There they were, 50 1990 Plymouth Voyager minivans, and they all had one thing in common: They didn't work - deliberately.
Each one had been disabled so they could be brought back to life by this year's crop of high school seniors.Each year the Plymouth Division of Chrysler Corp. and the American Automobile Association sponsor the trouble-shooting contest for the nation's best high school technicians.
The finalists are determined by statewide competition. The top team from each state, consisting of two students and their instructor, then go to Washington, D.C., for the finals.
At exactly 9:30 a.m., the 50 teams begin to diagnose the problems. Each one of the V6 powered minivans had been set with eight malfunctions. Several could be considered minor, such as blown-out bulbs and fuses. However, each had been given a couple of major problems as well. One of these involved a faulty computer system.
The instructors were herded off to a corner where they could only watch. Each pair of fledgling technicians began to find the problems.
There were a few hints that indicated the progress. Engines started. This showed that the malfunctioning computer's problem had been located and repaired. Horns blew, showing short circuits had been found.
Ninety minutes after it began, the trouble-shooting ended. Most teams had found and solved all the problems.
The 50 Plymouth Voyagers were ready for the road again. Now the wait for the final results to be tabulated. The difference between the winners and non-winners was slight (hence the term "non-winner" rather than loser - there were no losers).
Coming in 10th was the team from Rio Grande, Ohio. No. 9 came from Portland, Maine. Eighth place went to the team from Honolulu, and seventh to Ansonia, Conn. Longwood, Fla., came in sixth.
The top five rounded out this way: Salt Lake City, fifth; Rogers, Ark., fourth; Augusta, Wis., third; Houston, Texas, second, and the champions - Nathan Griffin and David Fellows of Morro Bay High School in Morro Bay, Calif. Their instructor is Gary Villa.
The night before the trouble-shooting, an award was given to the Instructor of the Year, Herschel Stivers of Hammond, Ind.
Automobiles become more complicated each year. It takes increasingly well-educated people to keep them running right. The annual AAA-Plymouth trouble-shoot is a major player in making an effort to reward and recognize progress in that area.