As deacon chairman at First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Kimuel Lee was looking for a way to attract young people to church. He found it in his garage.
Of course, it’s no ordinary garage.
Lee, a car enthusiast, has acquired all manner of vehicles, including fire trucks and an ambulance, often wrecked, which he then restores. But he also has several rare, high-performance vehicles like Lamborghinis, which cause heads to turn when people see them on the street. At some point last year, his two interests intersected in his mind.
“I never really thought about where the thought came from,” Lee said. “Just one day, ‘You know what? I’ve got these things sitting in the garage. I bet you the kids would like to ride in them. Let’s bring them down there, bring the kids out and do it. It’ll help develop relationships with the church.’”
And so began the Lamborghini Youth Training Academy.
At 11:30 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month, Lee brings some of his vehicles — including Lamborghinis, of course — to the church’s parking lot at 529 Convention St. to teach teens about cars and, he hopes, establish relationships that will connect them with the church. The meetings don’t include Bible studies or other overtly spiritual themes; they are all about cars. But it is a connection made.
Lee has contacted other Lamborghini owners to bring their cars by, too, but he doesn’t lack for attention-getting wheels of his own.
At the February academy, Lee brought a 2007 Shelby Ultimate Aero. If you’re not a car person, that name means little. If you are a car person, it means a lot. An Aero once held the Guinness world record as the fastest production car at 256.14 mph.
Lee said this Aero was once owned by a sheik in Dubai, who returned it to the Shelby factory after the engine was burned up. Lee bought another that had been wrecked.
“There were 14 built by the factory,” Lee said of the Aero. “Two of them are kept at the factory, I have two and then there are 10 for the rest of the world.”
After viewing some of Lee’s vehicles, those who attended the February academy listened to Manny Gonzalez teach about a supercharger that he had bought for one of his cars. He described the differences between superchargers and turbochargers, both of which add horsepower to a vehicle.
Lee said he will bring an exhaust manifold that came from a Lamborghini Diablo SV once owned by race-car legend Mario Andretti to the next meeting, causing the group to say, “Oh, yeah” in near unison.
Not all lessons feature such exotic topics. On occasion, Lee has received permission to put a car on one of the hydraulic lifts at the Firestone repair shop across Florida and Sixth streets from the church property so they can look underneath. After the teaching, the class goes go-kart racing in New Orleans or Baton Rouge.
“We like to do everyday issues like changing tires and oil changes, stuff like that kids don’t really know much anymore,” Gonzalez said. “We try to help them understand all that stuff, because if it’s not about video games, what do they know? … So, we’re just trying to help people get into cars, basically, and understand cars, because not a lot of people understand cars these days.”
Jarrett Gustafson, 14, said he isn’t “super into cars,” but couldn’t resist the lure of these vehicles.
“I mean, how often do you get to see a lot of Lamborghinis and the stuff he has?” Gustafson said. “I enjoy them teaching us about different parts of the cars, and the other aspects of car racing and the different parts that go into racing cars than regular cars. Also, the go-kart racing we do is pretty fun, too.”
The next session will be March 7. For information, email email@example.com.