Some individuals need little introduction in the automotive world. Our latest Leading Lady, Dana Parkinson, is certainly one such person with her quirky personality, warm disposition, and undeniable passion for the classic automotive scene.
My motto is ‘Give a kid a wrench instead of cell phone and watch their confidence grow.’ – Dana Parkinson
There is no questioning where her heart lay – it’s smack dab in the middle of the custom and classic car worlds. To Dana there is nothing better than getting her hands dirty working on a restoration project, talking cars with like-minded passionate people, and encouraging younger generations to put down the video game controllers and pick up a wrench.
No matter what, it all comes down to a true love for classic vehicles and the want to revive not only “survivor” cars and “give them beauty and their spirit back,” but also reviving the simple passion of building project cars.
When asked where her automotive passion came from, Dana explained that it was ingrained in her from a very young age. “Both of my parents loved cars and their passion was passed down to me and my brothers.”
“By 7 years old, I wanted a Stingray, as I never played with dolls, only Hess Trucks, Corvettes, and mud. I was obsessed with red and bright orange Corvettes to the point my mother arranged a ride with the checker at our grocery store who took me for a cruise in his ’77. I was in heaven.”
From the love of Corvettes well before she hit the age of 10, Dana’s passion for the industry only grew. In her teenage years, she was lucky enough to live next door to a gentleman that worked for Snap-On. Every car issue Dana had, her neighbor would assist her with based on the stipulation that she help do the work. This not only taught Dana a great deal more about working on vehicles, but also gave her an even deeper respect for the classic machines she’s so smitten with today.
Now a notable female in the automotive industry, Dana has dappled in all kinds of areas of the automotive world. Working alongside her husband helping run their “mom and pop” shop, JDP Autoworks, they opened three years ago, Dana can say she’s been wrenching on cars and helping her husband with top-notch restoration projects for over a decade (they started in the garage well before they opened a shop).
She’s also been featured on the cover of Parts & People, an electronic automotive trade-only publication, been a judge at several prestigious car shows, and even been seen on-screen with Dan Wood on Chop Cut Rebuild. Of course, we can’t forget to mention that she also founded and runs the Classic Chrome Car Showmorethan seven years ago to “bring local car enthusiasts together” in Southern California.
Though she’s done so much in the industry already, Dana tells us that she’s just getting started. In the future, she plans on advocating even more for parents to share their automotive passions with their kids, and moving younger generations to go out and get their hands dirty rather than sitting in front of a computer screen all day, helping to push society to one again teach automotive fundamentals, and to get out in the public eye more — in particular through TV roles she hopes will change today’s automotive TV scene.
“I want to change the classic car reality show circus and bring back the Andy Griffith Show way of thinking,” Dana explained. “We must help thy neighbor and teach our children how to work on cars again. It’s time for kids to put away their gadgets and get dirty again.”
Dana would also like to work with NASCAR some day, telling us, “There is nothing more fun than playing in the pits and listening to the perfect symphony playing as the cars scream by.” Talk about a true gearhead!
When it comes to being a female in the automotive industry, Dana doesn’t really seem to notice. Admitting to having “always been one of the boys,” any challenges or stereotypes the industry might bring up are nothing new to Dana, and with her work speaking for itself, there’s no feeling of the need to compete. In fact, having been asked what her biggest challenge in the industry is, Dana told us it’s not having enough time in the day to get all her restoration projects done rather than anything to do with her gender.
Although not phased by the notion of the industry being male-dominated, Dana does find some of the reactions she gets from guys entertaining, as they aren’t always expecting her to love to talk cars all day and all night. But for the most part, Dana has always experienced acceptance of being a female in the industry.
“The industry is filled with the most wonderful people who display the same love and passion, and once I open my mouth to converse, they understand what I am all about,” Dana told us. “Respect in this industry is earned and not given easily.”
Having made her name in “a man’s world,” Dana can’t stress the importance of being yourself in this industry enough, especially for females. Working hard, learning at every chance you get and having confidence are also key points to being a female in the automotive industry, Dana explained.
“It is a boy’s club so be prepared to go hard or go home. A female must have thick skin together with an ‘I got this’ attitude to succeed. She must be confident and educating herself at every opportunity. Learning to listen instead of talking is key, and to absorb every little detail bestowed as it will be applicable one day. The industry evolves rapidly so you must always be on your game,” she said.
Dana has certainly found her place[s] in this industry and we can’t wait to see where she takes her passion and love for classic cars next. We have no doubt that no matter where she ends up taking her automotive-based career, it will be a push to make the industry even better than it is!
“My goal is to be more active in peaking interest in today’s youth,” Dana said. “I want to teach parents to share tools, not texts, with their children. I want society to teach fundamental skills again which will encourage self esteem and confidence in children. This country must get back to hard work by individuals and do away with the entitlement attitude that is being instilled today at an alarming rate.”