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Story by Lois Grace

OK, now, it's time to get TOUGH. No more Mrs. Nice Guy! Even though I've ranted about this subject more than once, I think it bears repeating. No more apologizing for knowing what the heck I'm talking about! No more making excuses for actually preferring a car show to a day of shopping! Well, OK, that last one might be taking things a bit too far, but I've had it.

It's really hard being a woman in a man's hobby. Specifically, it's hard growing up with an old VW truck, caring enough about that truck to spend half your adult life searching for the right person to restore it, then, when all the hard work is done and the money is spent, have some jerk at a car show wanna talk to your HUSBAND about it and how hard HE worked to get the project finished. GEEEEESH. It's enough to make me scream, except that screaming in frustration seems to be a typically female thing to do and doesn't lend a shred of credibility to what I'm saying. So I won't. But it's happened more than once. Rob and I will be sitting there next to Vernon at some show and some guy will wander by to admire Vern, and (without a second glance at me) then begin asking Rob all sorts of questions. Rob is not overly shy, and will speak up on this subject when it becomes obvious that the person asking the questions hasn't got a clue that he, Rob, is not Vernon's owner. "I have no idea, ask HER", he'll say, pointing at me. Usually, the reaction is the same. You can see it on their faces. "WHAT?" they think, "SHE owns a TRUCK? COME ON, what gal is gonna wanna restore an old truck?" And, in all fairness to the question-asker, once they find out Vernon is mine, things usually calm down and we have a nice conversation. But I think I also amaze them that I know as much as I do about my truck and VW's and cars in general - I didn't mean to soak up all this information, it just sort of found me once I had the interest. I have even had to tell a few that no, Volkswagen did NOT go berserk and "cut up a few buses" to make single cabs. They really were factory originals. I hope that doesn't read as a conceited testimonial to my knowledge (I'm really not all that smart) but just as a means of saying that some people have a hard time believing I might know what I'm talking about.

I feel safe in saying that there are quite a few guys in the car hobby who don't take women in the same hobby seriously. Now don't get your shorts in a twist, fellas, it's no reflection on you personally! It's just that never before has there been such a completely MEN-ONLY hobby permeated so thoroughly by women. In the 10 years or so that I've been involved with the vintage VW scene, I've seen many more women join the ranks of those of us who find this genuine FUN. And, I'm not talking about the phony women either - those with silicone bodies and entire bikini wardrobes don't count as enthusiasts. If these ladies could win the same $100 award (or whatever it is) prancing around in their undies for another event, they'd do it. They don't care what the event is, as long as there is the chance of a cash award in there somewhere - they have no real interest in the cars or the people who bring them. I'm talking about REAL GENUINE female people who find old cars interesting. Like me.

When I joined the VVWCA for help in restoring Vernon, I had NO idea what I was getting into. I had no idea that my passion for this old beat up truck would lead me down this merry path, right into what I assume (and hope) will be a lifelong involvement with things automotive. And, since I was raised to be comfortable around wrenches and floor jacks and grease and machinery, it was no great stretch to sit down and make myself comfortable within the vintage VW hobby. And, to give credit where it is due, this same hobby and its members have embraced me with open arms and made me feel truly welcome. While some people may find the 15-25 year old age bracket a bit hard to handle, I think the ages of VW enthusiasts may have something to do with my feeling so comfortable. In large part, they don't care if you're a guy or a girl; they just care about whatever it is you DROVE to the show. If I may be allowed a gross generalization here, older people (and I include myself in this group) tend to be more gender-oriented when it comes to cars and knowledge. Older men assume ALL women are only at a car show because some husband dragged her there. The women older guys see within the car hobby fall into two categories: bored wives and bleached bikini bimbos. If they look a little deeper, they'll find out that it's much, much more than this.

And, why not?? Women like cars too! There are lots of us who care about what we drive! There are lots of us who don't wanna merely stand on a stage after the drags and be bikini contestants or hand out trophies, we wanna RACE THE CARS!! There are lots of us who change our own oil, adjust our own valves, and can remove and replace an engine as well as the next guy. There are those of us who know more than many guys about our cars, and other cars as well. And, SURPRISE!! It's not because we WISH we were guys, either! We like being women! It's just that we like cars too! The prevailing attitude, sometimes, is that if you're a woman in a man's hobby, then you must be, uh, let's just say, DIFFERENT. And, nothing could be further from the truth. Not that it's a BAD thing to be different. But it irks me when I run into this because it's so narrow-minded. There are a lot of guys who can sew, and cook and do lots of other traditionally "women only" jobs. There are male nurses and flight attendants and secretaries. So, guys, LIGHTEN UP and let us have our fun without lots of weird looks and strange comments.

