This post is part of the Girl Mechanic of the Month series where we feature a real-life girl mechanic and some of her best work and let her tell us a bit more about her story.
Why, you ask?
Well, first, because girl mechanics are somewhat of rarities and by that, I don’t mean those cuties posing in short shorts in front of a friend’s Integra and tagging the picture with #girlmechanics on her Instagram! I mean REAL girl mechanics, working on REAL cars, getting dirty with REAL grease. And every time I come across a real girl mechanic like that I just want to show her to the world to prove everybody that they really exist.
So, our website seemed to me the perfect place to do that!
Also, being a car mechanic myself, I always thought it would be great to have more girls around. It’s always a guy thing. You work with guys, ride with guys, talk with guys, race against other guys, guys jokes and such. It sure lacks a bit of a feminine touch sometimes. And, sorry, car show girls just don’t make the cut!
And finally, I have to admit it, who doesn’t like a cute girl in a mechanic suit? 😉
So, without any further ado, let me present to you the featured girl mechanic of the month:
MD – First things first, what’s your name?
HH – Heather Hershkowitz.
MD – And how old are you?
HH – 28 years old.
MD – Where do you live?
HH – Vermont, U.S.A
MD – How did you learn the trade?
HH – My boyfriend in high school was a grease monkey. I had picked up some small things in the five years we were together, like being able to replace my fluids, driving a stick, replacing my pads and rotors, etc. I bought a 2000 Subaru 2.5RS coupe. Turned out it was burning a butt load of oil. A friend of mine had a turbo swap I bought and was pretty much forced to learn to swap a car, harnesses and all. A couple years after that, I went to tech school and got my first wrenching job at a Subaru dealership.
MD – Where do you work now?
MD – What is it like to work as a mechanic on a rally team?
HH – Theoretically, it is a Monday-Friday, 8-5 work week. But let’s face it, there are deadlines for testing and shakedown dates that have to be met, not to mention dates for event departures. Last season my latest night was 2 am, some of the other guys were there last year until 6 am. When we have events (races), you never know when you’ll get to leave the track.
Sometimes the engineers have come up with a setup that requires a lot of work before we can go back to the hotel. And when a tight deadline is set, it seems like it never fails that you’ll run into some problem or hang up. My first event I worked 20 hours for two days. I think I slept for a whole day when I got home.
The offseason can be a little rough on the complete opposite side of the busy spectrum. While the new cars are getting built and the old ones are getting sandblasted, I’m busy doing jobs around shop that get overlooked when we’re in full swing with race season like getting the show cars and trailers back up to show quality, cleaning out the storage and the part room of out-of-spec parts, and making sure the inventory is full and up to date on the service trucks.
MD – What does a typical work week look like?
HH – It’s hard to describe a typical work week. Rally car reprep and rallycross reprep are pretty different. The rally cars have a lot more going on because, at a rally, the cars are out for hours on end so they need spare wheels and tires, tools, and have a co-driver. Not everything comes out of those cars after events. Rallycross cars only have one driver and are only on the track for about 5-10 minutes at a time. Depending on how much time we have in between events, the car gets stripped to just the shell and wiring harnesses and everything gets cleaned, inspected, and rebuilt if necessary. The rally cars still get mostly stripped down, cleaned, inspected, and rebuilt too. So I guess a typical work week consists of tearing down the car and rebuilding it.
MD – How did you manage to work on a rally team?
HH – Shortly after I started working for Subaru at the dealership, I learned that Vermont SportsCar was the company hired by Subaru to build their rally cars. THAT was the company I wanted to work for. I had sent an email to the company asking how to get my foot in the door. Luckily, they were small enough then and someone still had the time to answer my email. I had to build up my wrenching experience and try to get on some smaller local teams. I was too busy with school and work for the next three years to do any rallies, and then I kind of got side tracked with a relationship. But after separating from my then fiancé, I decided to get back on the rally program.
Luckily, during those 5 or 6 years, I still did focus on building up myself as a technician in the Subaru community. I also knew that I had to find a way to stand out from all the other guys that wanted that job. I had to take it further than just being a girl. So I did some modeling on the side as well, knowing that word would get around a lot faster about not only a girl that wrenches, but modeled too. I caught the attention of a current technician from VTcar who, for some wild reason, help me get set up an interview for the team in LA.
