The Battle of the Sketches

SketchBattle #15 – Detroit
By:Doni Langdon

SketchBattle. It is what it sounds like – artists competing against each other bracket style, with a winner-takes-all format. If you closed your eyes and just listened, your experience would be much like a boxing ring… but without the smell of blood and body odor.  


The atmosphere was a bizarre combination of women in cocktail dresses and men in  anything from sport coats, to grunge wear, and the attendees varied as much. Satori Circus brought his dynamic flare to the event as the Master of Ceremonies, sporting white tails decorated with signatures and art ranging from the odd to the sexy. Our Head Peon, Jeni and I spent our time taking in the beauty of Saint Andrews hall near downtown Detroit, eating meat sticks, enjoying adult beverages (not her though… we were responsible!!!) and of course, people watching.  


The judging was done by official judges, with an additional ‘People’s Choice’ award. The judges were esteemed members of the automotive community. Helen Emsley of GM was the Chief Judge, and was joined by Ryan Nagode of FCA, Jeff Hammoud of Rivian, and Adam Rabinowitz of Calty Toyota, along with guest judge Paul Czornij of BASF.  


We were officially there to cheer on the one girl who was competing in the battle. Jess Petrach was there representing not only the female gender, but the ‘D’ as well, as a designer from CCS (Center for Creative Studies). Jess seemed genuine and appeared ready to take on the challenge. Satori was insistent that the crowd was to interact with the artists, to look over their shoulders, and cheer them on! Although we got close a few times, Jeni and I opted to take the high road. The high road being a second level that got away from the mass of people taking Satrori’s advice, making it damn near impossible to see anything without shoving folks out of the way. But, the vantage point of the top level was unbeatable! As an added bonus, the second story bar was already restored, providing a beautiful preview of what the restored building will look like!  


The battles were set up for three rounds. First round was themed around tires, with extra emphasis on the off-road OR performance inspired by Falken Tires, which had partnered with Sketchbattle as a main sponsor. In this round, 8 out of the initial 16 artists would advance to the second round. The second round focused on lighting, as a nod to sponsor TA YIH Industrial. After the judging, four artists would advance to the finals. BASF was the king of the final round, creating a special color for this event to theme the artists around. The color was Aurora Gold,  “Because the greatest sketchers deserve the best in color inspiration.” 


But back to Jess. We were watching her sketch, and trash her original idea and start again… scrapping #2 for a final third entry. Her sketches were simple but well defined and she was super fun to watch. Jeni and I were ecstatic when her name was announced to advance to second round!  


Between rounds we roamed and made friends with folks, including Satori Circus, because he seemed like fun! And he is! Side note, he is an artist in addition to an MC. Check out his website at We also met and enjoyed chatting with Head Judge Helen Emsley. I was a little nervous approaching her, because you never know how one may be, especially when their resume is as impressive as the Executive Design Director of General Motors. But she was super nice, and actually huggable! In case you don’t know me, I am a hugger. As such I typically base first impressions of people on how they greet me after a few minutes chatting. If we end in a friendly hug, you must be a rad person!  


And back to Jess. Jeni was actually doing her job and telling me that Jess was sketching again, and throwing away ideas. I actually was really enjoying her ideas as they were coming down! The end of her sketch was a slightly utilitarian box type vehicle with a kind of variable signage on the back, meant to show the folks to the rear what was relevant, like, turning left up ahead…. At least that is what I understood. I liked her idea because most of the other designs focused on things like head and tail lights. Although useful, these ideas are pretty ‘in the box’. But, the judges spoke. Jess did not make it to the final 4. 


