By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Timothy Spindler, 17, and Joshua Gosselin, 18, have enjoyed taking old cars apart since they were children.
Unlike most children, they knew how to put the vehicles back together — and in better condition.
The two Salem High School automotive students will get a chance to test their repair skills Saturday in a statewide competition. Twenty of New Hampshire’s top young mechanics will face off against each other, with the winning two-member team participating in a national competition sponsored by Ford and AAA.
The teams will race to diagnose and repair problems in vehicles. They will be judged on their accuracy and workmanship, according to Patrick Moody, spokesman for AAA Northern New England. The competition helps promote careers in the automotive industry, he said.
Each team must be able to drive their Ford Focus SE to the finish line. The winning team receives scholarships and prizes, and will represent the state at the national finals in June at Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.
Spindler, a junior from Salem, and Gosselin, a senior from Windham, said they are geared up for the state competition at New England Dragway in Epping. They are the only team from Southern New Hampshire.
The teens admit to being a little nervous, but said this is an opportunity they have been preparing themselves for a long time. They were happy to learn three weeks ago they were chosen for the competition, beating 13 classmates in an online skills test.
“I was pumped,” Gosselin said. “I had always heard about (the competition). I’m nervous, but I’m going into it with a strong head.”
Spindler was excited to be chosen, as well.
“I consider it quite an honor,” he said. “It was a pretty big surprise.”
The two began repairing cars while in grade school — and haven’t stopped. Both have part-time jobs with auto businesses and also work on cars in their spare time.
“I used to take stuff apart in my backyard,” Spindler said. “I like using my hands.”
Both students plan on becoming mechanics.
“That’s my life’s goal — to open up my own shop,” Spindler said.
Gosselin, who had enough credits to graduate in April, will join the U.S. Army Reserve as a wheeled mechanic in June.
But Gosselin returns to Salem High to prepare for the competition. The two said they work well together as a team.
Their instructor, Matthew McCarthy agreed. He said both are highly skilled mechanics in what’s becoming an increasingly competitive career field. Top mechanics can earn as much as $100,000 for the nation’s largest automakers, he said.
“It’s like being an artist, but not everyone can draw,” McCarthy said. “Not everyone can do this. They definitely are above average.”
Spindler is the son of Timothy and Debra Spindler. Gosselin is the son of David Gosselin and Donna Comeau.