Steven Conti brought a 1969 Dodge Daytona Challenger to Pepin Academies to connect students to the history of car racing during his retirement celebration.

After 21 years of teaching, Pepin Academies automotive instructor Steven Conti retired to spend time with his wife and build cars.

Conti has worked at Pepin Academies for the last three years, teaching small engine repair classes, but before joining Pepin Academies’ team he taught at Brandon High School, Leto High School and Hillsborough Community College.

To celebrate his retirement, he brought the 1969 Dodge Daytona Challenger driven by 1970s car racer Marty Robbins.

“I wanted to bring the car in to show the students some of the past before I leave,” Conti said.

Bringing in the Dodge Daytona Challenger on May 16 allowed Conti to connect students to the past by teaching them about the history of the car and Robbins, who was also a singer and songwriter when he wasn’t racing.

Since its race over 50 years ago, the car has been restored by NASCAR legend Ray Evernham, but it kept its original frame and adaptations from Robbins’ racing.

Conti’s goal to connect students with the past isn’t just a last hoorah but something he has worked on throughout his time as an instructor. Each year, before his group of seniors graduate, he tries to bring in an older car.

“Henry Ford always wanted to preserve the past,” Conti said. “I wanted to be like Henry Ford a little bit … and I think we should because that’s what built America.”

Conti has always been interested in cars. At just 10 years old he would hang out at car garages until they chased him out.

“It gave me a great career, and I try to teach the students that it’s a good career,” he said. “… It could be [their] career in the future. It’s going to change a little with electronics, but it’s still going to be automotive.”

Despite his 100-mile round-trip commute to school every day, Conti said he hates to give teaching up but is looking forward to his retirement.

Conti also hosts a family-friendly YouTube channel called Chip’s Garage, where he highlights different old cars and connects his viewers to the past with the vehicles he showcases.

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Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher is a writer for the Osprey Observer. She started as an intern in the summer of 2020 and has continued to write for the Osprey Observer since completing her internship. Lily is majoring in mass communications at the University of South Florida and is a staff writer for the university’s paper, The Oracle. She enjoys writing about local nonprofit organizations and community role models who have made an impact on her hometown.