While we were waiting for more action, Jeni and I started people watching again. We realized the place was packed and we had to know people there! We reconnected with my friend from the old days working for The Horse, and Drew, who was there with his dad, who works for Axalta. Axalta is a company that I have a few connections with, including Uncle Dave, whom I have mentioned in the past. (He is the one responsible for the color of my ‘59 Chevy.) With the Axalta team was another old friend John Wray, whom I connect with often around the Dream Cruise. And one of my favorite reconnections was Ralph Gilles, Head of Design of FCA. My friend Arsey introduced us my first time as media at the NAIAS, but our connection never went anywhere. I sent Ralph an email, but never heard back… so I figured he didn’t like me. I reconnect with him the day before this event at the auto show again, and he not only remembered me, but asked why I never reached out! Turns out I should have kept trying. But this time, he wasn’t in a huge hurry so I got to chat with him for a moment. He is also a hugger! Score! Another nice person! That’s really what life is all about after all… making new friends! Next friendship to make is Ralph’s amazing racing wife Doris… but that will be another story! 


As this theme has shown, we’re going back to Jess. You know that she didn’t win the SketchBattle big prize… but she was the People’s Choice winner! Through the night, people were invited to vote for their favorite design. The winner would get a Braze sports watch as the prize for this… and I think Jess was stoked to be recognized! 


I assume you all want to know who won. Sung Kwan Go, from South Korea (also a student at CCS) was the overall winner. While his talent was obviously amazing, I was never tracking him. The other contestants were loud and made themselves get noticed. I actually only noticed him when he entered into the final 4. But although we would have loved to have a female winner, Sung shone through and we are very happy for him! Jeni and I had left by the final award, (racing an ice storm heading toward our homes)  so we didn’t get a photo of Sung with the SketchBattle #15 belt… But I assume it was like any other battle. I picture him holding the belt high with a gigantic smile on his face. Looking forward to next year! 

Finding Beauty in the Junkyard… a Gallery by Sheila Murphy

Every now and then we stumble upon something amazing. That is what happened with a Facebook post that turned into a conversation about old junkyards in Michigan. Sheila capture some gorgeous photos in the final resting places of these classic iconic vehicles. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did! ~Doni

Photos from the North American International Auto Show!

Did you miss the last winter NAIAS in Detroit? If so, no worries! We’re here for you. Check out the photos we took of things we thought you would enjoy.

This PRI Gallery Presents All The Power – by Tara Hurlin

This PRI Gallery Presents All The Power

By Tara Hurlin

The Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show in Indianapolis, IN is frequently compared to SEMA, but that’s not entirely accurate. PRI is specifically catered to those who have a need for speed. The only trailer queens found here are all the racecars that are too souped-up for street driving and need a way to get to the track.

It’s a gearhead’s holy land.  We’ve all heard the reference “like a kid in a candy store”, but this is even more extreme. Everyone’s car part fantasy dreams come true after entering the Indianapolis Convention Center. We saw everything from extreme suspension components and potent power-adders to the tools to build it all and protective gear for when it breaks. And yes, there are turbochargers at every turn.

It’s also a place for networking and education. Junior hot rodders disassembled and reassembled engines for the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow engine build competition, and aspiring gearheads joined PRI’s student career day on Friday.

Celebrities such as Mike Finnegan and David Freiburger from Roadkill, Emily and Aaron Reeves of Live, Love, Wrench, and NHRA Top Fuel Driver Leah Pritchett made an appearance. As we walked past the Darton Sleeves booth, we overheard legendary NHRA champion John Force giving words of encouragement to a young aspiring competitor, “Women are taking over the industry,” and as she handed him her business card, “and you already have a great start!”

The three-day event allowed for just enough time to gawk at all the gadgets, and then capture what we saw just for you. Relax for a little while longer and enjoy the massive PRI 2018 photo gallery.

A Perfect Day at the 2018 St. Ignace Car Show


I am not sure there could have been a more perfect weekend for the annual St. Ignace car show, which for those of you not familiar, is located just over the Mackinac (pronounced Mack-in-aw) Bridge in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of our great state of Michigan. Downstate, the temperatures were dangerously high, in the mid-high nineties with a heat index well over one hundred degrees! But, due to science and the lakes, St. Ignace was sunny, and low 80s most of the weekend. In fact, if you were one of those folks who hopped on a ferry to Mackinac Island, you needed a hoodie — it got chilly on the lake!

