Bogi Lateiner is an ASE-certified Master Technician, shop owner, and perhaps best known as a host of Velocity’s All Girls Garage. She uses her celebrity status to encourage education and training in the automotive trade, especially for women. As part of that mission, Bogi headed up an all-women build of a custom 1957 Chevy pickup, called the Montage, which made its debut at the 2017 SEMA Show.
We met up with Bogi on the show floor to learn more about the build and talk about the community that formed while bringing the Montage to life.
Start at the beginning. What’s the reason for making this truck?
We have a problem in that less than two percent of our industry is female. I hear from shop owners all day long, “I can’t find techs. I can’t find techs. I can’t find techs.” And I hear from female techs all day long, “Nobody will give me a chance. Nobody will give me a chance. Nobody will give me a chance.” We’ve got 50 percent of our population that’s being overlooked as potential employees. I want to connect those two and bridge the gap.
I want to create more opportunities for women to get involved in the trades. Even if they don’t become technicians, or welders, or fabricators, I want them to have the experience of trying on these skills. And women don’t often have an entry point. Half of the women on this build did not ever work on cars before. We have a pharmacist, a mortgage broker, all sorts of different professions here. Women who’ve never turned a wrench before. So this was a teaching and learning and growing process for everybody, but it was really about shining a light on all the amazing women who are in the trades, and creating opportunities for more women to come into the trades.
How did you find everyone, especially those that never worked on a car?
Social media is a beautiful thing. So I just started putting word out. I started putting word out to all of my friends that I know in the industry. They told their friends, they posted about it. And then we started getting people reaching out saying, “Do we have to know what we’re doing? Will you take all skill levels?” And we’re like, “Yeah, absolutely. Come on down, learn to weld. Learn how to grind. Learn how to turn a wrench.”
So we had all kinds, from literally someone who did not know what a ratchet was, all the way up to somebody who has 20–30 years of experience in the field, and everything in between.
Why a ’57 Chevy? And why a BMW engine?
So ’57 Chevy because I just love the ’57. I just think it’s a beautiful, beautiful model year. I love the curves on it. I think it’s sexy. I’ve always had a weakness for old trucks. And then we chose a BMW engine because I worked for BMW for seven years, and I love BMW. And that particular V-8 is just a gorgeous, gorgeous engine. You know, when you want to do something to draw attention? You do something controversial. Putting a BMW in a Chevy is a little controversial, right? And we like the challenge. We wanted to do something fun, we wanted to do something different, and we wanted the challenge and prove what these ladies can do.
What part of the build were you responsible for? We heard the bed has 10 layers of clear coat—was that you?
Yeah, so the bed wood was kind of my baby. I love that. And yes, three different colors of stain and 10 to 12 coats of clear. We cut the drip rail, we lowered it three inches. We did a lot of minor... not minor, but smaller subtler things. Like getting rid of all the seams, filling in some of the back stuff, just making it cleaner. Cleaner, smoother. We made the dash completely clean, so we got rid of the glove box, and the ashtray, and all of that stuff and made it a nice, smooth dash. We engraved the rear window ourselves. We had women do all the upholstery. Everything from start to finish was done by women on this.
What was the hardest part of the build?
Engine fitting part was definitely the challenge, and the biggest challenge for us was cardinal rule number one: build the car completely, have it running, and then take it apart, and then paint it, right? We didn’t get our parts for our engine. We were promised them in 30 days. We got them in 150 days. So we were never able to fit the engine until after we had it painted. We had no choice but to keep moving forward, we had 10 months [for the build]. So we best-guessed, and then we got our parts in. And then our best-guess was wrong. So then we had to change a lot of stuff.
Did you get a chance to drive it before the show?
No, we haven’t yet. We’re about a day away. We’re having a slight programming issue. Communication between the pedal, and the throttle bodies, and literally the head, the owner, of the computer control module company said, “I’ve never seen this before, I’m out of ideas.”
It’s getting to a point where the electronics are the hardest part of keeping an old car running or doing a custom build, right?
Absolutely. Especially when you’re going modern, when you’re going mismatched, we’ve got to get things talking to each other. I’ve got a GM gas pedal, and a third-party stand-alone control module, and a BMW independent throttle body. And trying to get those to talk to each other...
Did you have women working on that too?
So here’s the thing: I couldn’t find any female tuners. At least those who specialize in this kind of work. We have one woman, Angelina. She’s a wiring goddess, and she’s really wanting to move into that and really claim that space, but we couldn’t find any women to do tuning or programming, so that was one of the things that we did have to seek outside help from.
And I think that’s part of the thing. This whole build is about shining a light on all the women in the industry, acknowledging all of our amazing mentors, but also acknowledging where there are no women and where we could have opportunity for women.
So we’ve come by the booth a few times, and it’s filled with a different energy than you usually see at SEMA. How do you foster something like that?
I don’t think I had to do anything to foster it. I just brought the women together and then they... they believe in what we’re doing, they’re so bought in, they’re so committed for their own reasons, right? Angelina, she came out here [to Lateiner’s Phoenix shop] twice. We have women who came out four or five times. Women are just committed to this because of whatever their personal reasoning is, and so there was very little drama. We had our little moments at 3 a.m. in the middle of the night like, right? But the sisterhood here... Most of these women have never worked with another woman. And so, they’re forming these relationships with each other, and forming a support system with each other, that is invaluable.
We had a woman who was going to leave the industry. She was tired. She was beat up. She was just not in a good shop. And she was like, “I’m done. I can’t do it anymore. I love this, but I’m done.” And she came out and she worked on the build, and she got to work with all these awesome women. At the end of it she’s like, “I do love this, and I am good at this. And this is who I am.”
What’s next? Are you going to auction the truck to charity?
No, not yet. Right now we want this to go out to young people. We want young people to see this, and we want it to be an introduction to look at how many opportunities there are in the trades. And also go follow your heart and your dreams, no matter what they are, because there’s no one path for anybody. And if this is what you love, go do it. Go make it happen.