The Woman Warrior Project

The Woman Warrior Project

Finding Women passionate about working on cars is becoming easier than it was five or ten years ago. Recently I received a message on Teresa’s Garage Facebook page from a young woman who liked the page. Being inquisitive, I responded back to see if she too was an admirer of vintage iron.

It turns out she was, and in turn, she referred me to another Facebook page where a group of women were more than admirers, but actually mechanics, or currently working in the Automotive Industry in some capacity. I find it exhilarating to see that other women are performing incredible things with cars.

This group is undertaking the Warrior Project. Just what is the Warrior Project? Their Mission Statement says it all: To encourage participation of women in all aspects of the automotive industry.

So what is this project all about? AMX-rolls-to-loading-300x176

The Warrior Project started out as a conversation about doing a rebuild project on a car. This was during the annual SEMA Show, the world’s premier automotive specialty products trade event in Las Vegas. This was the initial idea and it grew from there. This project is like no other; and it will demonstrate the talents that women have in the Automotive Industry.

According to the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) women, the number of certified female technicians has more than tripled in the last ten years, but still makes up only one percent of the total ASE-certified technicians.

Let’s look at how women add up in the automotive corporate world. There are seven women out of 52 officers for Ford Motor Company, and their female engineers have more than doubled since 1990. The number of men has only jumped 21% during the same period.

So are women really good for the industry? Absolutely! They think differently, are well balanced, and have core values. Women are relationship builders with a strong sense of community responsibilities. And since women make up 80% of the buying decisions, they are able to understand the needs and desires of a woman when it comes to their cars.

AMX-at-Paint-and-Body-Show-740x431This project, known as the Valkyrie Project, has a wide range of talented women in the automotive industry working hard to design, fabricate and rebuild this beautiful, powerful 1969 AMX, which will debut at the Hot Rod Power Tour 2015, the largest road trip in the world, with several thousand cars traveling to seven cities in seven days.

The exciting part for me is that a few of these women will soon be guests on Teresa’s Garage Radio.

Who makes up this amazing group of women and what role does each play in bringing this project to reality?

Susan Carpenter – President, JR Products

A fearless leader, Susan has successfully served the automotive and recreational vehicle related industries for over 20 years. Leading JR Products into their 15th consecutive record sales year, she credits the company’s industry leading retail packaging design, aggressive marketing and specialized merchandising programs along with award winning customer service as contributing factors to their continued success.

Dr. Karen Salvaggio – Owner, Thunder Valley Racing

Personal motto: Dream big; Work hard!! Karen brings a wealth of motorsports, education, and leadership experience to any project. A military veteran and master mechanic, Karen served nine years in the U.S. Air Force as a crew chief on B-52’s and KC-135 aircraft. Karen garnered numerous Distinguished Service Medals before leaving the military to pursue her advanced education. She holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

Nan Gelhard – Advertising Manager, Summit Racing
Nan is an advertising and PR pro and knows the performance automotive aftermarket industry. Since she has worked directly with many of the industry’s movers and shakers, from manufacturers to the media, she will be working with manufacturers to get parts for the AMX, and with the media to bring the project to enthusiasts. Nan also currently serves on the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network Select Committee.

Christina Kwan – Kwan International Marketing & Media

Since founding her company in 2007, Christina has dedicated her efforts primarily to representing clients in the capacities of marketing and public relations in the automotive and motorsports industry. Having represented an NHRA Nitro Funny car, to building her own drag boat from bare block, Christina enjoys writing press content equally as much as she enjoys working on engines and racing.


JoAnn Bortles – Owner, Crazy Horse Custom Paint

JoAnn Bortles is an award winning custom automotive painter, airbrush artist, certified welder/fabricator, author, and photo journalist with over 30 years of experience in the automotive industry. She has appeared on The Today Show, NBC News, Musclecar TV, and TruTv’s Motor City Masters.

Julia Johnson – Instructor of Automotive Technology, Skyline College

Julia Johnson began her automotive career as an auto tech student at Skyline College. During her student years she built a 12-second drag car, won 9 scholarships, worked in independent repair shops, earned 6 ASE certificates, and an EA Smog License, and started teaching automotive classes, just for women.

Amy Fitzgerald – Owner, Cool Hand Customs

Amy Fitzgerald is co-owner, along with her husband EJ, of Cool Hand Customs, an old school Hot Rod Shop and a high-end painting, airbrushing and fabrication business in Middleton, Wisconsin. Amy’s lifelong passion for cars has helped the business expand; moving from working on motorcycles in their garage to managing a broad range of projects on new and vintage automobiles, motorcycles and trucks. In the world of custom vehicles, Amy is used to being one of the only women in the room, but that doesn’t bother her at all. Her favorite part of the industry is working with the younger generation.

Reference: Warrior Projects

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