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Monday, October 25, 2021

Bonita High School students revive historic La Verne truck

A group of Bonita High School students huddled over the rusted engine of a faded green 1938 International D-35 truck, one with a WD-40, two with wrenches, and another with a camera in hand.

Sophomore Zachary Vasquez grabbed the burnt orange bolt with a wrench and began to pull down. After a few jerks, he pulled away and the group heard a gasp as Everett Tyrone Ingram snapped the photo.

“We have to take pictures of everything here, this car is older than some of our parents,” Ingram joked, looking at the images saved on the camera’s hard drive. “We don’t work with such a machine every day.”

In teacher Rob Zamboni’s advanced automotive class, students work with cars as part of a semester project. This year they will be under the hood of a car that has left its mark on La Verne.

For over 40 years, longtime resident Inman Koneti has driven his 1938 International D-35 truck through city streets and the Inner Valley. Over the course of its life, the truck has become a frequent occurrence throughout the city, transporting oranges from nearby citrus trees, sometimes fertilizer, and then recycled newspapers, according to Sherry Best, president of the Historical Society of La Verne.

Coneti moved to La Verne in 1937 when he was offered a job as manager of an orange grove in the city. He planned to sell the truck as soon as he arrived, but there were no buyers. He spent the next 38 years at Swift Chemical Co. in Vernon as a contract fertilizer carrier, driving his truck throughout the region.

“Inman loved his truck, he even spray-painted his name on the side,” Best said. “This is how many people remember him when he drove through the city in a loaded truck.”

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After joining the community, Koneti devoted his time to membership in the Beautiful and Bicentennial La Verne Committee, a member of the Methodist Church Choir and Toastmasters who later received a 50-year badge from the Masonic Order.

As President of the Historical Society for 12 years, Koneti supported the group by recycling old newspapers, glass and aluminum. He took the goods in his truck to a recycling center in Baldwin Park, and the proceeds went to the Historical Society.

Bonita High School students revive historic La Verne truck
La Verne Historical Society president Sherry Best and former Mayor Don Kendrick hold a photograph of Inman Coneti’s international truck at a recent city council meeting. (Courtesy of Marvin Weston)

When Koneti died at the age of 93 in 1992, Best said he left the car that became synonymous with his and his small-town charm. The truck later became the logo of the Historical Society as a tribute to Koneti and his contributions.

The truck traveled nearly a million miles before being decommissioned in the late 1970s, Best said. Before his death, Koneti kept the car in the non-profit organization La Verne Heritage Foundation. Last year, he moved to Best’s house, where a major renovation was carried out.

But all of these renovations come at a cost that her small association couldn’t afford on its own, so rebuilding efforts were in question.

LVHS Treasurer Marvin Weston met with Zamboni in July and suggested that the teacher use the truck for a school project. Zamboni agreed, and his AUTO 102 fall class is working to get the 83-year-old truck back on the road.

Over the next six months, students will add a new engine, tires, brakes, bed, and interior upgrades. The faded green bodywork of the car will remain unchanged to maintain its original appearance, Zamboni said.

“The students were tearing up this kid already knowing we had a June deadline,” Zamboni said. “So they treat it like a real project, as if they were in the field. They know how special this car is. “

Bonita High School students revive historic La Verne truck
Students from Bonita High School in La Verne work on the Historical Society’s 1938 International pickup in Rob Zamboni’s auto shop classroom on Tuesday, September 21, 2021. The Historical Society hopes that the truck can be used for city events such as the Fourth of July parade. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Registry / SCNG)

Junior Jeremiah Wheatley used to work on several vehicles but had nothing like the International D-35 truck, he said. Tightening the rusted bolts and configuring the truck’s engine proved to be a challenge for him and his classmates, but he says they enjoy the job.

“I’ve never worked on a car this old before, so it’s a really rewarding experience,” Wheatley said. “I think we all want to see how far we can go.”

Best said giving the truck a second life as a community project with local students is a dream come true. “Soon, others will have the opportunity to see the truck, as will Koneti,” she said.

Best hopes of using the truck for social events such as the annual Fourth of July parade and concerts in the park.

“This is a piece of local history, so we are very excited because it will become an almost mobile museum, a reflection of the historical community,” Best said. “We don’t have a museum house, so this is the second option.”

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