Camo Cars

Hi, my name is Doni, and I’m a gear head. I am a bit crazy about motorized vehicles in general, but especially when I see one of those ‘camoflauged’ cars. You know the ones.. Wrapped in crazy stripes and the drivers drive weird so you can’t check them out too closely.  I’ve been catching glimpses of them around the M59 corridor lately, and it had me thinking: how much fun would it be to just camo wrap your daily driver?

Think about it. Get your Cavalier (or any other normal car), and wrap it all up in funky black and white swirly designs. Maybe for fun glue some weird shaped foam to your bumper first to make it look like you’re hiding something. Then drive like a weirdo. People will think you are some special person ‘allowed’ to test drive prototypes. And any erratic movements will be assumed that you are trying to shake off people looking too close.

And all that body work damage or rust you have to deal with will be totally hidden. Actually, put a bit of foam in those areas to block it out, perhaps to ‘hide’ experimental design elements of your vehicle. And poof- you have a really cool car. No matter what you drive.

*this is written in satire form, however if you choose to do this, send us pics!

Ford GT350 Review

GT350 Old and New

“It’s a great time to be a geek.” What? Geek? Geeks are people who are into the latest technology. The ones who love gadgets.  Jim Owens, of Ford Performance explains, “Today’s cars are amping up high performance like their 60’s muscle counterparts – but with the latest in safety and performance gadgets. When you grab one of these (GT350R) cars and misjudge a braking distance, these cars will stop! It’s not like the athlete drivers of the 60’s whose drum/discs may or may not have properly functioned on the racetrack.


GT350 console

Console of the Technology ‘flavor’

The GT350 comes in a few flavors. There is the ‘Technology Package” which, as you may expect, is fully loaded in all things “Geek”. From the state of the art navigation system, advanced steering wheel controls, you can really customize this car on the fly. Changing suspension modes, monitoring fluid temperatures and customizing the heads-up display is just the beginning of the technology in this car. If you are a typical street driving consumer, and plan to enjoy the 526 horses on your daily drive to work, this car is definitely for you.


The Track Pack takes away some of the ‘Technology” by way of the navigation system but gains additional performance upgrades such as a rear differential cooler, trans cooler, and the Recaro Racing seats. Because of the immense amount of engineering done, the seat not only fits like a glove – but also is comfortable for both me and my 5’4” frame, but also Eric, our Token Male, at 6’. The seats are designed to remain comfortable even while wearing full racing gear – in our case a hybrid head and neck device and helmet.


For the hard core racing enthusiast, the R series is for you! The GT350R is immediately distinguishable by the red badge, the taller carbon fiber wing and low front splitter. Initially the R series was set up with the same rear spoiler as the rest of the line, but with the weight reduction of the luxury items. Think no back seat, no AC and nothing in the trunk including carpet, along with the carbon fiber wheels. This car needed the additional down-force.


The GT350R Badge makes this immediately recognizable

All of this info is great, but can be found in about any tech or sales sheet. What you won’t find there is how this car made me feel!


When the opportunity to drive the GT350 arose, I was elated. I read up on the car, asked tons of questions and prepared as much as I could. But nothing could honestly prepare me for the exhilarating experience behind the wheel. My first car to drive at the track was the R. It took me a lap to ‘trust’ the car, to gain confidence that I wouldn’t spin out in the corners, or overshoot a turn and end up in the grass. You know the feeling when you are strapped into a Boeing 757 and it takes off? Yeah, acceleration felt like that… but faster! When the professional driver took the wheel I was flat back in my seat instantly.


The flat plane crank, naturally aspirated (meaning no supercharger, etc) 502 felt good. Throaty. Muscular. The manual transmission shift points were close, quickly responsive and running this engine to 8250 RPM was a thrilling experience to say the least. And sticking to corners is a place where this car shines brightly.


Specific to the R series are the proprietary carbon fiber wheels and sticky composition tires. I felt this difference significantly between the Track Pack version that does not have this. There was no shift in the tires on the R – where there was a minimal amount of roll and slide on the Track Pack. The R could have been on rails. I actually underestimated my speed once and grabbed a turn late, near 50-60 MPH on a tight right, and she just took it.


