This Car Guy is a Gal

Valerie Stabenow says she’s “always been a closet motorhead.” But her love of classic cars is hardly a secret anymore.

Valerie, a resident of Freeport, Ill., is Hagerty’s latest “Car Guy,” selected from dozens of e-mail entries to appear in advertising throughout the summer. The latest Hagerty “Car Guy” magazine ad, showing a smiling Valerie leaning against her beloved 1969 Jaguar XKE, will appear in a number of publications beginning in June: Cruisin’ Style, Hemmings Motor News, Hemmings Classic Car, Hemmings Muscle Machine, Sports Car Market, Old Cars Weekly and Car Collector.

“I’ve always loved cars and working on cars, particularly (American Motors) AMXs,” Valerie said. “But the love of my life, since I saw it in New Yorker magazine, was the XKE Coupe. I always said, ‘Someday, I’m going to own one of those.’

“Be careful what you wish for,” she said with a laugh, “because, as they say, you just might get it.”

Valerie’s wish eventually did come true, but not until after she had purchased other collector cars and brought them up to speed. Her first purchase, in 1986, was a 1974 Triumph Spitfire 1500.

“Mechanically, it was already in great shape,” she said. “But I got a manual and soon found out that every time I worked on it, I improved its performance. It just kept getting better and better.”

Valerie eventually sold the Spitfire to purchase a 1973 Triumph TR-6, and she later owned a ’74 MG Midget and a ’67 Triumph TR-4A. She has since parted with those vehicles and currently has three cars in her collection – the XKE, a ‘62 MGA and ‘81 Corvette. Valerie’s husband, Allen, also owns a ’67 Corvette that Valerie says, “I take care of.”

Allen said his wife “truly is a Car Guy.”

“My job, at times, has required a great deal of travel, and many evenings during the winter Valerie could be found in our heated garage working on something as I was off somewhere on business,” Allen said. “A friend of ours reminded me a number of years ago, ‘You should be happy she has a passion for cars – it could have been steam engines.’ “

Then Allen added, “She really does know a lot about cars. She’s a pretty amazing person.”

Valerie jokes that her cars treat her as well as she treats them.

“The rule is, ‘No leaving Valerie in the middle of nowhere,’ “she said with a laugh. “And so far they’ve followed the rule. If something goes wrong, it always seems to go wrong close to home – usually in the driveway.

“I take good care of them and they take good care of me.”

Valerie said she and her husband became “Hagerty clients for life” following an incident in 2003, when they hit a deer while driving Allen’s Corvette one Saturday evening.

“We filed a claim online and figured there was no way anyone would be working on a weekend, but someone from Claims called on Sunday at 11 a.m.,” Valerie said. “We were amazed. That one instance would have kept us at Hagerty forever. But Hagerty does so much more – we just love the company.”

As if to emphasize that point, Valerie mentioned that she and her husband own a 17-foot 1947 Chris Craft Deluxe Runabout boat, which is also insured by Hagerty. In a roundabout way, the boat came into their possession thanks to Valerie’s love of collector cars. After she sold two of her vehicles, a boat purchase soon followed.

Naturally, Valerie refurbished the wooden vessel herself.

“I named it BCWYWF,” Valerie said of the Runabout. “Be Careful What You Wish For.”

Apparently, Car Guys can be Boat Guys, too – even if they’re female.

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