than just the traditional path of becoming a body shop technician or mechanic and still make a good living.
“They’re really into working with the school,” Weinell said. “This isn’t typical tech-school stuff. It’s cool, state-of-the-art work that we’re incorporating with all of the classes, so it’s going to be nice.”
And at the end, they’re going to have a finished, legendary car that they can be proud of, and show off to the community at large.
“Once the car is done, we want to take it to shows,” Poponick said. “We’re going to market the heck out of it and give them a lot of exposure. We’re going to have EWCTC all over it and I’d like to somehow get the students to sign the inside of the hood or something like that, so that 20 years from now, maybe they can tell their kids that they built it.”