In addition to the wheels and tires, there are a few significant differences to the R. The R is 120 pounds lighter than the Track Pack. Each wheel is 15 pounds lighter, and the composition of the Michelin tires is specific to this car only. The brakes are different. The rotors are larger and all directionally vented. Six pistons close the front caliper versus the 4-piston setup on the other models.

Carbon Fiber wheels are really this light!

Carbon Fiber wheels are really this light!


A really cool function of the car is the exhaust. There is actually a valve that diverts the exhaust depending on function. If you want to cruise out of your subdivision quietly, the valve remains in position to utilize all of the muffling systems. When you want to wake up the world, you can open that baby up and roar!


After driving this car, I realize I am totally a geek. And I am proud to admit it. The smile stayed on my face until well after the ferry ride back to Michigan, and returns as I write this. This car made me feel good. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can buy a GT350R, and that seems a close second!


Wheels Day – UK: By Holly King

Note: To those who haven’t picked up a hard copy of Throttle Gals lately, we have expanded worldwide! We regularly receive submissions from our Throttle Gals Australia team about cool happenings over in Oz, and we recently became friends with Holly King – Throttle Gal extraordinaire across the pond in the United Kingdom! She regularly sends us a variety of stories, including: car shows, interest pieces and more! Here is one from her that will be internet only, due to the timing of the show versus the next issue of Throttle Gals (due out in June 2015). Please enjoy!
~Doni Langdon, Head Chick in Charge


At the start of April Surrey Street Rodders held their annual show, which attracts possibly the most eclectic collection of interesting cars to gather in any one place in the country.  I went along riding shotgun in a friends’ 1979 Saab 99, thats been retrofitted to a faster-than-turbo spec, and we were both a bit surprised when the car was ushered onto the show field.  Unfortunately, due to a very rainy start to the day, attendance was well down so the show wasn’t just restricted to pre-booked cars.  The Saab, however, did attract a lot of attention, so it was worthy of being there!

Fortunately we were fashionably late enough to miss the rain, so we had a pleasant wander around the hundreds of obscure or just plain bizarre cars that had braved the spring showers, had an ice cream, and perused the trade stands for interesting bits of tat.  It was nice to be able to check out some great cars, and hopefully later in the year I’ll get to see some more of them at other shows, and have more time so I can catch up with some of the ladies who I saw with cool cars.

(and yes, I’ve deliberately picked out photos of the most European cars of interest on purpose!)

A Triumph Herald, mildly upgraded from a 1.2 litre straight 4 to a small block Chevy

A Triumph Herald, mildly upgraded from a 1.2 litre straight 4 to a small block Chevy

This is smaller than it looks in the picture – it's an original Fiat Multipla

This is smaller than it looks in the picture – it’s an original Fiat Multipla

It's not often you get to see a 1990 Renault 5 GT Turbo next to a Jaguar XK120 Coupe – diversity!

It’s not often you get to see a 1990 Renault 5 GT Turbo next to a Jaguar XK120 Coupe – diversity!


A rather fab yet ratty Ford Popular, it runs a modern straight 4

A rather fab yet ratty Ford Popular, it runs a modern straight 4





 I have no idea what this is, but it's small and has a beautiful ass

I have no idea what this is, but it’s small and has a beautiful ass


There was no originally-shaped panel on this Morris Minor; it was cut, sectioned, chopped, yet still managed to find space for a V8

There was no originally-shaped panel on this Morris Minor; it was cut, sectioned, chopped, yet still managed to find space for a V8


An Austin 7 with a speedster body.  Behind it is a Morgan 3 wheeler (with a transverse V-tein engine), also custom-bodied

An Austin 7 with a speedster body.  Behind it is a Morgan 3 wheeler (with a transverse V-tein engine), also custom-bodied


These are Scamps, a kit car based on Minis and mostly made out of 1” box section.  A very British invention!

These are Scamps, a kit car based on Minis and mostly made out of 1” box section.  A very British invention!

