By Janee Law
When Kyle Gutman was in eighth grade, his parents bought a 1989 Grand Jeep Wagoneer.
But, the old gem needed work.
So began a process where Gutman, of Lloyd Harbor, and his father would put the work in to restore it, to breathe life back into the beige, leather seats; floor rugs; navy blue exterior; and wood paneling that stretches from end to end.
In January 2014, however, when Gutman was 17 and a senior at Cold Spring Harbor Jr./Sr. High School, those plans had to be put on hold. Gutman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in January 2014 after he found a lump on his chest.
He said he was “shocked, at first,” but kept a good attitude, continued to go to school every day when he wasn’t in the hospital receiving radiation or chemotherapy and three days before graduation he got the news that his cancer was in remission.
When he was diagnosed, the Suffolk chapter of Make-A-Wish approached Gutman with an opportunity to have a wish granted. He chose to restore the Jeep he and father worked tirelessly to restore.
It “was important because of how much work me and my dad put into it,” Gutman, now 20, said. “I wanted to keep it for a long time.”
While Gutman and his father worked on the mechanical aspects of the restoration — including the engine — the remaining work was done by Hicksville-based AutoMat Customizing & Restoration this past September.
That work included restoring the front seats, armrest and exterior wood panels; applying new leather to the steering wheel; rebuilding the padding in the seats; adding fog lights and new grill surround; and fixing the tailgate. The over $10,000 process — which was covered by Make-A-Wish — was officially completed on Dec. 19.
Restoring the Jeep reflected Gutman’s battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, he said.
It’s “something that will last a long time,” Gutman said. “I will always remember the journey through what happened and always have the car.”
After graduating from Cold Spring Harbor, where he swam, wrestled and played football, Gutman went on to Syracuse University. Today he’s a junior at the school, where he is majoring in entrepreneurship and minoring in construction management. This year, he joined the rugby club.