By Tim Leeds
The top state scorers on the qualifying test left Havre Tuesday for compete in the Ford-AAA Student Auto Contest.
Havre High School seniors Mike Erickson and Steve Getten left with their auto instructor, Tim Obresley, to compete in Thursday's contest.
Getten said he and Erickson got the highest scores in the state when they took the written test in Shelby to qualify for the contest.
"I don't think it was too bad," Erickson said about the test. "There was some stuff I would have liked to have known a little more on."
They will compete against the other nine top teams in the state at the competition at the Helena College of Technology, starting at 10 a.m. Thursday. Each team will have an identical Ford Mustang with the identical problems.
Getten said there will be a practice car in Helena for them to use today to get ready for the contest.
"(Today) we can go down to practice on a car they have everyone can work on," he said
There will be a repair order on each car in the contest, and the teams will have 90 minutes to find and repair as many of the problems as they can. The teams' scores will be based on both how many problems they find and the time it takes to find them.
Getten said they will be testing a variety of possible problems in the test, such as bulbs, harnesses, wiring, spark plugs and plug wires, fuses and vacuum systems.
"A lot of electrical stuff," Erickson said.
Havre sent eight students to the regional written test in Shelby. Obresley said they take the average of the teams' scores to find the highest teams, then the top scorers on the winning teams go to the contest in Helena. Havre has participated in the contest every year since Ford and AAA started it in Montana in 1993.
Last year, Havre's Jeff Haas and Brent Larson took second in the competition, winning a trophy, tools, scholarships and awards for the Havre High automotive program. The test cars last year were Ford Tauruses, and this year's competitors said the change to Mustangs is both good and bad.
"It's easier to work on than a Taurus," Erickson said, "easier to get at."
But finding one to work on wasn't quite as easy.
"It was a little harder to get this year," Getten said.
Obresley said they had to spend a lot of time and effort to find a Mustang like the ones in the contest to practice on until Montana State University-Northern loaned them one.