This show is a little strange in a few ways. For one, EVERYONE is welcome. Even if a type of car is ‘not your style’ I suspect you would find it here… But there were some high end cars that were absolutely stunning! And of course, there was everything in between. Another unique quality of this show is that it is a 3 day event, but only a one day show! We had a cruise in on Thursday, a parade on Friday and the big event on Saturday. The folks at St. Ignace even treated all of us to a brilliant fireworks display on Saturday night.

I am going to let the photos tell the rest of this story. But one thing for sure — DO NOT MISS THIS EVENT NEXT YEAR! Rumor has it, there will be a large Throttle Gal presence at the 2019 event. (wink wink)

Still Working on em….

Good afternoon!

I have noticed a bunch of requests coming in about us attending events, shows, and providing coverage. Although we would LOVE to be able to do all of these things, we (the HCICs of Throttle Gals) are still recovering from my (Doni’s) major house fire. While I (Doni) am rebuilding my home (literally) Trish is trying to cover me in the TG land. We will not be back up to 100% until I am back home with my family. Please continue to be patient while we are pushing ahead!

Thanks, and we appreciate your patience!
Doni Langdon
HCIC Throttle Gals

Doni’s Hot Air, Issue 25 “Blessings from Tragedy”

Often you hear someone say, “I’m blessed,” when you ask them how their day is going, or how life has been treating them. You don’t usually hear someone say that phrase after suffering a tragedy. However, if you ask me right now, how am I doing, I would absolutely say, I am so blessed.

My family and I suffered a huge loss when our 100 year old farmhouse was internally destroyed by a large fire in October. This fire is thought to have started as a result of a lithium-ion rechargeable power-tool battery that exploded in our modern Florida Room that existed off the kitchen. The battery explosion caused a large fire that burned through two natural gas lines, exploding the windows into my kitchen, and destroying the lower area of my home. The heat, soot, water and flames took out most of our belongings, 99% of all of our clothing, and worst of all – our beloved dogs. So, why would I say I’m blessed? Let me explain.

First off, the fire started about half an hour after my husband and youngest two children left the home to meet me and my oldest son at a robotics competition. So, no one was hurt. I got the call from the neighbors and we arrived back home about 45 minutes later. The fire was out by the time we got home, so we were spared watching it burn. The firefighters were amazing in their efforts to save our structure. The firemen attempted to save our dogs, and worked on Rusty, our beagle, for 15 minutes with CPR and a dog mask. He didn’t make it — however they went back in and saved Carter’s (my middle son’s) fish that were in his room. The aftermath? One of those fish survived and is being cared for at a friend’s home for now.

While all of this fire-fighting and pet rescuing was going on – our friends and family had sprung into action. By the time we pulled into the driveway, there were several people there to greet us with unconditional love. My sister, Steve’s aunts and uncles, friends from work,

Safety First!

friends from my Boy Scout Troop, neighbors… they were all there waiting for us. They were there with hugs, love, tears… and then came diapers. Clothing. Food. Drinks. Blankets. I literally had a Suburban sized car load of clothing in my vehicle that night for my family from our friends. Over the next few days, we continued to feel this complete enveloping of love. We went to church like always, not realizing how many people already knew (as it is a very large church). Our pastor, Danny Cox was featured in TG Issue 3 in a story about how a Corvette helped him and his wife adopt his three daughters. He was there with hugs and love, and just so much encouragement. We were offered several homes to stay in, and my sister Ashleigh and I found a perfect rental (very close to our farmhouse) while at church and never needed a long term hotel or other accommodations.