Head Chick in Charge interviewed by Lori Bentley Law of Motordolls

It is a little strange being on the receiving end of an interview, but what fun to be interviewed by Motordolls! Lori is an incredible lady, and to make her even cooler, she rocks a 1948 Ford truck affectionately called Bonderella! More on her in the next issue of Throttle Gals! For now, take a gander at her site, and the mini bio of our Head Chick in Charge – Doni!

Doni at home in the engine compartment of her 1959 Chevy

Doni at home in the engine compartment of her 1959 Chevy


Ride. Repair. Repeat. (Great Race 2014 – From Issue 12!)

by Tabetha HammerGreat Race Start - Hagerty, Peerless Grean Dragon

Ride. Repair. Repeat.

That’s the motto of the Hemming’s Motor News Great Race Presented by Hagerty – a nine day, 2,100+ mile time-speed-distance rally put on annually at the end of June by the Coker Group. More than 100 vintage vehicles, ranging from a 1915 Hudson Indy racer to a 1972 Corvette, started the race that began in Ogunquit, Maine. By the end, 97 were still running – many only after having several ‘repairs’ – to cross the finish line in The Village, Florida.

The Great Race is the most bizarre, challenging yet exciting and addicting ‘Car Gal/Guy’ game you can play. For nine days, teams rally through the beautiful back roads of the great American countryside, living by the exact directions and speeds as set and given by the event Rally Master, in a true time-speed-distance rally form.

The objective is not to be the fastest and first one to cross the finish line – but to be the one who navigates the course the most precisely according to the course instructions. To accomplish such a thing requires consistent and precise driving, attention to detail, quick math capabilities, a good driver/navigator relationship – and for the race car to be in adequate running condition to endure long distance driving, hot temperatures, rainy days and sometimes hard acceleration or braking to make up for lost time, when necessary.

The Team – Driver, Navigator and Carphoto 3
This year, the Hagerty all-female team (one of only two all-female teams entered) was comprised of my teammate, Samantha Bonter, as the navigator and me as the driver. We piloted a Wimbledon White 1964 ½ Ford Mustang coupe, which was recently restored by over 100 employees at Hagerty – the world’s largest provider of classic vehicle insurance and the presenting sponsor of The Great Race.

The car was purchased by Hagerty in October, 2013 near San Francisco, CA and was driven back to Hagerty headquarters in Traverse City, MI. There were several minor complications that came along with a car that was drivable but needed restoration. The team who drove it from California made it to Michigan completely under their own power and the restoration started shortly thereafter.

Hagerty’s employee restoration program is designed forHagerty 1917 Peerless - Great Race any of the 500+ employees to get their hands dirty while learning restoration processes. Not only is it just simply cool to get to wrench on old cars and call it ‘work,’ but it also gives employees first-hand knowledge of the immense amount of work that goes into taking care of old cars and why it might take so long or be more expensive to repair a classic car in an insurance claim scenario versus a modern driver. The Ford Mustang is the third vehicle that Hagerty employees have restored, joining a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro and a 1930 Ford Model A roadster.
The Mustang restoration was completed in early April, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the car on April 17th. To celebrate, we had the car in New York at the grounds of the World’s Fair where the Mustang was originally debuted in 1964. This car in particular is an early example, with a May 1 production date, and has a short ownership list, including only two others prior to Hagerty.

Powered by a 260 cubic inch power plant producing 164 horsepower, the Mustang had plenty of necessary ‘go’ while still offering an enjoyable and comfortable driving experience. The three-speed manual transmission also made it easier than an automatic to maintain steady speed and consistent acceleration/deceleration – critical tactics in a time-speed-distance rally.

The Great Race was the first long-distance ‘shake down’ for the Mustang after completing the restoration – and I am proud to say that of the ‘Ride. Repair. Repeat’ motto, we only had to do the middle part of ‘repairing’ a couple times. However, one of those times resulted in us dropping from our 16th overall place leading into the two last days of the race to 96th place. Another motto of The Great Race is ‘To Finish is to win,’ which is an important one for us in this case. The mechanical fuel pump gave out on the Mustang in the second to last day of the race, which resulted in Samantha and me converting and installing an electric pump while on the side of the rode (we didn’t have a spare mechanical pump) and, even though we dropped to the very end of the placing, we drove in to the finish line that day under our own power and was able to finish the race. If there is any accomplishment to be proud of, it is having the ability to fix our own car and not have to be hauled in on the ‘sweeper’ truck after a break down.

