The exterior of a 1961 Volvo PV544 hides a 415-hp plug-in-hybrid powertrain out of a 2019 Volvo S60 Recharge.
Lateiner headed up the build, working with volunteers—both experienced techs and beginner mechanics—over an 18-month period leading up to the 2022 SEMA show.
Volvo has been vocal in its goals to increase gender diversity across its workforce, including technicians in dealerships.
In the 1940s, women built many of the warplanes and tanks that won World War II, but by the 1950s, the idea of a woman turning a wrench on a car was culturally laughable. Girls weren't even allowed in the pits at many motorsports events, and new-car advertising tended to showcase women in the passenger seat more often than behind the wheel. The automotive industry has been making strides in diversifying its workforce and its marketing, and the 2022 SEMA show featured numerous female racers and several cars built by all-women teams. None included as many female participants as this Volvo Iron Maven, a restomod PV544 headed up by fabricator and TV host Bogi Lateiner and completed with the help of more than 160 volunteers—all women.
“This was an amazing experience,” said Lateiner, as the finished car was revealed in the BASF paint booth to a round of applause. "It's important to bring attention to all the incredible women working in the automotive industry, and to support and promote gender diversity in hiring."
The Iron Maven project started with a stock 1961 Volvo PV544. Lateiner and her team completely stripped the car to bare metal and removed the body from its original underpinnings. At the same time, they took a 2019 S60 Recharge hybrid sedan and fitted the classic body to the modern chassis. If you're thinking that was a fitment challenge, you're right. The PV544 had to have its fenders widened while the S60 wheelbase was shortened by 16 inches. Even the seats had to be sectioned and narrowed to fit in the small vintage body. The finished car is painted in a custom BASF color, Rebelberry.
Throughout the build, women from all over the country came to offer their skills and learn new ones. During the reveal, we spoke with Christy Stainback, a metal artist from North Carolina who was invited to work on the build after sending Lateiner a Stainback Steel Works sticker. "She wrote back and said I should come work on the car," says Stainback, who initially was reluctant, fearing that she wasn't qualified or that Lateiner wasn't serious with the invite. "Finally, my husband said, 'Say yes, what is there to lose?' and so I flew to Arizona and did it!" She pointed to a section on the front fender and grinned, "I made that piece!"
It's that kind of confidence that Lateiner wants to encourage in all automotive enthusiasts, but particularly in women, who have historically been discouraged from pursuing STEM and industrial careers. Her Girl Gang Garage in Arizona offers classes and open-house events designed to improve skills for experienced techs and teach skills to interested rookies.
Other participants on the build included professional mechanics, welders, and painters as well as several Volvo techs. Volvo has been actively pursuing a more balanced workforce, in part from its work with Lateiner on the Iron Maven project. Efforts include more training programs for dealer techs and managerial training for all employees about inclusive workplaces,, and Volvo reports that since 2021, the number of women in its U.S. workforce has risen from 28 percent to 33 percent. Small steps, but in the right direction.
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