It was a painstaking process for Thomas Dickerson, a student at Athens Technical College, to transport his “homework” – a 1967 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang – to and from campus, but the hard work of totally rebuilding the car bore its fruits.
Dickerson is to appear during the SEMA Battle of the Builders 2021 the episode premiered on the History Channel on Sunday, January 23, 2022 at 9 a.m. as one of three recipients who won an all-expenses-paid “Young Gun” golden ticket to enter the Specialty Equipment competition Manufacturers Association (SEMA) in Las Vegas, NV last November.
In the competition, Dickerson received Top 10 Young Guns (builders under 27) and Top 40 overall for his work. It also caught the attention of the TV show’s producers who interviewed him on campus about his experience as one of the youngest to enter the pageant at 21.
“I started with a stock 1967 Mustang Fastback and had to carefully craft parts to make it a Shelby (Tribute),” Dickerson said. “I designed my Mustang with many modern components, to the point where you can drive a brand new Mustang and feel no difference between it and my car. In some cases it will drive better and perform exceptionally better too. All of that took an immense amount of custom engineering and fabrication to make it work the way I designed it, I had to make many parts because they just didn’t exist or didn’t work to my specs.
The entire project took about three years to complete, with much of the work completed on the ATC campus, and Dickerson documented his work on Instagram. @67shelby_thomasdickerson all along the project.
“This is the first car I’ve ever painted. It took over 26 hours to paint over two days, and I spent two to three weeks wet-sanding it afterwards,” explained Dickerson: “I created my own center console using the courses we have here – mechanical engineering technology – and I designed my entire console on SolidWorks. I made all the parts, I had CNC parts, and I had parts that I 3D printed in class.
The car has all the modern luxuries including fuel injection, LED headlights, electric cooling, digital analog gauges, 7 inch touchscreen radio, push button start and key fob . The seats of a 2017 Mustang were used as custom upholstery according to its hand-drawn design.
“Seventy percent of the car is new and every panel on the exterior of the car is 100% new. When I bought the car I was interested in mechanical engineering, but that was not not as convenient as I had imagined, that’s when I enrolled in the auto repair program at Athens Tech,” Dickerson said.
The accolades in Las Vegas were not the first for Dickerson, who won first place in the SkillsUSA Auto Refinishing competition in Georgia and second place in the national SkillsUSA category in 2021.
“Thomas was an excellent student and worked very hard to master the skills necessary to achieve the dream he had envisioned,” said Greg Thomas, president of the auto collision repair program. “Through his skills and hard work, he was able to build a really great car. He was also able to compete against the top builders in the country at SEMA with incredible results! I couldn’t be more proud of him for his accomplishments.
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