In addition to the Team Mustang, Hagerty also had a second team – the ‘Guys,’ Jonathan Klinger (driver) and Davin Reckow (navigator) in a 1917 Peerless ‘Green Dragon.’ The ‘Green Dragon’ is the longest consecutively entered vehicle in The Great Race with 19 entries. While it definitely turns heads with its speedy appearance and loud exhaust, the ‘Green Dragon’ does not have as many ‘comforts’ as the Mustang. With a heavy suspension the car is a workout to pilot down the road and an open cockpit means extra ‘showers’ for the guys when the skies decide to open up and pour out rain in the middle of the day.

The ‘Green Dragon’ team fared very well in the event, placing 12th overall and 2nd in the Sportsman Division. Over the course of the nine days and more than 2,100 miles, the guys had a total score of 1 minute and 48seconds off the perfect time. Only 48 seconds separated them and the Grand Champion team (Irene and Barry Jason driving a 1966 Ford Mustang). Forty-eight seconds may not seem like anything – but in the context of a time-speed-distance rally, 48 seconds might as well be 48 laps.

What is a Time-Speed-Distance Rally?
It’s important to understand what a time-speed-distance rally is to fully appreciate the fun, yet challenging, experience of The Great Race. If you are not a timely person, you will not fare well in a time-speed-distance (TSD) event. Every part of your day during the event is structured to being on time – and being ‘on time’ means down to the exact second.

A TSD rally is set up on the premises that it takes a specific amount of time to travel a distance from Point A to Point B going a certain speed, which is given in course instructions as set by the Rally Master and control team. What is not taken in account is the amount of time lost on acceleration and deceleration to and from the speeds that are given or for things like stop signs and lights, traffic barriers or anything else that might keep you from holding a steady speed – such as the farm implement taking up the entire roadway and moving at a speed of 10mph when you are supposed to be doing 30mph.

Maps, GPS, computers or any other electronic device (with the exception of one digital stop watch, one analog kitchen clock and one analog wrist watch) are absolutely not allowed. It is truly driver, navigator and machine versus the computed time and driving route.

Each day teams start out with a new starting position number, which dictates what time they should leave the start line. Teams are expected to depart the start in one-minute increments of each other. So, if the official starting time is 7am and your team’s starting number is 15, your actual start time is exactly 7:15:00am (hour, minute, second). But, here’s the catch. Seeing the course instructions do not take into account time loss for acceleration and deceleration, teams have to make their own adjustments for however long it takes them to get their vehicle to the specified speed so that they are certain their vehicle is maintaining that speed at exactly 7:15am.

For example, if the official start time is 7am, your starting number is 15 and the speed you should be going is 30mph and you know that it takes you three seconds to accelerate from 0mph to 30mph your new start time is 7:15:47 (start time of 7:15 minus three seconds acceleration time).

How does each team know exactly how much time it takes them to accelerate to and from each speed?

Performance time charts are the answer and are an absolute must in order to be competitive. Without a chart, which is built by each team prior to the event and based on each person’s driving habits, it’s like ‘shooting in the dark’ for knowing if you are accurately on time or not. Similarly, if the driver is not consistent in acceleration and deceleration, the time chart is pointless.

To calculate if each team is on time, random checkpoints are set up throughout the driving course. Teams do not know where checkpoints will appear, what time they are supposed to arrive or how many there will be each 4

A checkpoint merely consists of a control team set up on the side of the road with a marker and as each car passes by that marker, a time is recorded and submitted to the Rally Master. That time is compared to the actual amount of time it should have taken the vehicle to travel from Point A to that checkpoint. This is how scores are calculated – based on how many seconds a vehicle arrives early or late to a checkpoint.

If a team crosses the checkpoint at the exact right second (meaning they have done all maneuvers exactly perfectly and no time is lost) an ‘Ace’ is awarded. The Hagerty Mustang team earned two Aces over the nine days. The ‘Green Dragon’ team earned three Aces – and to put that into perspective, the Grand Champion team earned 15.

