The Community Hot Rod Project
Kevin Haeberle, the Santa Barbara native who heads a nonprofit called The Community Hot Rod Project and the self-described “gearhead,” wants people to know that the organization isn’t only about hanging out with hot rods.
Sure, Haeberle has an impressive resumé that includes being selected fresh out of high school to be one of eight people in the annual BMW STEP program, where he built prototypes and movie cars, and later, after training at the prestigious Wyoming Technical Institute, went on to build specialty cars for Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin.
Yes, the Community Hot Rod Project (CHRP) took over hosting the Cars & Coffee events every Sunday at Lower Manning Park in Montecito during the pandemic, plus added similar events on the second and fourth Saturday at South Coast Church in Goleta. Indeed, CHRP also does some community outreach events that shows people how to fix their cars, and not only participates in larger car shows but also created a big one of its own in town – the 2022 Auto Rally at the Glen Annie Golf Club last May.
But, like a finely tuned engine or gearbox, the project’s image still needs a bit of tweaking.
“A lot of people think we’re just about car shows and don’t quite understand the full concept of what it is we want to do,” says Haeberle, the organization’s founder and president.
So, let’s clarify.
“The Community Hot Rod Project’s main goal is opening a vocational training center here in Santa Barbara,” Haeberle says plainly, pointing out that Santa Barbara hasn’t had any such educational training available since Santa Barbara high schools cut auto shop and many vocational training programs from curriculums in the late 2000s.
The center, Haeberle says, will focus on “the dying art” of old school customization and all of the techniques involved, plus incorporate new modern technology in crossover training.
“Our nonprofit is looking to fill the void where students used to be able to learn the basic tools, skills, and trades, who can then fill the vacant spots in the workforce,” he says. “Dealerships and mechanic shops are hurting for technicians. There are tons of jobs, but not enough people.”
That’s because for two decades-plus, “kids have been pushed to go to college and get a degree, and are being steered away from working in the trades, getting their hands dirty, and actually making or fixing things.”
To that end, Community Hot Rod Project has launched a $1.5 million campaign to develop and build the vocational training center as a state-of-the-art facility for both education and car culture, housing workshop space, classrooms, offices, and a conference center in a vintage speed shop design that will also feature an outdoor event center.
The new center will be a way to exponentially expand upon the events the organization is currently hosting, which are largely about outreach and awareness, Haeberle says.
“We’re using Cars & Coffee as a place for gearheads to gather and invite the community out to view the private collectible cars within the community,” he says. “It’s essentially just getting community awareness for our nonprofit and what we’re trying to do.”
Having the center will be the realization of Haeberle’s vision to pass on to the next generation the knowledge and passion first kindled when his dad taught him how to work on cars back in grade school.
“When we teach metalwork and fabrication, with some of the top builders and fabricators from all over California who want to be a part of this project, it brings in the properties of physics and geometry,” Haeberle explains. “In developing custom parts, it crosses over with other vocational trades. It’s not just hot rods.”
The CHRP’s efforts are largely geared toward people of all ages and backgrounds, but, Haeberle says, the bigger focus is on kids who are in elementary school up through high school.
“If you get ‘em interested when they’re young, it can become a lifelong thing. It’s like going out for sports or learning a musical instrument. Not everybody likes football or baseball, the piano or violin, but at least they understand it. They’ve had a chance to try it out. That’s what we want to create here – the opportunity to get into something that’s fun and educational early on in life. There’s really nothing like getting your hands dirty and working next to others in getting a job done. It’s not just how to work on cars – we’re teaching life-building skills.”
Meanwhile, the auto rally and a fundraising gala are coming, with details still to be firmed up. Haeberle, like everyone at the nonprofit, donates time and energy so that 100 percent of incoming funds can go toward creating the training center. “I’ve just been so busy with everything else,” he says.
Now, if there’s a desire to be a part of where the project is headed, financially or otherwise – Haeberle will find the time to talk. Feel free to reach out to him on his mobile phone, (805) 280-8745, the one that appears in the Giving List book and online.
The Community Hot Rod Project
Kevin Haeberle, Founder & President
The Community Hot Rod Project, Inc.Donate now!
Founder & President: Kevin Haeberle
This day and age there is a serious lack of hands-on vocational programs in our community for everyone no matter how young or young at heart you are. Our focus is not only building rolling works of art, but building lifelong friendships as we work together from rendering designs to show-stopping builds.
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We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.
The Community Hot Rod Project is seeking $1.5 million to develop and build a vocational training center and outdoor event center. With no facility of its own, the nonprofit currently is limited to working out of its founders’ garages and driveways while also hosting events at South Coast Church and public parks.
The organization envisions the state-of-the-art facility as a Southern California epicenter for both education and car culture, housing workshop space, classrooms, offices, and a conference center in a vintage speed shop design.
“With your help, we will build an amazing facility to educate and mentor the next generations of creative automotive minds, and put Santa Barbara back on the automotive map,” says The Community Hot Rod Project Founder Kevin Haeberle.
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