Even though they weren’t currently hiring, they said they were interested in when the time came, but that it would be easier to bring me on to the team if I lived in Vermont. So a month later I packed up all my things and my dog and moved 3000 miles away from my friends and family. I spent the next 4/5 months working at the local Subaru dealership and bugging the guys at the team for a job when they finally brought me onto the team. I think it really helped to get my Subaru certifications over the 7 years I worked at the dealership. But make no mistake, these cars are nothing like what’s on the road.
MD – How can someone become a rally mechanics too?
HH – I suggest getting into any kind of motorsport you can. The concepts are very similar. I also think working in a shop on road cars is important too. Race teams have engineers and specific guys for engine building and gearboxes. Working on road cars allows you to get familiar with everything on cars. Also, learn to fabricate! That is one thing I wish I picked up that is extremely useful.
MD – What kind of car do you drive?
HH – I still drive my RS.
MD – You’ve got a pretty nice car! I had an RS too a couple years ago… Definitely the best car I ever had. Would you mind giving us some specs?
HH – My car is swapped with an EJ20. It has a bigger turbo (vf39) and bigger injectors (550cc I think. Whatever the Sti pink injectors are rated at, I can’t remember). It has a short ram intake, the bigger (Sti) intercooler, and 3″ hi-flow cat exhaust from the turbo back. It has Sti struts and springs. I’ve found it’s a happy, affordable, compromised for stiffer suspension for autocross but it doesn’t kill your kidneys on the (sarcastically) awesome roads of California and Vermont. I have the bigger 4 pot brake calipers on the front and 2 pots on the rear with slotted rotors. Up until recently, it had a 4.44 gearbox with the LSD rear end. I need to put a new center diff in it, so until then, I’m rocking the 3.70 final drive.
The dash and center console is from a ’02 WRX. I didn’t want to spend the $1000 to have my harness merged and was impatient getting the swap done as it is my only car. It does have a tune that helps me push 17lbs of boost. It was originally Sedona red, but I fell in love with the gloss concrete color that came on some of the Scions. It also has a Seibon carbon fiber hood.
MD – American, Japanese or European?
HH – I like Japanese cars, but who can not like American muscle?
MD – Do you have some kind of side project? What are you working on as a hobby? Tell us a bit about it.
HH – My car seems like it’s always a project. I just started my engine build for it, nothing too serious, though (400whp), I do daily drive it. But I am planning on getting an old AE86 (Toyota corolla) by the end of the year. My best friend back home has one and I fell in love with it. So fun to drive!
MD – What is your dream car?
HH – A dream car? A KPGC10. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to afford a quarter of a million dollar car.
MD – What is your absolute must-have tool?
HH – A hair tie! Hahahaha. But on a more serious note, probably a torque wrench.
MD – What do you like most about the job?
HH – I think it’s pretty cool that I can say that I build race cars for a living. I work with some pretty smart and talented guys, and I feel lucky that they are as cool as they are with me there. I know it’s not always easy for some to have a girl in the shop. Traveling is fun, I love to go places. I feel like I have bodyguards everywhere I go since I’m one of the only girls on the team.
MD – What do you hate most about the job?
HH – I think the only thing I hate about the job is that I only really have time to see my family once a year. It’s almost 3,000 miles from my old house (Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada side) to my house in Vermont.
MD – If you had one advice for beginner auto mechanics, what would it be?
HH – If I had any advice for a new tech, it would be to learn how everything works and not just throw parts at a car and hope it fixed it.
MD – If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
HH – Hahaha, I’d be Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbs. They are always having a blast, and having a pet tiger is pretty bad ass.
MD – Where can people reach you?
HH – You can follow me on Instagram: @miss_shift
MD – What would you tell to other girls still unsure about becoming a mechanic? Any thoughts, advice, comments, warning?
HH – You will have someone that will give you a hard time about being a girl mechanic. It’s not often that it happens, but it does happen. Deal with it, keep your cool, and move on. This industry is really fun.
MD – Any last shoutout or thank yous?
HH – Thank you to, of course, my mom and dad for encouraging me to play with the boys when I was little.
That’s it for this month! I hope you liked it!
Make sure you come back next month for another “Girl Mechanic of the Month” post! Also if you are one yourself or if you know some girl mechanic who would like to get featured here, leave a comment below, send us a message using the “Contact Us” page or reach us on any social media and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
In the meantime, cheers and have a nice day!