Several veteran ‘Great Racers’ have a saying that a perfect score/ace is ‘just luck’, but a score of 1-second early/late is skill – because there is room for slight differences in perception on when the control team ‘clocks’ each team as they pass by. Going by this theory, our Hagerty Mustang team was ‘skilled’ enough to receive eight 1-second scores… not too shabby!

Course Instructions – The Maneuvers
Each morning a set of course instructions is given to teams 30-minutes prior to their start time. The instructions are set up to include only the very basics, but everything you need. Contrary to some rallies, The Great Race instructions are not designed to try to ‘trick’ teams. They do not include things like ‘look for the white house with the garden gnome that is holding a pink flower.’ Instead, the instructions include a simplistic visual of what street sign, road or other landmark we are looking for, the speed to be maintaining at that location, occasionally an additional element that is referred to as a ‘maneuver,’ such as holding a speed for a specified amount of time and then changing to another speed, and sometimes brief notes identifying a ‘comes quick’ or ‘look sharp’ for signs that might be difficult to see.

The performance time charts are crucial when it comes to doing each maneuver properly, taking into account time loss for changing speeds. The easiest example to give is in the case of a stop sign. Each stop sign maneuver is calculated for a 15-second hold in the course instructions. Also based on the instructions, teams know at what speed they are coming into the stop sign at and at what speed they should be doing leaving the stop. Using the time charts, they calculate how much time it takes to decelerate from the speed into the stop down to 0 mph and then from 0 mph back up to the stated speed, and adjust the number of seconds (from 15) that they sit at the stop sign to accommodate.

If, in the case of oncoming traffic, the driver cannot leave the stop sign on the appropriate second, it becomes the navigator’s job to time how many additional seconds are lost until they start moving so the time can be made up. It’s things like the oncoming traffic and other ‘distractions’ that make the part of keeping exact speed and time so challenging and frustrating – but also fun to try to quickly calculate ‘on the fly’ exactly how to make up the time.

Sight Seeing? What Sight Seeing?
When thinking of a 2,000+ mile classic car driving event, most people automatically think of a driving tour that the driver and passengers kick back, enjoy the wind in their face, take in all of the sights around them while cruising down the open road at a comfortable speed and being able to stop at a moment’s notice for bathroom breaks, sight-seeing and stretch breaks. Not the case with The Great Race.

The moment the driver or navigator breaks their attention to the speed, course instructions or the clockHagerty Mustang (3) - Great Race and stopwatch is the moment a maneuver, turn or sign is missed. Then it becomes a case of trying to make up time or trying to figure out how to get back on course if a turn is missed – and yes, this is usually where the swear words start to fly and the drive gets a bit more exciting if having to pass other race cars to get back to the position where you are supposed to be.

Fuel stops and bathroom breaks are also built in to the timing of the day. If you absolutely must make a stop for whatever reason, flat tire, bathroom, or otherwise, during a section of the day that is not noted as being ‘off the clock,’ teams have to try to make up the exact amount of time lost.

With so much required focus and attention to detail, the days can be grueling and mentally exhausting. Not to mention, a challenge for the ‘chemistry’ between driver and navigator.

Driver vs. Navigator
It is often asked if it is easier to be the driver or navigator – And the answer often depends on which person is asked. After all, the grass is always greener on the other side!

As a driver, the primary responsibility is to maintain perfect speed and consistent driving habits from day one to day nine. It is very easy to get caught up in the excitement of ‘racing’ and start accelerating or braking faster or take corners harder, but if not maintaining consistency to what the time chart was built from, time calculations will be completely off and your day will end with frustrations when your scores result in 20, 30 and 40 seconds – or worse yet, over 1-minute – from perfect.

When it comes to holding a specific speed, if the driver allows for the speedometer needle to be even one width of either side of the mph mark they are supposed to be on, the time starts adding up and results can end up being several seconds off. A ‘rally speedometer’ is most often used, which breaks speed marks down by 1mph increments and is highly calibrated for accuracy. Driving consistently can become especially difficult when maintaining one speed for long stints of time, such as holding 45mph for over an hour when your foot and/or leg starts cramping from holding one position for so long. Yet, the driver refuses to screw up a good run to readjust after being exactly on the mark for so long, so she just grits her teeth and pushes through until relief is finally in sight with the approaching stop sign (and yes, I just might be speaking from direct experience on that!)

