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Classes for Classics
Written By: Emily Pogue
We’ve all seen the final product; hot rods shined up on display at car shows, or perfectly polished for hometown parades, or beautifully spanning the pages of automotive magazines. But how does someone transform a clunky classic into an automotive ace? It all starts with an artistic passion, a strong desire for success, and for a lucky, hand chosen few, an education through the one-of-a-kind curriculum offered at The Hot Rod Institute.
The Hot Rod Institute (HRI) is the result of founder Doug LaRue’s passion for building hot rods and 40 years of experience as an instructor. Having assisted in the development and expansion of two street rod programs in both Wyoming and Alabama, LaRue returned home to his Black Hills roots. Although he had initially decided against any automotive education related field, a plan began to formulate in LaRue’s mind to offer a quality program that specializes in the hot rod and specialty automotive industry with an emphasis on best practices.
What LaRue envisioned resulted in the creation of the Hot Rod Institute and The Rod Shop at HRI in Rapid City, SD.
The Hot Rod Institute is an immersive three-month course in one of six areas related to automotive restoration or building. Lectures and hands-on learning opportunities are offered in areas of hot rod chassis, hot rod body, hot rod body advanced, upholstery, refinishing, and performance. These classes explain the best practices in fabrication, replacement, and repair. Enrollment is intentionally kept small to ensure 1:1 time with the instructor. And don’t be fooled by the three-month time frame; this is not like traditional post-secondary schooling. Students spend 7.5 hours a day, 5 days a week, immersed in one course.
“We teach whole car restoration, bumper to bumper, in a very timely manner”, says LaRue. “If students want to take all 6 classes, they could be done in 18 months.”
And once the students are done, there are jobs out there waiting for them.
Since the first class in January of 2008, many students have graduated into roles at big-name shops, local shops, and even shops of their own. LaRue says that he doesn’t usually encourage recent graduates to jump into owning a business right away but instead advises them to gain an understanding of how a business is run by working for someone else for a few years.
“Our students are in high demand; we get calls from all over the United States looking to hire our guys because the type of training that we do is direct toward the hot rod restoration industry,” LaRue explains. “If they want a job, it’s waiting for them out there.”
Not only do students learn from the instructors, they also get an education from The Rod Shop at HRI. The Rod Shop is a group of employees and paid interns that handle restorations from fabrication to finish. And while no students work directly on the cars, learning how much work goes into restoration and how to handle actual customers are equally important lessons to learn.
“We’re not just a school,” LaRue explains. “It is a good learning environment for the students to be in and around to see our professionals building cars and they do a really nice job.”
Students are also learning to build their resume and portfolio through safe practices and lessons in teamwork. And while this is all great news for those interested in successful careers within the hot rod and specialty automotive industry, it is also creating a healthier system for businesses as they can trust that graduates of HRI are experienced, educated, and qualified individuals.
While it is not necessary to have any welding or automotive experience, motivation is important. The artistry and drive to succeed have carried many graduates of this program on to amazing careers within the hot rod and speciality automotive industry. If you’d like to learn more about the opportunities and classes available through the Hot Rod Institute, Inc or The Hot Rod Shop at HRI, you can visit their website, www.hotrod.edu.
Classes Start 1/3/2018!