5 Minutes with Bogi Lateiner
Bogi Lateiner was never supposed to end up building cars. Growing up in a “non-car-loving” family, Lateiner had her sights set on going to law school. Other than her random obsession with VW Beetles growing up, Lateiner didn’t expect to have anything to do with the car hobby…until she got her hands on a Beetle.
“I found a Bug that was a heap of junk and spent $500 of my babysitting money to buy it in high school,” she said. “I needed to fix it up, so I enrolled in auto shop at my high school.”
Lateiner became the only female in the auto shop class and says her high school guidance counselor, friends and teachers were not happy about it! “The more backlash I got, the more it made me want to do it,” she said. “I got into cars initially to prove a point: that I could do it, and that girls are capable of doing this.”
She’s more than proven her point. Now a professional mechanic for nearly 20 years, Lateiner is currently the host of the TV show “All Girls Garage” and is the owner of the Girl Gang Garage. In addition, she is responsible for putting together several all-female builds – including a notable one for the 2017 SEMA Show – in which she encourages women to try their hands at building cars, even if they have no previous automotive experience.
“In the beginning of my career, I encountered a lot of challenges, and some people were not supportive at all,” she said. “I had people slamming their fists on the table [saying] that they didn’t believe women belong in the shop…I’m hoping to help shift public perception of women in the industry and improve it.”
We talked to Lateiner about her early days trying to break into the automotive world, as well as her life on reality TV and how she feels about the other famous female mechanics.
Goodguys Gazette: First of all, we have to get this out of the way: Your real name is Sarah but you go by Bogi. Can you explain where that nickname came from?
Bogi Lateiner: I got that name when I was living as an exchange student in Hungary when I was 16. I lived with a host family and they knew how much I loved VW Beetles. ‘Bogar’ kind of means ‘beetle’ and my first car was a Beetle. So I just became ‘Bogi.’ Now the only time I get called Sarah is when my mom is mad at me, or when someone is trying to be cute or something at a trade show and prove that they know my real name.
GG: You didn’t grow up around cars. How did you get interested in the hobby?
Lateiner: I was always obsessed with VW Bugs. I loved how they looked and thought they were so cute. I knew that would be my first car when I became old enough to drive so I started reading VW magazines. I began to notice that the only time women showed up in car magazines was when they were in heels and draped over the hood of a car. I had a crazy vision that one day I’d have my Beetle in the VW magazine and there would be some guy modeling in front of it!
GG: If you hadn’t become a mechanic, what career do you think you would have chosen?
Lateiner: I want my life to have a purpose and to have meaning. Whether it was through social change or the auto path, or through teaching, I wanted to improve peoples’ lives, and I wanted to have fun and work with my hands and build things. If I wasn’t doing this, I would still need to have an outlet to do those things. I’d still be building and trying to help people. But I fell in love with the automotive industry and it has become my passion and mission. I’m not going anywhere; it’s in my blood!
GG: You were often the only female mechanic working at a shop. How were you treated by the male technicians?
Lateiner: I had men who were not supportive, asking me why I wanted to be a man. But I’ve also had wonderful male mentors who were my allies and support. Over the course of my career, I’ve found that there are three types of [reactions] men have to female mechanics: there’s the group of men who are just like ‘Oh, hell no.’ Then there are the ones who want their daughters or wives to become mechanics and are really excited and supportive. Then there are the guys who are just like, ‘Can you do the job? Ok, great’ and move on.
I’ve been a tech for 20 years, owned a shop for over 12 years and been on TV for eight years, but I still have guys who grab my hands in public and look at them to see if I really do the work myself. I’ve been asked if my boyfriend or dad taught me what I know, or if I’m fed lines to say about cars on my show.
GG: How many women mechanics are there these days?
Lateiner: We still only make up less than 2.5 percent of the automotive tradespeople on the tech side. When I started, women only made up 1.8 percent, so there are more women working in shops now. Women make up about 28 percent of the automotive aftermarket in general, but it’s still very common for us to feel isolated in this industry.
GG: You have starred on ‘All Girls Garage’ since 2012. Did you ever picture yourself as a reality TV star?
Lateiner: If you had told me 10 years ago that this would be my life, I would have laughed at you! I had no aspiration to be a reality TV star. The production company had this concept and they casted and found me, probably by googling ‘female mechanic!’ This was eight years ago and there weren’t many of us out there who were visible. I wanted to get the industry talking about women in the trade.
I’m on TV, and there are a handful of women on TV who get the attention, but I wanted to show that there are a ton of women in the industry who work hard and do good work, not just the five or so of us.
GG: What do you do to relieve stress?
Lateiner: I crochet! It’s meditation for me because it’s quiet and calm, and my brain can’t go a mile a minute because you’re counting stitches. I get that same satisfaction because I’m making something out of nothing.
GG: What was the best part of your 2017 All-Female Car Build?
Lateiner: So many women were sharing their stories, and there was an instant sense of camaraderie and connection between these women. It was a 10-month project where we built a ’57 Chevy pickup. We had 90 women from 23 different states come out to participate, and about 30 percent of them had never worked on cars before.
I loved that we had a girl who was a pharmacist and had never worked with any tools. She called the ratchet the ‘clicky clicky tool.’ Now, I see that she’s using power tools at home and tackling projects she never would have before. I love that.
GG: If you’re not in the shop or filming, where might we find you on a day off?
Lateiner: It’s been a long time since I have had one of those! My career has become so extraverted so now when I have time off, I just want to recharge and have some quiet time alone, hang out with my cat or go out with friends for good conversation and good whisky.
GG: What’s next for you?
Lateiner: We are launching our next all-female build! We will be building a car to debut at the 2020 SEMA Show. Other than that, I plan to put on a lot more classes for women, and continue to do what I’m doing.