Macomb, Michigan:

Let’s say you want to find a new pal, someone to–I don’t know–gab about your mutual passion for shoes. Pretty easy to find, right? (I know, I know… I’m stereotyping, but bear with me so I can make a point.) What if you want a pal to commiserate with about a different kind of shoe, like say brake shoes and the woes of rebuilding an entire brake system? You probably won’t find that like-minded lady at the local mall.

Call me crazy, but I’m guessing Doni Langdon would rather talk brake shoes than strappy sandals.

I find that I have a hard time relating to normal girls, and the more immersed I become in the hot rod/bike world the more of an issue this becomes. Even some car girls or ‘biker gals’ when they are more interested in the outfit that they are wearing on the back of the bike, or if they think their car is a big purse… Makes me create an exit strategy.

This, by the way, is my favorite quote from the interview because I can relate in such a huge way (although I do have to

 

admit I’m a fan of both kinds of shoes). It’s not that I don’t appreciate or accept girls with a different

focus, it’s just sometimes harder to relate, and hey, no one can argue that finding a kindred spirit is cool, right? I laughed when I saw this picture of Doni working on her wiring… because, yeah… been there!

Doni knew there must be other women out there like herself, and since she isn’t the kind of person to sit back and wait for something to come along, Doni did something about it. She’s a doer. Heck… she’s a Scout leader for goodness sakes!

Sorting out what girls are simply posing with cars, though, and what girls actually own the cars, can sometimes be challenging–part of what I’m trying to do with the Motor Dolls blog–connecting women with a similar interest through stories. This, however, is just a speck compared to what Doni Langdon–Head Chick in Charge–is doing with THROTTLE GALS magazine.

 

THE GAL

Doni is as comfortable in the wilds of nature as she is in the madness of a city, although she prefers nature: hiking, canoeing, cross country skiing. She’s lived in many environments, from the bayous near New Orleans, and the French Quarter where she spent time as a kid, to the boondocks of Northern Michigan as a tween, to Detroit where she lived as a teen.

She is fiercely loyal to friends and family, and has many facets. Yes, she’s a fanatic for cars and motorcycles, but she has other passions as well.

I am an avid gardener, enjoy wood refinishing–especially old or antique wood. Also love my church and regularly volunteer where I can. And I am HUGE into Scouting. I am a Cubmaster for our local pack, and an Assistant Roundtable Commissioner for our district, as well as a Range Officer for BB guns and Archery.

The scouting came about because of her three boys: Michael (11), Carter (9), and baby Morgan. Talk about a male dominated household! There’s also Steve, her husband of thirteen years. Even the dogs in her house are male.  But being the only girl in the room isn’t something  new or uncomfortable for Doni.

 THE THROTTLE BUG BITES

As we often do with the Featured Motor Dolls, we’re going back in time to Doni as a little girl, in the garage with her dad, a Harley mechanic and chopper builder.

 

Doni spent a lot of time wrenching motorcycles with him, drooling over the Ironheads. Growing up, it was all about motorcycles–although she did think Mustangs were pretty.

I was a daddy’s girl, and when he smiled at me for doing something right in the shop, I felt like I had just achieved something major. So I just never cared about the rest of anything. It was all about working on stuff after that. Plus, it just felt right.

It will be interesting to see if the next generation of wrenchin’ girls tell stories of working in the garage with Mom. How cool would that be?? I’m sure Doni’s three sons certainly will, although their garage is actually a barn.

THE MOTORCYCLE: ’74 Ironhead

Doni’s love of Ironhead’s continued into her adult years.

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She picked up her 1974 Ironhead Sportster around 2008 as payment for an emergency layout for The Horse Backstreet Choppers–which lead to her working as managing editor. It’s a bit of a bastard bike, put together from a bunch of random parts, assembled on a pre-1970 frame and a dry clutch tranny (not wet, which would have come on a ’74).

My dad loved the old Ironheads and Shovels. Actually when the Evo became popular we boycotted them.

When my feller heard what she rode, his first response was, That’s a hell of a hard bike to start! But…

My bike is both kick and electric. I think kick is bad ass, but Sportsters have a NASTY kick back under the wrong conditions, so I only use that when I have an electrical issue.

Whew. Gotta spare the leg!

RAMONA: ’59 Chevy

As often happens, the love of cars soon followed for Doni.

I discovered the ’59 Chevy by accident in a junkyard trip with my dad a few years ago, as it was growing out of a hill, rear end out. I thought it was the  coolest rear fascia and I wanted one. And the search began.

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The right one came along in a pretty dramatic–and painful (for the car and the heart)–fashion.