It also starts to get very difficult in the afternoon, especially after a fulfilling lunch of barbequed pork sandwich, blueberry bread and macaroni and cheese (thank you Millsboro, DE for a delicious hosted meal!), not to continuously yawn and want to take an afternoon siesta. Thank goodness for a well-stocked ‘goodie box’ of Red Bull and 5-hour Energy drinks!
The navigator’s job is crucial to the success of a team. They are responsible for telling the driver what to do and exactly when to do it (which is why husband/wife teams can go one of two ways…either really good or really bad!). They also take care of any timing maneuvers (like holding one speed for 1 minute and 25 seconds before accelerating to the next speed) and keeping track of any time lost for things like oncoming traffic preventing the driver from making a turn or the unanticipated construction zone worker with the dreaded ‘stop’ sign.

The fortunate side of the navigator position is they can reposition themselves in the seat as frequently as needed and move their legs whenever they want to keep them from cramping. But, they also have the daunting task of not letting directions get mixed up, being sure they are saying the correct direction to turn (and that the driver listens to them) and that they don’t ‘zone out’ and forget to pay attention which is always difficult after a few long days.

There are many jokes between drivers and navigators, such as the navigator’s t-shirts that say ‘blame the driver’ and driver’s version stating ‘blame the navigator’. But at the end of the day, it is both people and their chemistry and ability to work together, trust in each other and the ability to keep each other focused that makes a winning team – and even if not winning, then at least makes the ride worthwhile.

This year was Samantha’s first time navigating (it was my third year driving) – and for not having a single clue what she was truly getting herself into when I asked her to be my teammate, she certainly did well! It says a lot for a team who literally spends all day in a car together, then shares a hotel room, and does it all again, day after day, for nine days straight, to come out still being friends – and even more so, closer friends than when we started.

The Journey
Each year, the route of The Great Race changes location. This year’s journey took us through 19 cities along the East coast, beginning in Ogunquit, Maine and ending at The Villages, Florida.

Each town that the Great Race rolls through hosts all of the race teams and supports crews for lunch and dinner – about 300 people! The daily rallying is the ‘work’ of the event but there is something truly special and unique to roll in to a new city twice a day and be welcomed by townspeople with great applause, cheering and excitement.

While racers do not get to see a whole lot of the countryside while rallying, we do get to occasionally take it in and I have to say that this year’s route took us through some of the most beautiful areas I’ve seen yet – the hills of Vermont, the historical grounds of Valley Forge, PA, the bridge and tunnels of Chesapeake Bay, the list goes on and on.

There’s no better way to see the beauty of our great country than from behind the wheel of a great classic car (and an American built one, at that, I might add!) and to be experiencing it with several hundred other enthusiasts who are all doing it for the same reason, the enjoyment of classic cars.

The Family
Beyond the experience of piloting great classic cars through some of the most beautiful areas of the country and having the challenge of figuring out a TSD rally, the most wonderful part of The Great Race is ‘The Family.’

Spending more than a week with 100 other teams, support crews, Great Race officials and the numerous volunteers, friendships are built, memories are made and relationships kindled. The true camaraderie of teams is shown in an event like this. When all of the racers arrive to the overnight stop and teams are trying to make whatever repairs to their vehicles that are necessary before the next day to be able to keep running – that’s when it never ceases to amaze me at how many helping hands and extra parts show up. Whether the repairs are something simple like a water pump replacement or much more complex like completely pulling, rebuilding and reinstalling a transmission, it’s the ‘Family’ that stays up with you all night to get the work done and shows up bright and early the next morning with a cup of coffee for you to send you off from the start line.

At the end of the journey, even though there are definitely things of going home to look forward to, it is a bittersweet departure. But, those who are lucky enough to come back and take part in the Great Race year after year will agree that every time is just like a family reunion (or maybe even better!) with all of the teams and people – and that’s what makes the entire trip worthwhile and the most fun you can have in a classic car, no matter how frustrating some days can be when trying to figure out calculations and maneuvers.

