Legacy and a Learner

80 years separates these two unexpected “Grease Girls”. Margaret Dunning is 102 and still driving and wrenching-on her beautiful 1930 Packard that she’s owned for 63 years while Morgan Johnson is a mere 22-years-old and just began earning her wrenching-credentials after purchasing a ’72 VW Bug and promptly taking off on an epic road trip. In a climate where many people are still surprised to see a woman getting involved in the garage, it’s refreshing to be reminded of both the many women who have gone before and also the next generation of ladies getting “bitten by the bug”. Their stories make me grin and I hope they’ll make you smile also.

I initially learned about Margaret Dunning¹ while I was searching the net for the longest-running car (which, by the way, is a 1966 Volvo 1800 with 2.7 million miles clocked²!) Recently, Margaret was all over the news being an honored-guest at Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance. Mrs. Dunning first began driving around the family farm at the age of 8, and 94-years later she’s still going strong at 102! What’s even more impressive, is that she insists on doing some of her car’s regular maintenance including changing the oil and spark plugs!  She purchased the Packard in 1949 and has been the driving force behind keeping the car in pristine condition. In addition to the Packard she also own’s a ’31 Ford and a couple of classic Cadillac’s.

Morgan Johnson³ on the other hand leapt unknowingly into working on cars when she happened upon a 1972 VW Beetle on Craigslist and decided it was the car for her (sounds a little like me!) When she and some friends took off in it on a road trip, they didn’t know what they would get. With many brake downs during the trip, Morgan began learning quickly how to care for and repair her car via help from strangers and phone calls to the guy she bought it from. During the month-long road trip, it seems that Morgan experienced the same joys and adventures that I have in owning my 1955 Studebaker.

I love the kinship that’s created by the automobile – male or female, young or old. Everyone seems to be a friend when you’re enjoying the freedom of the road or asking for a hand. I only hope that I’ll still have my Studie on the road and in the garage when I’m Margaret’s age… something to work towards!



¹Chapman, Mary. “Packard, 81, Is a Youngster to Its Driver.” NYTimes.com. July 08, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/automobiles/packard-81-is-a-youngster-to-its-driver.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

²Gorzelany, Jim. “Cars That Can Run For Over 200,000 Miles.” Forbes.com. Dec 09, 2011.http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimgorzelany/2011/12/09/cars-that-can-run-for-over-200000-miles/.

³Preston, Benjamin. “How A 22-Year-Old Woman Learned How To Fix Cars By Driving A ’72 VW Beetle Across The West.” Jalopnik.com September 07, 2012. http://jalopnik.com/5941024/how-a-22+year+old-woman-learned-how-to-fix-cars-by-driving-a-72-vw-beetle-across-the-west.

2 Responses

  1. jpkalishek

    during WW2 Then Princess Elizabeth did her part for the war effort by taking some training in maintaining her transport, and driving it herself, freeing her driver and mechanics to deal with the war efforts. She said some time later she quite enjoyed the work on the car.

    QE II, Grease Girl.


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