The Greasy Thumb

In this time between purchasing the Mav and picking it up, I’m just trying to soak in as much knowledge as possible about cars.  Mainly, how the hell they work.  I’ve always been semi-comfortable with cars in that I can change a tire, add/check oil, window washer fluid, etc.  I had a car that would flood all the time and Pop showed me how to prop the choke open to get it started and I carried a wooden spoon in the car for that very reason.  But if I was going to rebuild a car with Pop, I had to show up with at least some sense of the workings of an automobile.

So, I did what everyone does these days when they want to learn about something…I went to the used book store.  Right, I know…the web has been great for searching, research, for forums and pics, but I wanted some old school, hold in my hands, period relevant literature.  What I ended up finding in West Side Books in Denver could not have been better.  It’s like this book was placed there just for me, buried amongst the other books on the 8 foot high shelves in a small section of the store marked ‘Automotive’.

Behold, my car bible: The Greasy Thumb Automechanics Manual for Woman, written by Barb Wyatt and illustrated by Julie Zolot.



It was printed in 1976, four years after my Mav was built, and focuses on American cars.  The book is written, illustrated, and printed by women for women.  The book screams ‘home grown,’ from its shaky illustrations and dark photos to the typewriter font and the fact that it was printed on an “old, sometimes working, sometimes not working, small (Multilith 1250) press.”  It is spiral bound and it is perfect.


I love this book for so many reasons.  It’s not trying to be something it’s not.  It’s just a straight up, “here’s how it works,” “here’s what has worked for me” type book.  I mean, if Barb doesn’t know something, she doesn’t know something…deal with it.

“That isn’t much of an explanation, but I don’t want to get into explaining in more detail how to do it, mainly because I haven’t done it enough to be of much help to you.”

She’ll tell you what’s what.

“A lot of the knowledge in the owners’ manual is superfluous bullshit, but there is some knowledge there that you need to know.”

And SO supportive!

“Try not to get too discouraged – just remember that the next time you do a brake job on your car you’ll know how to go about getting things back together and it won’t be as much of a hassle.”

“Everyone breaks off a bolt at least once if not more often (probably a lot more often), so don’t let it bum you out too much.”

She even included a helpful pre-Excel spreadsheet laying out a maintenance schedule.  (Perhaps in 1976 you could have made a ‘ditto’ off of this!)


Barb and her gals have done me a massive solid by creating this book, in so many ways.  With the possibility in this coming election of putting a hateful, pussy grabbing, misogynistic fucker in the white house, we ladies really need to look out for each other…and our pussies!

Shame we still feel this way 40 years after Barb laid down these words of wisdom:

“The other reason I wrote this book is that I wanted to pass on the knowledge that I have about cars to other women in a way that would be useful and helpful to them.  I feel that women teaching other women what they know is real important to our present and future survival in this world as women separate themselves from men.”

I love that, ‘present and future survival’.  And these women dealt with even more crap than we deal with now.  These chicks were PISSED!

“A source of frustration and discouragement in working on cars, at least for me, has been men.  It’s real difficult to contend with the machoness of many men mechanics while trying to get some assistance with or knowledge about your car.  One thing I have found out from experience is though men may act like they know everything about cars, a lot of times they don’t — and you may know just as much or more.”

“Actually even if you never work on your car, it still would be helpful to have an understanding of how your car works and what things are, so you will be less likely to be ripped off by some smooth talking mechanic who sees you and his eyes light up, ‘Ah, a woman – I’ll be able to sell her anything.’ ”

“I wanted to put something in this manual about buying parts, because parts stores can be a real hassle and are places where women are generally treated like shit (not that this is anything new).”

“It is like they don’t even hear me – all they see is that I am a woman.”

They had a right to be pissed, and we still have a right to be pissed.  There is still inequality in pay for doing the same job.  Our right to decide what to do with our own bodies is still being challenged.  Women in business still have to speak louder and learn how to not be interrupted without coming across as being a bitch, or the opposite, too emotional and sensitive.  For the first time ever a woman is running for the presidency, and I saw a sign that said, ‘Hillary’s a Cunt, Vote Trump.’  Explain that one to your daughters.

While reading The Greasy Thumb I felt a camaraderie with these women.  I felt empowered and part of something special.  After one particularly good ‘man rant’ in the intro, they delivered their dedication.  I wasn’t overly surprised.


Well, I dedicate Pop my Ride to Barb and Julie, and to all my sisters out there; gay, straight, trans and everything in between.  It’s a small, simple thing I’m doing, fixing up an old car with Pop, but since I started I’ve felt an incredible sense of strength, independence and excitement.  I tell everyone, but I especially love telling other woman.  Their eyes light up and they get this big smile and their face that reads somewhere between surprise and envy. (The good kind, the “living vicariously through your experience and you better take me out cruising” kind.)  I’m picking up the Mav from Chicago this week and I leave more inspired than ever.  Rock on!!!



7 thoughts on “The Greasy Thumb

  1. Hey Janet, great post as usual.  I wanted to share with you that I visited Mat last weekend and got to check out the Mav.  That is one awesome car.  The old smell of the interior, the skinny steering wheel, all the metal, that simple, simple engine compartment and in line 6-  oh man!  Took me back.  It reminded me of that 64 Mustang I had for a short while as well as Dad’s International pick up truck.  Mat let me take it for a spin around the neighborhood.  I wasn’t used to the “3 on the tree” that Mat describes as “a little loose” and I stalled it out a couple times thinking I was in first but was actually in third.  But what a fun car.Be careful and drive safe pulling it down to Kentucky.Love Dan’l


      • I believe that was the VW Rabbit he bought from Carol Bell that eventually lost the reverse. I remember being home from college at Christmas time and going to Woodfield with Dan…we had to search for awhile to find a parking space that he could pull through to 🙂


  2. I love that you are taking this adventure and that you have a Pop to do it with! Maybe when your done with the Mav, Mike can be your drag queen and take you to the races 😉


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