Our Go-Fund-Me exploded, giving us the much needed instant access to money to start our lives over. (By the way, if you contributed to that anonymously, THANK YOU! Many of you did that… and this is the only way I know to reach you!) Our small groups at church sent gift cards for groceries, restaurants and anything else you can think of. Our kids’ schools rallied for us. And the people from the insurance company have been extremely helpful. Everyone I have come in contact with has been helpful.

One of the many things I had to deal with was itemizing the contents of our home, specifically things that were no longer identifiable. So, I had to sift through the Florida Room, Kitchen and office to make the lists of things I could find there (and things that I knew had been there

A family heirloom corner china cabinet.

but no longer existed). The lady who was assigned to me to assist with her crew was a blessing in herself. Toni, from Rainbow International knew my home, and was devastated to see that it was so badly damaged. She and her crew took the time to ask me about items before discarding them. They saved everything they could. And things they had to throw away were thrown away with respect. I felt like she truly cared. After working next to her in my home for two and a half weeks, she became a friend. She recently called me to let me know they saved almost all of my jewelry. Now realize, I don’t have thousands of dollars in precious jewelry. I have sentimental items from friends. I have necklaces from friends made with stones, and a gorgeous wooden necklace of a bird with her three purple eggs. Inexpensive items like this aren’t usually cared for – but Toni took care of my treasures. So, I was able to salvage a few things. Steve and the boys had similar treasures… Hot Wheels cars, model cars, Hess trucks, Boy Scout patches… a few of these were able to be saved. And we are sooooo grateful. Blessed.

Rusty (Beagle) and Harley (Lab) were brothers till the end.

People popped out of the woodwork to help with a major garden relocation, to prevent destruction from the demo. A new friendship was made from an old acquaintance that I had no idea was so similar to me. Many people simply stopped by to give me a hug, a helping hand, encouragement. My rental house is so white. Even the counters are white. I have all sorts of colorful dishes, small appliances, kitchen towels, etc now to help make this house feel more like ‘home’. My sister became my clone and took over mom duties while I was itemizing the farmhouse. My inlaws came over and decorated my kids’ rooms to help them feel ‘home’.

Understand, I barely scratched the surface here on the blessings that have arisen from this. Would I give it all back to go back to my home and have my dogs again? Of course. In a heartbeat. But the way I see it, I have two choices: Cry and lament, or push through and find something to fix and make better. I choose to see the blessings instead of the pain. Does it hurt? Yes… but there is so much love that I can focus on instead. I always go back to the first blessing… No One Was Hurt. I can hug my kids tonight, and kiss them goodnight. I am here to write this story.

My challenge to you is to try to find blessings in your world. They are there. If you can open your eyes, you will see them all around you. They may appear in the form of friends and family, or in nature, or in the passionate kiss of a loved one that you didn’t expect to get. Appreciate all these blessings, as you never know if you just petted your dog for the last time.

Some of the amazing friends that helped me create the “Love Garden” out of gardens that were going to be destroyed as a result of the fire repair.

Be kind, stay positive and love those around you. It matters.


DIY Videos are Here!

At Throttle Gals, we believe in empowerment. We understand that we are all at different levels in our knowledge and understanding of the vehicle, so we have started a YouTube channel where we post how-tos and other fun stuff. Check out our DIY Video section here on the site to see more. Hopefully, you learn something you didn’t already know — or you will soon!

Head Chick in Charge

DIY Videos

Bessie Stringfield: A Young Woman With A Lot To Prove.

During a time when racism was not only common, but rampant, Bessie proved that her skin color and gender played no role in her abilities.

By: Trish Horstman

In 1930 Bessie was only 19 years old. She was facing prejudice not only as a woman of color but also as someone who rode a motorcycle – something considered edgy and taboo for the times. Despite these prejudices and a haphazard highway system, Bessie was the first African-American woman to ride across the US all by herself. Bessie was not someone easily held down, though. She lived by a simple and inspiring credo, “What I did was fun, and I loved it.”

stringfield2Bad roads, mainly unpaved and scarred with challenges were some of the many hurdles Bessie would face on her travels. But discrimination and Jim Crow laws put even stronger hurdles in front of her. Nothing fazed her, though. She was an experienced rider, willing to face any and all of it to have fun on two wheels.

