The love of automobiles knows nearly no barrier. It is a passion that transcends nationality, class, race, and gender. The stories that illustrate this universal appeal always fascinate me. One of those stories was featured in the August 1957 issue of Road & Track. In the article titled “Woman Meets Sports Car”, Claire Bjoring wrote of her experiences with her first sports car.
Women have had a love of and influenced automobiles from even before its inception when Bertha Benz funded the development of the Benz Patent-Motorwagen with her dowry. Despite societal clichés, women throughout history have always had a deep understanding of the vehicles they desired to own and operate. Claire Bjoring was certainly among that group.
In the article, Bjoring recounted her time living as an expat in an undisclosed South American country and how she fell in love with performance cars. She stated how she had an “ordinary American family” with a husband, nine-year-old son and a large dog. She also noted her spouse’s love of motorsport.
While abroad, her husband was provided with a basic American sedan as a company car. He included her in a decision to purchase a sports car as a second vehicle, during which she admitted ignorance at the difference between car model types. She decided on red as the color of their new MG convertible. However, the process of importing a British sports car was less than smooth. Bjoring noted the purchasing process solely consisted of looking at photos and price lists due to import restrictions. She added that the convertible arrived in grey with a red interior due to laws that prohibited red cars in that country, with the exception of fire department vehicles.
Her early misadventures with the MG involved coming to grips with the difficulties of daily driving a sports car, going on school runs and grocery shopping. She even mentioned the young girls in the schoolyard who were always fascinated to see the sports car. She referred to the girls as “bobby-soxers-to-be”, a term that I had to look up that referred to the zealous teenage fangirls of 1940s pop music.
The low point for both husband and wife would be when the MG failed to start after a night out at a company formal party. A sudden tropical downpour was cited as the reason the convertible was incapacitated. Her spouse vented his frustrations by installing a supercharger into the car. Bjoring mentioned that she was thankful that her husband was spending money on the car instead of “gambling, drinking, or on other women.”
Surprisingly, her love for the MG finally blossomed when she was catcalled at a stop sign by one of her husband’s friends pulled up alongside her. When the light changed, she floored the throttle out of frustration and took off down the street. She loved the sensation of speed and the accompanying sound of the supercharger’s whine. Bjoring wrote, “I felt as if I had just been introduced to the MG.”
She convinced her husband to give her lessons on performance driving. She also started reading up on the mechanical details of how cars functioned. Quickly, she started going out alone on high-speed drives on deserted roads. Hot-lapping a local 3-mile racing circuit also became a favorite hobby of hers, doing her best to continually improve her best lap time. She wrote that she felt like “a female Juan Fangio.”
This relationship would come to an end. The family moved back to the United States and the MG had to be left behind. Bjoring was emotionally distraught to lose her MG and wrote that she “almost cried.” She added that she occasionally hoped that her MG had found a loving new owner and that her convertible companion missed her.
Bjoring understood that the family needed a sedan to fulfill their needs, but she was far from happy about the situation. She wrote that the vehicles produced by Detroit had no personality and were only practical. Thankfully, this story has a happy ending for Claire Bjoring. The couple eventually saved up enough money to purchase another sports car.