And, when it comes to actually KNOWING anything about cars, a lot of guys think I must be one of those "little gals" who just paid some guy to restore her car. They think I don't actually know anything about my cars or the process it took to get them to where they are now. Well, surprise again! Lots of us women do take the time to find out the different between vacuum advance and centrifugal advance distributors, and can tell you why we prefer one or the other. (Not that any woman I know would actually prefer vacuum advance................) Lots of us DO know that the .009 on our '59 single cab is not stock, and ditto for the blue coil, and we don't need to be told this fact when you are viewing our truck at a car show. (Not that anyone ever tried this with me or anything) And, contrary to the guy who tried to tell me otherwise, my 28PCI IS the correct carburetor for my 36hp engine. And, yoo-hoo, it's NOT called a PICT 28!!! So there. Some men don't like to know that us women know as much as they do. I'm not saying that I do, either. I'm just saying that there are guys out there who would prefer that women do whatever it is women do, and leave the machinery and mechanics of autos to the guys. That's fine, they're entitled to their opinion, but I say it's also fine if I want to tinker with my cars. Now, mind you, I don't go out of my way to display what little I do know (it wouldn't take that long anyhow). No, it doesn't matter to me if everyone knows I change my own oil or not, but for some reason, guys like this seem to want to catch me in a lie somewhere or something. Do guys talk like this to each other?? I think not! I mean, guys aren't always right either and there's plenty of misinformation out there. So, if I don't know something, I say so. I can admit I'm wrong too, something plenty of men have trouble with when confronted about it.

Being a woman in a man's hobby means that you look for places to do business that will treat you as "one of the guys". To me, that means being treated with respect and as if I'm not a total idiot. Places that don't talk down to me or call me "little lady" earn my repeat visits. I once went into a VW junkyard to see about buying a 36hp heater box for Vernon. I know, try to find these now at a junkyard! But then, I'd called ahead of time, was told they actually had a couple and yes, come on down with your money. So, I show up, only to find that I knew more about the heater box than the guy running the junkyard. He told me he had what I'd called about, and came around the end of the counter carrying a 1500cc heater box. I told him it wasn't right, see, this one you've got is a 1500cc model version, much later. I need 36hp!! This guy thought the more he talked, the more likely it was I'd change my mind and want this WRONG one. Now, come on! I'm not a fool, if I know to ask for a 36hp heater box in the first place, dontcha think I'm gonna know if you try to give me the wrong one?? This same place wanted to tell me (later on) that a right side rear quarter window for a '69 Bug was different from a left side rear quarter window! I had asked for one quarter window glass, and he asked me which one, right or left? So, hearing that, I said that it didn't matter, they're both the same! He acted very confused. I'm sure if I'd told him both his thumbs were on the same sides of his hands he would have had to look twice. GEEEEESH. Now, I'm sure you guys run into people like this too, but we women have to put up with this more than you do, I'd suspect. Women must look like hapless victims to these guys. If they can pawn off the wrong thing on us, it saves them the time of having to find the RIGHT thing.

When I need parts or auto supplies, I do my business at one place here in San Jose. (All Parts Auto, 4712 Meridian Ave. San Jose, CA.) I have never been treated with anything less than total respect by everyone there. When I walk in, they call me by name - I feel like Norm on "Cheers" when I open the door. This is the type of service everyone should be able to expect, and since we women get it so rarely, it's also what makes us avoid these places like the plague. All Parts is the exception to this, and I tell everyone I know about them, since they go out of their way to keep the customer happy.

I'm thinking of having t shirts made for Rob and me, when we're at shows with my cars. His will say "ASK HER" and mine will say, "YES, IT'S MINE". I haven't done this yet because it sounds so snotty. But I'm getting desperate. So, in conclusion, I'd like to remind everyone that regardless of whether we're men or women, we're all PEOPLE first. It's sometimes hard not to judge what you're hearing by the bearer of the information, but if you try that with a certain blonde showing either a black and white convertible Bug or a Dove Blue single cab, expect to be slapped silly. After all, they call me VOLKSWOMAN, not VolksBabe.

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