Plenty of boys begin lusting after cars at an early age, ready either to dive into a project car or a brand new performance car (depending upon levels of means and motivation). But you don't often hear about those Mona Lisa Vito gals so into cars they can do everything from rebuilding V8 engines to distinguishing the minute year-to-year differences in headlamp bezels. This is the story of one such girl from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She's the girl who played with Fieros.
Michhiker, a poster on Pennock's Fiero Forum from Mount Pleasant, Mich., began chronicling his daughter Kathryn's hands-on car restoring experience ever since she asked him, at the age of 12, if she could use her babysitting money to buy a Pontiac Fiero and spend the next four years getting it ready for her 16th birthday.
Of Kathryn's initial foray into the labor intensive world of auto restoration, her dad said:
"Our 12 year old DAUGHTER came in and said, 'Dad, Mom, can we talk for a minute?' We agreed, and she presented us with something she had been thinking about. She said that she would like to buy a car with her babysitting money. We were like, you are only 12.
Now I should tell you that she is 12 going on 22, but she presented these arguements to us.
1. She would like to buy a Fiero because she saw one at a show and thinks they are cool (we are Corvette people, so she has been around a few shows). Fair enough I like GM products and remember the Fiero fondly from my youth.
2. She makes the arguement that it gets reasonably good gas milage
3. It is relatively inexpensive, so she would be able to afford it.
4. She could completely restore it in the 4 years until she turns 16
5. She would learn about how cars work, it would be a cheap education for the money
6. She would only have the capacity to take one friend along with her, so there would be less distraction
7. She wants a manual so she would learn how to drive stick
8. When it is done it would be a cool historic sports car
9. She would pay for it all herself."
Kathryn made a compelling argument, bought an old beather Fiero and dove right in. Along with her parents and uncle (but Kathryn seems to have done most of the work), she's been at it two years now. As the photos posted on the forum show, she's had no problems getting her hands dirty. Her once ragged out Fiero is already taking shape as a cool black and yellow-themed custom, minus the copius amounts of rust it hid beneath fiberglass body panels when she bought it.
Jalopnik took a gander at her progress over the past couple of years, and at 14, Kathryn's gone from simple sanding and spray painting to sand blasting, welding, upholstry work and everything else she needs to do to make her car the coolest one in the high school lot in a couple of years. But she admitted to being a bit nervous when she first started welding:
Okay wielding looks terrifiying ... I was doing just fine until I'd hit the points where big sparks would come out of no where and make me jump so I felt pretty good when even with a hammer the metal pieces wouldn't come apart."
Kathryn began adding her own posts to the thread after her father had been chronicling her project for a year, and seems to have picked up a pretty good following over the last year.
"She could come work at my shop anytime I am sure she would out do the guys. Great to see younger people intrested in working on cars rather than just trashing them,"
said poster whodeanie, from Woodstock Georgia, with Kathryn's dad replying:
"She has seen some of your work. The fact that you even thought some of her stuff was ok will make her day as much as it has made mine. Thanks for stopping by to say hey and wish her luck. It means a lot, and you guys are the bestest!"
Many of the forum's posters have offered amazement at Kathryn's motivation, bemoaning their own video game-playing children's laziness and lack of interest in cars (as if!). Last summer, one guy observed of his own son:
"I've been lurking on the thread for a while. Wish my 14-year-old son had your go-git-'em attitude.
An Ohio resident said:
"Wow. My 15 year old daughter has absolutely no interest in cars other than wanting to be given a cool/cute one when she turns 16."
If his daughter actually reads the forum (which it doesn't sound as if she does), I can just picture the disgusted eye rolling that would result from her reading her dad's comments.
Kathryn's presence on the forum has become the stuff of legend, so to speak. You know how forum posters are. They can get pretty snarky. While no one is overtly rude to Kathryn, they can get a little testy when her updates don't show up for a while. Hey where are you? vs. Sorry for the lapse! I had soccer and school! exchanges go down, with posters throwing Kathryn gobs of atta girl for staying in the game. It's important to note, however, that she decided to sit out sping soccer this year to be able to spend more time on her project Fiero.
But Kathryn's persistence has paid off. As she's transformed from girl into young lady, Kathryn has also become aquainted with her ride in a way that most high school students never are. Now, people on the Fiero forum are even asking her for advice, covering everything from cleaning up tail lamps to buying a Fiero.
"Okay this is new, people coming to ME for car stuff. Interesting, but I'll give it my best shot ... Thank you everyone for being so patient with me so just spread the word that I AM BACK!!! But literally I'm glad to be working on my car again, I've missed my baby (when I refer to my baby it's my Fiero! Just to let you know).
But her dad's words sum up Kathryn's milieu best: "Is it just me, or do I have a really cool daughter?"
(Hat tip to Mr. J. Jones!)
Photo credit: Michhiker, Pennock's Fiero Forum