Student and pickup are TV stars

Published 7:18 pm Saturday, November 21, 2015

Nikita Pelle-Jones wasn’t the real star of her television show.

FantomWorks restored Nikita Pelle-Jones’ 1965 Chevrolet C10 pickup truck.

FantomWorks restored Nikita Pelle-Jones’ 1965 Chevrolet C10 pickup truck.

When she made her acting debut on the Discovery Channel’s show, “FantomWorks,” last year, the Nansemond River High School student was merely the supporting character to the real star: Her 1965 Chevrolet C10 pickup truck.

The restoration of Pelle-Jones’ pickup was featured on DRS Automotive FantomWorks’ reality show, FantomWorks. The Norfolk-based shop is the largest automotive restoration shop in the United States.

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“Filming for television was kind of stressful,” said Pelle-Jones, who plans to attend Old Dominion University next year to pursue a career in modeling and simulation. “There was a lot of doing the same thing over and over and over again to make sure the film crews got what they needed.

“I think the best part is that while they were taping, the mechanics would show me exactly what they were doing and explain why they were doing it.”

The show aired last year. Despite getting only a few minutes of air time in the finished episode, mechanics spent several months restoring her car, Pelle-Jones said.

Pelle-Jones and her father, Warren Jones, have always been vintage vehicle fans. For years, the two have regularly gone to classic car shows in Portsmouth and other cities. Once his daughter got her driver’s license, Warren Jones said he had planned to buy her a circa-1960s Plymouth Barracuda — until he learned that she preferred a pickup truck.

For the past two years, Pelle-Jones has turned her love of vintage cars into a successful community service project for the Nansemond River High School chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America.

As an FBLA class project last year, Pelle-Jones organized a classic car show with an admission fee of five non-perishable food items. Attendees brought their food items and used them to cast votes for their favorite cars. Planned with only two weeks notice, the event was a success, she said.

With several months to drum up publicity and support, Pelle-Jones organized the second “Cars and Cans Show” on Nov. 14 at Nansemond River High School. People showing their wheels had to pay an entry fee of 10 cans of food, she said. People attending the show voted for their favorite vehicles with canned food; the winning car was the one that brought in the most cans.

Pelle-Jones doesn’t know how much food was collected at the event. But it was all donated to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.