Last year, when I was a high school senior, five friends and I started brainstorming ideas for a year-end prank. We weren’t about to let our graduating year end without a story for the books. We 6 guys (Matt Lalonde, Ben Friesen, Ross Haskell, Phil Cline, and Ming Scott) were ready to take on the most elaborate prank our imaginations could devise. In our search for this ultimate prank, we began by reviewing what previous graduating classes had done but were, frankly, unimpressed. Soon after, with the help of Google, we landed on a Wiki page, showcasing MIT’s (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology) iconic prank: One morning, in May, 1994, a campus police car appeared on top of the institution’s dome, complete with flashing lights and a dummy driver. Immediately we knew, we going to recreate this legendary prank. Even our group of highly motivated engineering and science students faced challenges; however, during the night of June 18, 2016, we pulled off the best high school senior prank that we know of. Here is how we put a 2001 Jaguar S-Type sports car on the roof of our school.
Buying a Car
Selecting the “right” car for the prank took some time. Initially, we began our search at a scrap yard. The vehicle we were looking for had to stand out: A Corolla or Civic wouldn’t make a big enough statement. Additionally, the car had to be fully intact, including windows and lights. Not surprisingly, what we were looking for couldn’t be found at a scrap yard: Most of the cars in the lot had been stripped bare of their most needed features. So the search continued on Kijiji and Craigslist. Every few days, I would browse the new auto listings to see if anything stood out – at the right price. This continued for several weeks until one evening, when I found a “for parts” 2001 Jaguar S-Type for just under $750 CAD. Without hesitation, I picked up the phone and set up the purchase for the following day.
With the Jaguar in my driveway, we decided to test turn the key and see if it would start. To our surprise, it not only started but everything, except for reverse, worked perfectly! The rest of the day was spent racing around a property near my house. The fun didn’t last long, however. It was time to get to work with the disassembly.
None of us had any auto experience, so we didn’t really know where to begin. We gathered all the power tools we could find, which included an angle grinder and drill, along with small miscellaneous tools. The game plan was to remove the body panels and remount them on a custom wooden frame. This would reduce the weight of the car, without changing its exterior appearance. Sounds rather easy, right? Unfortunately, we discovered that body panels can be secured in many different ways, including bolts and hard-to-reach welds. Most of the body panel removal was done with the angle grinder over the course of several months, working a couple of hours each week. Finally, with all the panels removed, just the frame of the car and the engine remained. We called a scrap yard and got this towed away.
Building the Frame and Pulley
As mentioned above, the now removed body panels had to be mounted on a custom wooden frame. We drove to the lumber store and picked up about twenty 2×4 pieces of wood, along with some screws. The reconstruction of the car was a meticulous and frustrating process, since each piece (some quite heavy) had to align perfectly to allow for quick disassembly and reassembly – as these would have to be transported to the school in pieces, on the night of the prank. Since the deadline to pull this together was now less than a week away, we worked around the clock. Most of our free time that week was spent with a calculator, pen, and tape measure in hand, along with a table saw to cut the wood. Thankfully, we finished everything in time. Now the only step remaining was to transport the car, in a utility trailer, to a dimly-lit parking lot, several meters off school property, and then assemble it on the roof.
Reassembly on School Roof
The team consisted of 6 people and we each made our way to the school just after midnight, moving the parts we had hidden hours before, from the parking lot to the base of the school. A full moon, clear skies, and warm weather provided excellent working conditions. Everyone had a different job in getting the parts onto the roof: one lookout in parking lot, two pulley operators on the roof, and three people to carry and attach the body panels and wooden frame to the pulley. The pulley we had designed specifically for this purpose worked flawlessly, and lifting the large and heavy body panels onto the school roof was much easier than expected, and took no more than an hour.
With all the parts on the roof and in the general location we had carefully selected days prior for maximum visibility, we began sliding the pieces together. Our school mascot, Baldwin the Eagle, was placed into the driver’s seat; a custom license plate we had designed, which read GSS2016, was affixed to the car. Last, we taped a “no parking” sign to a nearby second-floor window because, why not? Now, with everything complete, we went home for a bit of sleep, anxious to see the school’s reactions in the morning.
Just as the MIT pranksters had done, we carried out this prank without the intention of revealing our identities; however, when we arrived at school the following morning, the palpable excitement and overwhelming positivity from the staff was so unexpected, we saw no reason not to come forward, especially since so many staff and students had already assumed it was us, from our past engineering projects 🙂
The following day, on the way to school, a friend suggested I pick up a newspaper and, to my surprise, we had a full page story on the second page of The Toronto Star (most popular newspaper in Canada). My initial reaction of surprise and excitement, that this story had made the paper, had to be re-focused, rather abruptly, to writing my final Chemistry exam that morning. After the exam, I was called to the principal’s office (one of the kindest people I know) and told our prank had gone much further than the hallway noise-chatter she had expected. Apparently, reporters had been calling the school all morning and, when I took a look at my phone, it was filled with direct messages and tweets from many reporters. Even Tim Hudak, the former leader of the Ontario Provincial Conservative Party, wanted us to appear on his weekly radio show. The days that followed were filled with more phone radio interviews and more news stories.
I thoroughly enjoyed working on this memorable project: I learned how to use power tools for working with metal, the ins and outs of how a car is designed and built, as well as how to deal with media attention.
News Stories: https://goo.gl/photos/MRGWep7Hxcnwt77VA