We ride together. We repair our cars together. And we all go back out and repeat it all again together.

Relix Riot and Dream Cruise this weekend! – Metro Detroit

Looking to meet or visit with the Throttle Gals staff? You’ll find us at the Relix Riot car show at the Gilmore Museum Saturday. Look for us near the center tent. Also, Saturday night we’ll be cruising Woodward and spending some time at Murray’s annual hot rod bash. This is a charitable event. Want more info? email us at

Throttle Gals on VACATION!

FYI– Throttle Gals will be ‘closed’ for business for travel from Tomorrow, June 25 through July 14th. If you place an order on our website during that period, please understand we will not be able to get back to you until we return in July. Thanks!

Throttle Gals Car Care Class #1 — In the Books!

Guess what? Girls CAN wrench too! Early this year, Sue Christophersen and I were brainstorming about empowering women to learn basic maintenance and functions of their vehicles. Face it: Many shops see a women coming and think, “Cool, add on sales starts Now!”. I have been frustrated for years hear

Sue teaches the class basic car knowledge and maintenance.

Sue teaches the class basic car knowledge and maintenance.

ing women come out of a shop for a routine tune up — only to have had said tune up cost over $500! When asked why they paid this, the answer is always the same: They said my car NEEDED this.

My buddy Kenny works at Madison Heights Tire and Auto, so I have been heading south to pick up tires when needed for a couple years now. While in the shop, I had been watching their interaction with clients and was impressed on how they were teaching their clients what was going on with their cars. And the sales were not pushy, just informational. When I was there picking up tires for one of our projects, I mentioned to Kenny this class idea. Turns out, Joe, the owner of Mad Tire was extremely interested in providing us hospitality and the shop for this purpose!

Several ladies showed up for class #1, learning how to use their own car owner’s manual, a few basics of general car knowledge, and finished by assisting on an oil change! It was great seeing the ladies gain confidence in tool usage and recognizing the elements under the hood.

Usually you lose people from one week to another, but all the ladies returned for week #2. Joe provided a food spread both

students learn to recognize basic parts of a car. Here, a student learns about brake pads

students learn to recognize basic parts of a car. Here, a student learns about brake pads

weeks, and stayed in the background to grab us tools or operate the shop lifts. The Gals learned how to find their emergency jack and how to locate a jack position on their vehicle. They measured tire tread, checked brake components and learned about fluids. As their understanding of the basics expanded, the Gals were asking some great questions! Our classes both ran over by about an hour, because there was so much the Gals were interested in.

These Gals left the class feeling confident, encouraged, empowered and asking for more! We will be offering this class again, and hope to be able to run in more locations to open this class up to other regions. But, for the first graduating class of TGCCC Spring 2014, congratulations! Remember: Girls CAN wrench too!

The gals gather in the shop to see vehicles on the lift.

The gals gather in the shop to see vehicles on the lift.


Mary Barra – Cover Story Issue 10

Copyright General Motors

Copyright General Motors

When Trish and I heard about Mary Barra’s promotion to CEO of General Motors, we were ecstatic! Finally! But then, I started to think about her situation. How many people were going to assume she got this position because of some form of Affirmative Action? Or maybe it was a position of title only to gain GM some positive publicity? Right away, I decided I wanted to dig into this story. I knew little about her, and was astounded by what I learned.

Mary Makela was born into a GM family, as her father, Ray, was a die maker in the Pontiac division, retiring after 39 years. She loved checking out the cars parked in the dealer lots, and especially loved the Firebirds, and desired one as her first car. She could only afford a Chevette, however, so the ‘Vette was her first car. She was educated in the public school system in Waterford Twp., MI. She attended GMI (General Motors Institute, now Kettering University) graduating in 1985 and entering corporate life at the lowest GM position, intern. Because GMI is considered to be a part of General Motors, Mary actually started with GM in 1980! Moving through the ranks, Mary literally moved all over the company. She worked in Human Resources, as a Plant Manager, with production as well as in the business side. Mary worked with Fieros. She worked in Flint, Pontiac and Hamtramck with many different projects and people. Unlike GM’s past leaders, Ms Barra is an executive who has come up on the product side of things. She brought diverse people together to create dynamic teams to encourage new results. She actually encourages healthy debate within her teams! Literally ‘climbing the corporate ladder’ this Gal did not have any idea she would become the CEO.