When a tornado hit the former owner’s property, a tree came crashing down, totaling the car. Doni’s buddy David Pfaff needed a front clip, so David bought the car from him.

Once Doni’s husband, Steve, helped David remove the clip, he had no need for the remainder, so…

David gave me the rest of the car! To start, literally $0 investment! There was a TON of work needed, but we had a shell and a title.

We have installed an engine (350 Chevy), a transmission (turbo 350), and a good used windshield. We acquired a front clip, that Steve rust repaired and filled all the holes in. I welded in new floor pans, while adding structural bracing from parts cars for the hard-top conversion.

We then cut out the “B” pillar. Steve gutted and cross welded part of the doors from a 6-window Cadillac to retrofit the Cadillac windows into the Chevy doors.

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There were actually a ton of modifications like this that are not noticed by the average car ‘guy’, including the ’60 Chevy hood that was merged with the ’59 Chevy hood nose and frame to make a custom hood. There’s a ’60 Buick front grille, rear bumper, and I added a Vintage Air setup.

Just so many things. You’ll have to follow the build to see it all. 

Just look how far Ramona has come!

Speaking of vehicle names, I asked Doni if she believed there really is a difference in the way women love cars as opposed to men. Her answer? Yes.

There is a difference. I gave my car a name, she has a distinct personality. So does the ’68 Firebird (Bella) that I road-rallied a few years ago. That is technically my mother-in-law’s car, but she (the car) likes me the best! I can see different personalities in a vehicle. My husband sees the mechanics and loves the car… but it’s much different.

I tell ya…  I can’t think of a single car girl I know who hasn’t named her car. I mean come on. I drive a truck named Bondorella… like Cinderella, rising from the ashes of Bondo. I talk to her as if she can understand. Anway, I think what Doni says is true. Women place a different brand of emotional attachment than men, more intimate (does that sound creepy?). Hell. I’ve even been known to plant a kiss on Bondorella’s nose (okay yeah… creepy).

THE MAGAZINE

Along with motorcycles and cars, Doni enjoys the physical printing world–the technology, smells, color theory–exactly why creating a magazine made perfect sense for her.

 

The opportunity came after suggesting to the editors of The Horse the idea of including more industry women in each issue. The editors didn’t agree.

When we parted ways, my husband said, “Just start your own magazine about the women you wanted to cover. Then you will be able to meet more people with your passion!” Trish (my partner in crime) worked for Baker Drivetrain at the time and I asked her if she wanted to help me take over the world. The rest is kinda history!

Doni and Trish had the goal of bringing attention to women active in the motorcycle and automotive world, but they certainly met with some push back. Some of the men in their industry weren’t thrilled to have the Throttle Gals “playing in their sandbox.”

Fortunately, support from car enthusiasts–like Larry from Singlefinger, Corky Coker (a mentor of Doni’s), and Honest Mike Goodman–greatly outweighed those who tried to shoot them down. Surprisingly, winning over the women has been one of the greatest challenges.

Women still tend to be skeptical when they first hear about me, as so many ‘women’ magazines are actually men owned–scantily clad models pretending to know something about a car. Women have become jaded, but once they see what we are about–by, for, AND about women–the guards come down.

THE CAR CARE CLASS

The magazine isn’t the only thing Doni and her partner are working on. They’ve started a Car Care class to help women learn basic mechanics. They got in one class before Doni’s little Morgan came into the world, but they plan on having more starting in the spring.

The class focuses on basic maintenance and ‘common knowledge,’ like changing tires, checking and changing oil, how to check fluids, basic safety, how to read your manual, to learn how to place the jack… all of the things any driver should know–male or female.

When you have the knowledge to know what is a major issue, versus what you can limp through or fix, then you have the ability to risk assess. In addition, knowledge will prevent you from getting taken advantage of.

Not in the Michigan area? They’re hoping to put video segments up on the web so girls around the world can learn along. They also have a webpage devoted to tips and articles on the same type of subjects, like how to fix a flat, and answers about fuel octane and uses.

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As for Doni’s own skills? She’s pretty well versed on the basics, but wants to become more “in tune” with a wider variety of vehicles, and also learn more about retrofitting modern electronics so she can trick out her own. The latest thing she learned?

…how to MIG weld (by my husband as he is a welding teacher), while installing my floor pans in the ’59.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for Doni and Throttle Gals magazine. And hey… next time you’re feeling disconnected from the women around you, pick up a copy of her magazine, and lose yourself in the wonderfully rich stories of like-minded women, like you.



ROLLING WITH DONI

There are several ways to keep up with Doni’s latest.

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Seen here with everyone’s favorite car guy… Mr. Gene Winfield!

Until next time…

Later gators!

 

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