MANATEE -- She's the only woman among 17 men in her automotive collision repair and refinishing class at Manatee Technical College, but Robyn Salisbury, 25, said she holds her own.
"I get teased a bit but I can dish it out, too," Salisbury said with a big grin Sunday. "I've always been a tomboy."
Salisbury, along with schoolmates from Automotive Collision Repair and Automotive Service Technology, helped put on the third annual Car and Bike Show in the main parking lot of MTC's main campus, 6305 State Road 70 E.
The fundraiser drew a record-setting 100 collector cars and bikes and 400 fans on a warm and sunny day. Proceeds will send students in two MTC automotive programs to SkillsUSA's 51st annual National Leadership and Skills Conference on June 22-26 in Louisville, Ky.
It took her seven years out of high school to find Manatee Technical College, but the school is helping achieve her dreams, Salisbury said.
"My dream job is custom paint and body work," Salisbury said.
More than 6,000 career and technical education students will compete in 99 different trade, technical and leadership fields in Louisville, according to the SkillsUSA website.
"All the money we raise today is to send our 80 automotive students to Louisville," said Jose Cestero, MTC automotive service technology instructor. "We would like to take the whole school if we could."
The goal is to raise $3,000 for the trip, Cestero said. Admission to the car show was free while hot dog, hamburger, chips and soft drinks sales added up as did the $15 show entrance fee per vehicle.
"This is a great event on a perfect day," said Valerie Viands, Manatee Technical College assistant director and owner of a yellow 1975 Chevrolet Corvette she entered in the show.
As Viands spoke, DJ Lance was playing Ricky Nelson's hit, "Travelin' Man" while the crowd strolled amid modern sports cars and collector cars from the 1920s through 1970s.
"It was the car of my dreams," Viands said of the Corvette, which gleamed in the sun. "I bought it in 2006. It's very fast. I have a yellow truck that I use as my daily driver. The 'Vette and truck and brother and sister in my garage."
Her license plates read "Valzvet."
Salisbury lived 16 years in Warner Robins, Ga., with her family, including her father, Staff Sgt. Victor Salisbury, and her mother, Caren Salisbury, who encouraged her to follow her dreams.
"My dad was a jet engine mechanic at Robins Air Force Base and loved cars," Salisbury said. "He grew up working on cars and building engines. I remember me and my sister going to a lot of custom car shows with him. I grew up loving cars and interested in custom paint and body work."
Her father said he would take Robyn and her younger sister to every car show and Robin loved taking as many pictures as she could.
"She has always had an eye for taking really interesting pictures and, with her artistic side, she loves the challenge of taking something ordinary and turning it into something exceptional that you don't see everyday, Victor Salisbury said. "She really takes to heart in working on something until it is a finished item she can be proud of."
After graduating from Braden River High School in 2008 in the first Pirate graduating class, Salisbury, who lives with her family in Country Oaks off Lockwood Ridge Road near University Parkway, tried State College of Florida, but said the magnetic pull of working with her hands was too much.
After seven years, she found a home in Dan Elek's automotive collision repair and refinishing program, she said.
"I think there are great opportunities in this field," said Salisbury, who also considered boat building.
Salisbury was drawn Sunday to a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am with gleaming black paint much like the 1977 vehicle Burt Reynolds drove in the 1977 movie "Smokey and the Bandit."
She also studied the orange paint with black overlay design on Larry Zenz's 1931 Ford 5 Window pro street coupe.
"Wow, look at this," Salisbury said. "The black design inside the paint is how they paint custom bowling balls."
"I know Robyn's dream is to be a custom painter and she has the artistic drive to get it done," Elek said Sunday.
Prospects are bright for Salisbury's chosen career, Elek said.
"I tell our students that $24,000 is going to be their starting yearly salary, but that we have people working here in Manatee County in the collision business making six-figure salaries," Elek said.
The school also raised money Sunday from business partners, including Bill Lee Race Cars, Gettel Automotive, Sunset Automotive Group, The Parts House, Snap-On, Cox Chevrolet, LKQ, Twisted Liquids Kustoms, Advance Auto Parts, Tampa Racing, Miller's Snack Shack and Lamborghini Sarasota.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.