So where did this incredible gal get her strong footing in life? From humble and strong beginnings, of course. She was born on February 9, 1911 in Kingston, Jamaica. Her birth name was Betsy Ellis. She was born to a white Dutch mother and a Jamaican father. At the age of 5, after moving to Boston, both of Betsy’s parents died from Smallpox. It is undocumented when or why her name was changed to Bessie, but it can only be assumed it was when she was adopted in Boston by an Irish Catholic woman. Though raised devout, her “mother”, as she called her, obviously raised Bessie to be the strong gal she was.

At 16 she asked her mother for a motorcycle. She obliged and gifted her a 1928 Indian Scout. She took quickly to riding and said that God himself (“the Man Upstairs”, as she called him) gave her the innate ability to ride. “When I get on the motorcycle I put the Man Upstairs on the front. I’m very happy on two wheels,” she told journalist and author Ann Ferrar in Hear Me Roar: Women, Motorcycles, and the Rapture of the Road (1996).

Bessie_StringfieldAt 19 she made her first trek across the United States. But this was not the only time Bessie made the trip. She actually traveled from coast to coast a total of eight times in her life, visiting all of the 48 contiguous states. She even left the country and visited Brazil, Haiti and parts of Europe on her bike. It is said that the way she would choose her journey was to toss a penny onto a map and travel on her motorcycle to wherever it landed. To help fund her trips, she performed motorcycle stunts for local carnivals, which became part of what helped secure her fame.

Bessie was particular about what her favorite bike was, a 1929 Harley-Davidson. Stringfield would own 27 of them in her lifetime—“The only motorcycle ever made,” she said.

As an African-American woman traveling throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Bessie faced risks constantly. Not only did she participate in an alternative lifestyle, but also she was treated as a second-class citizen because of her skin color. She had to take extreme caution, especially in the Deep South, where black people were rarely able to move freely. She faced times when motels denied her a stay, so she slept in gas station parking lots with nothing but her motorcycle for a bed.

Bessie was a hard woman to hold down. She was married six times. After losing three babies with her first husband, it is said that Bessie’s heartbreak kept her from ever trying again to have children. Despite divorcing her third husband, Arthur Stringfield, he insisted she keep his surname, “Because I’d made it famous!” said Bessie.


By World War II, Stringfield and her Harley-Davidsons were fixtures on the motorcycle circuit around the country and parts of the world. Like many women during that time, she did her part during the War.  She worked with the United States Army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider, the only woman in her unit, carrying messages between domestic bases. She even affixed the Army crest to the front of her blue Harley 61. When it came to gals like Bessie, Rosie wasn’t kidding around with her credo, “We can do it!”

In the 1950s, Stringfield settled in Miami, where she became a registered nurse. Motorcycle clubs were on a quick rise in the country during this time. To find and ride with other like-minded folks, she founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. It is reported that she was repeatedly pulled over by police officers who claimed, “Nigger women are not allowed to ride motorcycles.”

This was far from what would take Bessie down. She was determined to be given due respect, so Stringfield arranged a meeting with the chief of police, took him to a local park, and proved her motorcycle skills first-hand by demonstrating her riding abilities. She says she was never targeted by police again. Instead, she was welcomed and performed in races. She was given the nickname “the Motorcycle Queen of Miami.”

Bessie truly paved the way for not only African-Americans but women alike. In 2000 the American Motorcycle Association honored Stringfield with an exhibition. The AMA created the Bessie Stringfield Award, which is presented annually to an individual who has been instrumental in bringing motorcycling to new audiences. She was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002. In June 2016, the Miami Times reported that 200 female riders would travel to Stringfield’s South Florida home to honor the late pioneer.

