For three decades, I have been living a fantasy so fantastical that I couldn’t have imagined it. I’ve had a once-in-a-lifetime adventure about once a year, driven almost every car on my wish list, met heroes and heels, and had more fun than is advisable if you want to be invited back. It has been a riot, and I’m not going anywhere. But I am adding on.
As many of you may have noticed over the years, I have carefully contained the girly part of my public persona, unless it has worked to my comedic advantage: Sparring with the macho CART mechanics in the garage to get a story. Being hosed off with a pressure washer after training with Land Rover in heavy mud and rain for the 1987 Camel Trophy. Even going undercover as a model at the Detroit auto show in 1988, which made me feel more like a drag queen than Princess Jean.
I have never been much of a girly girl. I can barely remember to brush my hair in the morning, let alone spackle on makeup. But the girl gene is there. It’s the part of me that wore nail polish, even when I was a barefoot hippie. It’s what makes me love hanging out with the neighborhood old ladies, giving them hot rides in a Bentley Continental GTC and sharing tips for flower gardening in cold climates. It’s why I have dozens of hats. No, really.
That girl gene has been quietly keeping company all along with the cigar-chomping Jean who gave her taxicab a brake job in the street. And haven’t we been having a swell time? Right! So how do we bring the love to everyone who doesn’t know the secret car-guy handshake and vocabulary but really likes cars? You know it isn’t just women, either.
I’ve been thinking pretty long and hard about this. Six years ago, I registered the URL www.JeanKnowsCars.com with the vague idea of building a community around cars, car culture, design, travel, personality, and adventure, where everyone could join the party. A place where power-to-weight ratios and the firing order for a five-cylinder engine are unlikely to enter the conversation. The website lay fallow while I kept the name alive in the Twitterverse, posting 140-character reviews of cars, striving to hit the magic “0” characters left. I stopped tweeting for a while when some @numbnuts on one of those #snarkyboy websites called me “adorable” for “trying” to tweet.
So, I’m back with a vengeance, boyos. JeanKnowsCars is not only back in the Twee’verse and racking up Instagrams at a prodigious pace, it’s now a for-real website brought to you by Source Interlink Media, our parent company, which also publishes several dozen other automotive enthusiast titles (Motor Trend, Hot Rod, Lowrider, et cetera), as well as names like Surfer, Snowboarder, and Powder.
“My wife was disappointed that we don’t have anything for women,” our most-cool CEO, Mike Sullivan, told me eighteen months ago. “Do you know any women who write about cars?”
Uh, hello? I rest my case about the hidden girl gene. But suddenly I wanted to be that woman. In thirty years, I have done exactly jack to foster women in this business. My life has not been about being a woman in a man’s world, it’s been about being as much like a man as possible in this man’s world. Note: Every chief designer and every head of every car company in the world is a man. Of the nearly 18,000 car dealerships in the United States, only
2.8 percent are owned by women.
That just sounds wrong to me. But something happened on the way to creating a car site for women. It didn’t feel quite right until my closest confidante on the subject — my sister-in-law Anita Lienert, an award-winning journalist in her own right — helped me get comfortable with putting my name and face on this website and exposing the part of me that I haven’t shown in years. I’m ready to share all that car knowledge in a new way. And guess what? It’s not a website just for women. Actually, it’s going to be bigger than that. It’s going to be a riot, with car advice, hats, dogs, cool gear, tiny video car reviews from my driveway, kid experts, all that and a pack a crackers, as Honey Boo Boo Child would say. We even have an anonymous confessional.
So, guys (81.4 percent of you readers are men), while you’re sending your mommas and grandmas, your wives, sisters, aunts, and daughters to JeanKnowsCars.com, feel free to drop in yourselves.