‘Girls in the Garage’ showcases women in technology at all-female car show

Awarded Best Multimedia Story in The Union’s spring 2017 semester. 

Photos by Karla Henry, who also received the same award for her contributions.

By Don Perez / The Union

Times have changed for South Bay resident and former El Camino student Dawn Henderson.

When she took auto tech courses at the college more than 20 years ago, Henderson said she was the only woman in the class and shocked male counterparts with her car knowledge.

On Saturday, March 25, she showed off more — her ’53 Chevrolet Gasser — in the second-ever Girls in the Garage car show, featuring classic vehicles owned by women at the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo and co-organized by the El Camino College auto collision, repair and painting program.

Cholo car

In Henderson’s eyes, turnout was remarkable in 2014 for a new car show set at El Camino, but the museum was far better suited to host.

“It definitely added another element to the event,” Henderson said. “The museum has a great collection of cars. The guests enjoyed strolling through the cars on display inside, the vintage clothing vendors … we all enjoyed hearing the stories about the cars and how we each became interested in cars. It was far more intimate than other car shows. I would perhaps call it a social event.”

Indeed, some of the participants did just that.

Cynthia Hernandez, owner of a 1965 Dodge Dart, hobnobbed over car issues with Erika Smytte, all while standing next to the latter’s 1971 Datsun 240Z.


“I wanted to meet more girls. At some car shows I feel like I’m the only chick,” Hernandez said.

Patricia Fairchild, an instructor in El Camino College’s auto collision, repair and painting program, said the auto show will return next March for Women’s History Month.

“It was a great success. Next year will be even better,” Fairchild said.

Pink car

Tara Hitzig, executive director with the museum, said the car show isn’t the only collaboration between it and the college. A scholarship is in the works with the automotive department at the college and the El Camino College Foundation with details still being hammered out, and a fundraiser is planned for the evening of April 8 at the museum.

Girls in the Garage is a series of workshops for women at El Camino College. Hosted by Fairchild, the workshops teach women about cars and aim to get more women into automotive careers.

“Girls have come a very long way in all things automotive due to some very strong women breaking down the stereotypes and barriers, when previously we were rarely taken seriously,” Henderson said.

“The Girls in the Garage workshops enable women to explore their automotive interests. Pati Fairchild is doing a tremendous job supporting women and girls by providing an embarrassment-free zone, where they can feel free to ask the questions they may otherwise be too intimidated to ask if men were in attendance,” she added.

To find out more about Girls in the Garage and reserve a spot in a session, contact Fairchild at pfairchild@elcamino.edu.

More information on the fundraiser can be found at the Automobile Driving Museum’s Facebook page.

Museum piece

Article published on The Union website on March 29, 2017.


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