Stringfield had passed in 1993 at age 82 from complications surrounding an enlarged heart. Though her doctor had advised her to stop riding, “I told him if I don’t ride, I won’t live long. And so I never did quit.”

La Femme – A Car Designed for the Woman

(Photos by Jeni Witte)Brochure_lafemme3Long before Throttle Gals was ever thought of, Chrysler had a fantastic idea, build and market a car specifically toward women. Jeni, our Head Peon came across this car the last weekend the Chrysler Museum here in Metro Detroit would stay open, and took these photos for us. However, with the museum now shut down, there wasn’t really a great way to ask for 20161218_144200 (1)more information from the museum curators But, since they did an incredible job sharing the story with us via their storyboards, we’re going to share the story of the LaFemme, as told by the Chrysler Museum.

Was the Dodge LaFemme a brilliant idea, just slightly ahead of its time – or simply one of the auto industry’s occasional flops?

In 1954 Chrysler created two “his-and-hers” concept cars for the auto show circuit, LeComte and LaComtesse, each built from brochure_56broc3Chrysler Newport hardtops and each featuring a clear plastic roof covering the entire passenger compartment. With its bronze-and-black finish, LeComte made a bold, masculine statement, but the softly shaded LaComtesse turned more female heads.

The company’s press release described LaComtesse. “Chrysler’s exotic new plastic-top car presents a gorgeous two-tone exterior of Dusty Rose with a Pigeon Gray top. The interior is luxuriously finished in Cream and Dusty Rose leather with seat back inserts of platinum brocatelle fabric. Interior appointments are set off by specially-designed chrome hardware…” Auto show visitors responded favorably and the company began considering how it might capitalize on their interest.

With more and more women entering the workforce and exerting greater influence on family purchasing decisions, Chrysler executives foresaw a rapidly growing market for female motorists. Recruited in unprecedented numbers during World War II to fill workplace vacancies created by the exodus of men to the war effort, women were often reluctant to turn over their new jobs – and income – to returning servicemen. Postwar prosperity created new jobs for both men and women, enabling many one-car families to become two-car families. During this period Americans also embraced suburban living, generating still more demand for new automobiles among women entering the workforce and housewives alike.

And thus the LaComtesse show car of 1954 in just one year evolved into a bold new production car, one designed for the 20161218_143041‘discriminating, modern woman.’

The Dodge LaFemme was a $143 option -package version of the 1955 Custom Royal Lancer hardtop. Despite extensive advertising and promotion, sales were disappointing; Chrysler learned that only a certain number of women wanted to buy and drive automobiles painted in pink, orchid or other ‘female’ colors. Total LaFemme sales for 1955 and 1956 would not surpass 2500 units.

A half-century after the LaFemme, marketers are still looking for ways to tap a growing market of female consumers. Recently, a major brochure_56broc2electronics manufacturer introduced a ‘cell phone for women,’ with a calorie counter, camera, shopping list and other features all housed in a pink superstructure. Still, while one market research company found that 32 percent of women think using ‘female’ styles and colors to market products to women is a good idea, only 11 percent said they would buy such a product.

That sentiment is even stronger when it comes to cars. “Rightly or wrongly, women associate cars with positive images of masculinity and power,” said Virginia Scharff, author of the book Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age. “Given a choice between a LaFemme and a Barracuda, they’ll choose the Barracuda.”

More than fifty years after its brief appearance in the automotive limelight, the Dodge LaFemme remains the only automobile expressly designed for and marketed to women.

Personally, I wish that they had kept this idea for a package open, but across an entire product line. Perhaps a LaFemme package on an Imperial, or even a Challenger later on in life. I could be excited about a package on my car that included a more feminine paint job, a seat that slides a little closer to the dash and a place for my purse. Maybe even some purple accent stitching to match my paint color. I don’t think this was a bad idea, but I do think it was short sighted to limit this to a single type of car. Maybe someone out there will read this and think I have a good idea. If so, I’m happy to help you out with that 😀  ~Doni