During my research for this story, I watched an old interview of Mary Barra during the INFORUM* (, where this question was asked, “What will happen first, a female President (of the US) or a female CEO of GM?” I loved that she was humble, and stated that she had no idea. She never hinted that she expected the position, or that she thought she was in line. She was already the Senior Vice President of Global Product Development for General Motors. She stated that she had the best job at GM and that she loved working with the team.  She appeared to be very happy and content. And to top it off, she was already one of Forbes’ most powerful women.

Copyright General Motors

Mary Barra schools USA VP Biden on the Corvette – Copyright General Motors

Because of the research I had done on Mary Barra, there wasn’t much I didn’t already know or that I couldn’t find online. She is a mother of two teenagers, a boy and a girl. She has been married for almost 30 years to the same man whom she met at GM, and knows that her role, as a mother is very important. Mary stated that if there is an important family event, like a volleyball game for her daughter, she is there. It’s a balancing act, and she’s busy all the time, but she wouldn’t trade it for anything. When asked what she does with her free time, she asked, “What free time?” She figures, she’ll have free time when she retires and her kids are grown. For now, she’s living in the moment.

During my interview, I did learn a few interesting, personal tidbits.   For example, Mary likes to drive fast! Although she loves all the vehicles on the GM line (great politically correct answer here) she drives a Cadillac CTS, but she has always coveted the sporty Camaros. She’s been known to drive some of General Motor’s hot models during weekends at the track. She also gives back to the community working with charities such as Karmanos in Detroit. Mary’s mother was a two-time breast cancer survivor and Mary feels Karmanos gave her 15 additional years with her mother. This is a personal passion of hers, and she loves giving back.

She gives great credit to her mentors and people who have assisted her along the way, ranging from professors, past managers and co-workers. She doesn’t pretend she ended up where she is all by her self. She is quick to point out the people who have assisted, and trained, mentored and encouraged her.

Mary’s mom was a huge influence in her life. Eva insisted that Mary go to college. No matter what she was interested in, she needed to pursue an education. Because of Mary’s strong background in math and science, she pursued an Electrical Engineering degree. She continued her education at Stanford earning an MBA. Mary’s mom was always there for her, and although she passed in 2004, Mary still remembers her mom as a huge supportive, driving force.

Mary’s motto is, “No More Crappy Cars.” She has been involved in new product development for a few years, and we have noted that GM has taken some huge leaps forward. With the new Stingray winning Car of the Year, and the Silverado winning Truck of the year, it appears Mrs. Barra and her team are on a roll. The new GM vehicles have great lines, and are attractive inside and out. GM is aware that there is a market for cars that are beautiful and powerful, and that some folks (like me) still love that rear wheel drive sports car. They introduced the Chevrolet SS, which fits that bill to a ‘T’. The GMC Acadia was designed by a woman, and I have to admit, I really enjoy driving it. Mary understands that women have the purchasing power of the country, and I personally feel that the new lines of GM vehicles have women’s needs in mind as well as men’s.  They seem to realize that there are women ‘car guys’ out there as well. Why should a woman be relegated to a boring, predictable minivan? Although I do like my Montana, it isn’t for the normal reasons. I love that it can hold my whole family and my Harley. And it gets great gas mileage. I suspect we will see more ‘soccer moms’ driving sportier cars that show off their sparky personalities! I am a huge fan of the Holden Commodore, (from the Australian GM family) making the orphaned G8 a family favorite. So, I guess I have to agree; GM appears to be building more appealing cars!

Mary doesn’t take stock of gender when she walks into a room. She recognizes people based on achievements, ability and potential. And when a problem arises? She deals with it. “If you have a problem, you have to solve it. If you don’t deal with it, it will grow bigger and bigger until you don’t exist.”

Engineering requires a strong foundation in math and science. She deeply cares about getting the next generation into engineering and helping young gals get into math and science programs. She feels it’s important to provide initiatives and other programs to assist in learning, starting in middle school.

Why has she made it so far in the business world? She loves what she does!