To mark International Women's Day, we sat down for a beer with Cat and Sammy, two of our Bicester Heritage neighbours who are leading the charge in the classic car world, perfecting vital skills that keep the cars we love on the road.
Cat (right) has been a familiar face around Bicester Heritage for the past five years, working as a machinist at vintage Bentley specialist Kingsbury Racing. Her sister, Sammy, joined Harry Fraser Vehicle Upholstery as a motor trimmer two years ago. Cat drives a Triumph Vitesse and is building a 1928 Ford Model A hot rod, and Sammy has her heart set on an old Alfa one day.
The pair both recount a childhood spent around classic cars, and going to car shows in their father's Mk2 1600GT Cortina. Cat and Sammy both took divergent paths once finishing school - Cat did Mechanical Engineering at college before working as a trainee machinist, and Sammy did a stint as a legal secretary and was about to start at Goodwood Motor Circuit in events when Covid hit. But both have come full circle years later, now working on vintage and classic cars at Bicester Heritage.
It's obvious that our industry is full of blokes, but Cat and Sammy aren't surprised that's the case and they count their upbringing over their gender as the primary driver for their careers.
"How interested in old cars are most girls from their upbringing? We were interested in classic cars as kids and that's how we got into it, but it would be very different if you weren't brought up with it," says Sammy.
Cat, who was introduced to her current role after discovering the Heritage Skills Academy at a Sunday Scramble, goes further, suggesting that finding the right people is the real challenge - irrespective of gender.
"You can say that you want more women in engineering, but where do you get them from? When you're younger at school you don't know your options, you just don't know that these jobs even exist half the time."
As we finish our pints we're happy to hear that Cat and Sammy actually forget that they're the only women in the workshop half the time, and that's exactly the way it should be. They think that we shouldn't just be working to encourage more women in the industry, we need to be working to reach more of the right people in general, and show them from a young age the inherent worth of learning these old skills . And if we can get that right, diversity among genders will only improve.
And to that, we say cheers.
Happy International Women's Day!