"Does it float?" isn't a typical question most project vehicle builders get when their creations debut for the first time.
Then again, the Suzuki Marine Vehicle created by Cleveland-based Ohio Technical College (OTC) isn't your typical custom car.
The project began in the summer of 2011 when American Suzuki Motor Corporation was in search of a way to uniquely promote their marine division. They turned to Ohio Technical College – a family-owned school that has provided technical training in a variety of transportation industries for more than 40 years, receiving numerous industry recognitions – for ideas on transforming a stock 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara into a head-turning project vehicle.
After some brainstorming among Suzuki, OTC faculty and industry experts, the concept was decided.
"Let's actually turn the Grand Vitara into a boat," recalls Tim Cole, a lead instructor on the project at Ohio Technical College and the school's Alternative Fuel program manager. "We had our Custom Paint department develop a rendering, and from that point on we had less than four months to make this awesome idea a reality."
Students in OTC's Automotive, Auto-Diesel, Classic Car Restoration, Collision Repair, and Custom Paint and Graphics programs got involved in every aspect of the project. The 4-door SUV was converted into a 2-door marine vehicle, with the roof removed to create a sundeck in the back and new rear seats constructed from wood, sheet metal and fiberglass.
Custom car builder Rich Evans, who owns Huntington Beach Bodyworks in California and is helping create an advanced collision repair and customizing course at OTC, worked one-on-one with students to chop the roof, cut and lower the front windshield 6 inches, and mold a new rear arch from the original roof and fabricated material. The arch holds a radio antenna, lighting and fishing rods, while the rear of the vehicle features a Suzuki outboard motor to enhance its marine appearance.
"As students in our various automotive programs, these young technicians not only learn the basic skill sets needed to succeed in today's industry but they are also exposed to unique projects like the Suzuki Marine Vehicle that challenge them to think differently and find new solutions to common situations," explains Cole. "At OTC, we strive to provide hands-on opportunities and industry mentors that will differentiate our students in the workforce. The Suzuki Marine Vehicle taught students about custom fabrication, how to shape metal and fiberglass, wiring and more."
Additional modifications include a lift kit, door poppers, shaved handles, a backup camera inside the outboard motor, a blue body glow undercar kit, two spotlights, LED driving lights, navigation system, DVD players in the headrests, a hydrogen system and even a refrigerator in the back.
"By working on a project like the Suzuki Marine Vehicle, you really learn the ins and outs of a car," says Kyle Karkowski, a recent auto-diesel graduate from OTC. "This was a one-of-a-kind project that gave me the opportunity to have fun working with a new team that had their own set of skills and experiences. I learned a lot from the build, particularly adding the hydrogen system to improve gas mileage and performance."
Nathan Dutcher, a fellow OTC student, agrees that working on such a unique vehicle was an awesome opportunity. "When I first heard about the design of the Suzuki Marine Vehicle – and all the modifications we were going to be made – I couldn't exactly visualize how it would all get accomplished. However, being involved in the project taught me you can turn an idea into reality and that's something I will take with me to my future career."
The Suzuki Marine Vehicle's custom paint is reminiscent of a bass boat, complete with metal flakes and a wave design off the front wheel. It also features bow mooring lights as well as dock cleats. The vehicle will be featured at several events in 2012, including in the Ohio Technical College booth at AutoRama in Cleveland.
And even though there are no plans to use the Suzuki Marine Vehicle in the water, it has certainly surpassed the team's expectations and turned some heads in the automotive world.
To learn more about OTC and the Suzuki Marine Vehicle, visit www.ohiotech.edu and follow them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ohiotechnicalcollege) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/ohiotechcollege). You can also watch a video overview of the build on YouTube: http://youtu.be/JBlj5aJrYi4.
About Ohio Technical College
Ohio Technical College (OTC) is an accredited private, proprietary technical school dedicated to providing premier technical training in the world of modern mechanics by pursuing industry alliances, providing outstanding training equipment and focusing on the needs of individual students. An Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) college, OTC and its PowerSport Institute branch campus encompass nearly 800,000 sq. feet of classroom and workshop space. Drawing students from all over the United States, OTC offers technician training programs in Automotive, Diesel, Auto-Diesel, Collision Repair, Classic Car Restoration, High Performance and Racing, Welding and PowerSport Technology as well as specialization in BMW, Alternative Fuel Vehicles, Custom Bike Building, Custom Paint and Graphics, and Power Generator Systems. Motorcycle technician training is provided through the PowerSport Institute, a branch campus of OTC in North Randall, Ohio. For more information, write to Ohio Technical College at 1374 E. 51st St. Cleveland, Ohio, 44103; call 800.322.7000 ext. 163; or visit www.ohiotech.edu and www.psi-now.com.
About American Suzuki Motor Corporation
The Brea, Calif.-based Automotive Operations of American Suzuki Motor Corporation was founded in 1985 by parent company Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) and currently markets its vehicles in the United States through a network of approximately 500 automotive dealerships in 49 states. Based in Hamamatsu, Japan, SMC is a diversified worldwide automobile, motorcycle and outboard motor manufacturer with sales of more than two million new automobiles annually. Founded in 1909 and incorporated in 1920, SMC has operations in 187 countries. For more information, visit www.media.suzukiauto.com.