Chicago’s 105th Annual Auto Show, 2013

By Janean L. Watkins, for

Chicago’s 105th annual Auto Show of 2013 was a week of dreams for many. From stylish concept cars to entertaining interactive activities – the show was filled with excitement from beginning to end. Fun was the purpose, according to organizers who wrote in the literature for the show, “Shows don’t last more than a century by being boring and stale.”

The auto show’s rich history dates back to 1901, when the show was only eight days long and was called the National Auto Exhibit. The exhibit was held at the Chicago Coliseum; for a mere $.50 for Chicago residents to come to 15th and Wabash for a show.

Show manager Samuel Miles, also known as the ‘Father of the Modern Auto Show’, made sure that no stone went unturned to produce his a wide selection of “modern” automotive innovation. Today’s shows seem to follow that mission.

The Padilla family travelled from a Chicago suburb to see the show for the first time. “We just came in and he’s so excited,” said Maria Padilla of her son Antonio. The nine-year-old youth found his, ‘dream car’ in the new, 2014 Ford Mustang V6. Antonio shows that you’re never too young to look for your first car, as he claimed the grabber blue show stopper – just one of many customized cars on the floor.

The ten day long exhibition got off to a great start with well wishes from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Secretary of State, Jesse White. While all three public figures made note of the Chicago Auto Show’s long standing history they also wrote about the different entities that are positively affected by a show of this magnitude.

Gov. Quinn paid homage to the cornerstones of the automotive industry saying, “the hard working men and women in the Illinois automotive industry laboring in cities such as Chicago, Bloomington-Normal, and Belvidere are at the front lines of American ingenuity and innovation.”

The auto simulator queue for the Ford Fiesta was filled with teens who were anxious to test their driving skills. “It’s our third year [coming to the show], it’s cool to see all the new cars,” said Isabelle of Itasca, IL. She was there with her sister and expressed excitement at their chance at having a virtual driving experience without the need for a license.

Another heavy hitter was Lexus, who showcased their new LF-LC Concept. Toyota, Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler provided hands-on fun with test tracks where exhibit-goers had the chance to drive the newest vehicles over various road conditions.

Jeep even provided a brightly colored mini-track with motorized children’s Jeeps for practicing driving skills at the ripe old age of six and a half.

From concept cars to electric vehicles, the 105th Auto Show provided a way for everyone to find their own slice of automotive enjoyment.

Check out the slideshow to see what you missed!

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Are You A Grease Girl?

By Janean L. Watkins, for Montway

Not so long ago, it was unheard of for women to be found under the hood of a car. Tool belt strapped to their hips, grease stains on their faces. That was – at one time – thought of as “man’s work”. Now that women have progressed beyond the limitations set by society, they can be found doing all sorts of jobs, one of which is auto mechanics.

A long time ago it was unheard for women to be auto mechanics.

CNN’s report on Burkina Faso’s “Lady Mechanics” shows how that progression has spread around the world. And here in the United States, “grease girls” lead the charge in changing the way we think about who should be under the hood of a car.

Female Auto Mechanics

Women mechanics can be found at your local Jiffy Lube, as managers at the neighborhood Auto Zone and even at the raceway.

Danica Patrick hitting the road in IndyMost Americans, whether they’re into stock car racing or not may be familiar with Danica Patrick’s Daytona Beach win from early 2012.

Since 1999 – 12,000 of the 837,000 automobile service and repair technicians were women, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. “The industry changed when they started adding special features to vehicles such as alarms, computers, on board diagnostics, and also when they started making the hybrids and electric cars,” says Wanda Arnold Barnett of Wake Forest, North Carolina.

Barnett has been an auto mechanic for 17 years. Though she’s experienced some sexism in the industry – she says that she has also often received help from family members in learning the trade. Barnett doesn’t know many female mechanics in her area, but has found camaraderie with fellow female mechanics on social media sites. They’ve even formed a group called Female Mechanics on Facebook.

“Men try to test you by asking ‘are you sure you know what you’re doing’ or ‘do you need help with that darling’… but in my case they are amazed that I know more than they do,” said Barnett. Most men have this preconceived notion that a car is a man thing – whether fixing it or driving it – they prefer to stick with this idea. Men love their cars and they have often develop some kind of a special relationship with their vehicle.
Girl Power!

Women Mechanics Today

Being a mechanic isn’t something that is specialized only for men. Think back to the days of World War 1 when many women had to leave their homes to build the boats and planes that our soldiers would use to defend our country.

One issue that might stump some women looking to get into the industry is the lack of encouragement to join training programs. But there aren’t many hurdles for those women who feel like being an auto mechanic is their calling.

Girls auto mechanics can be seen all over the world.

“My advice is you can do it if you seriously have a passion for it,” says Barnett. “It is a difficult and dirty job, but very fun and rewarding, and don’t let men intimidate you because they will try.”

Mechanical work doesn’t end at automobiles. Another way to get into the industry is through military service. A modern day, Rosie the Riveter, Rena Smith – originally from East L.A. – has been in the business of aviation repair for 22 years.

Women in the Military Performing Aviation Repair

Smith has lived in Florida, Colorado, and Montana performing aviation repair. “When the shop was busy, it was busy. I have done major completions, annuals, 100/300 hrs inspections, sheet metal repair, fuel cell replacement, you name it I did it,” said Smith.

From March to December of 2009, Smith worked in Iraq on both civilian and military helicopters. She’s now in Dubai. “I like to hear I’m not the only one out there, overcoming the gender barrier[s], dealing with people (men and women) that can’t see past their pre-conceived stereo-types, and breaking down obstacles to do what we want and love to do,” said Smith.