For about as long as Sam Hamilton can remember, he’s been obsessed with cars.
As a young boy, his collection of Hot Wheels provided endless hours of amusement, as did wandering the streets of Sag Harbor in search of dump trucks.
But for the past four years, he’s had his sights set firmly on someday acquiring a 1960s-era American muscle car. Finally, that day has arrived.
Earlier this summer, Sam spotted a 1966 Ford Mustang coupe on the Craigslist Web site. After talking the owner down to $6,000 (from an original listing of $7,000), the car was soon sitting in his parents’ driveway — a childhood dream, fulfilled.
“I’ve been saving up to buy it all my life,” said Sam, now 16, who has put his birthday and Christmas money aside, in addition to regular paychecks from GeekHampton, an Apple computer store in Sag Harbor, where he works part time.
But the car, with its British racing-green exterior and white vinyl roof, is nothing if not a fixer-upper. Though in decent working condition, it still requires a fair amount of work.
The car’s restoration is now part of Sam’s senior project, required of all students at the Ross School in East Hampton, where he is soon to begin his senior year. He said the senior projects are something that most Ross students start thinking about — and start planning for — as soon as they begin high school.
Akin to a college thesis, the project is “a way for students to experience an adventure of their own and set out to do a project all on their own and combine their likes and different areas of interest into a singular project that takes several months,” he explained.
In addition to the senior project, high school students at Ross also participate in something called M-term, during which time many crisscross the globe for three weeks each March. During his freshman year, while several of his classmates were off exploring China and Indonesia, Sam spent the three weeks interning at Joe’s Garage in North Sea, learning alongside Joe Frizell, its owner, everything from mechanics and engineering to the entrepreneurial skills necessary to run a small business.
Besides Mr. Frizell, Dean Silvera, who owns Aventura Motors in Southampton, has also lent his expertise, helping Sam get a handle on all that needs to be done.
As the grandson of Julie Andrews, show business, not car restoration, runs through Sam’s bloodline. His mother, Emma Walton Hamilton, writes and edits children’s books. His father, Stephen Hamilton, is a producer, actor, and director.
Nevertheless, starting in September, while his classmates are busy learning taxidermy and falconry, Sam will be replacing leaking parts, refinishing the car’s trunk, redoing its carpeting, and possibly even saving up enough for a new paint job, among several planned improvements. The hands-on dirty work will take much of the fall, as he works on a restoration that combines his love of cars, engineering, computers, filmmaking, and entrepreneurship, while also applying to college.
Sam has already created a blog to document the restoration of the Mustang, which he tentatively named Pony, complete with pictures and videos of his work-in-progress. He also recently launched an Indiegogo campaign, which will help to raise money for the rest. With slightly less than 50 days left in the campaign, he has already raised a little more than $3,200 of his ultimate $10,000 goal.
No matter the final amount raised, Sam is enthused by the challenge ahead.
“This is the beauty of the senior project. I don’t have a whole lot of experience,” he said. “But it’s all really doable.”
See more at www.mustangsam.net.