Becker County teen rebuilds totaled car before his 18th birthday
After rolling his car in a winter accident, the rebuild begins
FRAZEE — Caden Mayfield set a goal before graduation that had nothing to do with letter grades or a diploma. The 18-year-old son of Jacinta and Josh Mayfield wanted to repair his totaled car and drive it to the commencement ceremony.
Caden acquired the 2008 Mazda 3 sedan from a friend of his father’s. He said the sleek lines and manual transmission appealed to him.
In 2008, there were 109,957 Mazda 3 sedans that rolled off the assembly line. The line of sedans dates back to 2005 and continues to be a popular model into 2022. So, why would an 18-year-old decide to rebuild a common vehicle with 212,000 miles?
“Because it is my first car,” he explained.
The accident that destroyed his first ride happened not far from his rural Frazee home.
“I hit an ice patch and spun,” he said. “I hit the ditch and ended up upside down. I was fine, but the windshield was busted and the roof was destroyed — it caved in.”
After the Feb. 15 crash, his father drove out to where the car rested on its roof. He was convinced it was a total loss. However, his son was “adamant that he did not want another car,” and they “should try and fix it.”
Caden credited his older brother Kyler for planting the seed of rebuilding the car.
“He told me you only get one first car,” Caden recalled. “Now I want to keep it for as long as I can.”
While deciding to rebuild was easy, the actual repair process was far from it. Dan Nelson, who sold Caden the car, has rebuilt five vehicles in the past eight years, mostly with front end damage. The BTD Manufacturing employee provided advice to the Mayfields on how he would tackle the rebuild.
“I just pointed out what I would do, but regardless if I had given my two cents or not, they would’ve figured it out,” the Detroit Lakes resident said.
When the suggestion of removing the roof was made, Caden’s dad was ready to pull the plug.
“But Caden started taking the car apart the next day,” Josh said.
Caden had no educational classes on body work experience to draw from, but he knew how to take directions. And, he looked forward to learning, and bonding with his father, siblings and uncle as they worked toward a common goal.
With a to-do list from Nelson, the Mayfields began the long and meticulous process that included removing the roof, disconnecting the airbag and pulling out the damaged windshield.
The most difficult aspect of replacing the roof was the wait, as it took about four weeks to find a roof in the salvage yard and get necessary parts.
“Caden did over 75% of the work himself,” his father said. “Chad (Mayfield, Caden’s uncle) just did the welding." That was necessary to attach the new roof to the vehicle frame.
The final step was installing the windshield, which had Caden breaking a sweat. He explained precision is paramount with the installation process. A miniscule error could cause rain or wind to leak through a crack.
“Luckily, somehow, I got it on the first try,” he said.
Watching his son take on the project and bring it to completion filled Josh Mayfield with pride. He was especially impressed that his son exceeded his goal of completing the rebuild by graduation.
“Instead, he was able to drive it to school for his 18th birthday (on Monday, May 9),” Josh said.
Caden said he has yet to name his car, and has been waiting for the perfect name to come to him.
After the vehicle is properly named, Mayfield may drive it until the wheels fall off, and then tackle replacing axles.
“If I ever do get a different car, I will give this one to my little brother,” he said.