Jane Thurmond - Race Car Driver; VP of Marketing at GTS Customs Corvette Specialists

 

She Is SEMA - Jane ThurmondCan you tell me a little bit about yourself?  What is your story?  How did you get into this industry?

I am 52, a wife and mother of 3 grown humans! As a little kid, my father would take me to the boat drags and at the age of 12 he taught me how to drive. It was about that same time he bought his first Corvette. Virtually all of his friends were into cars, drag boats or vintage motorcycles and they were painters and had body shops. He, however, was an executive for Screen Actors Guild and headed the safety council for stuntmen after Vic Morrow lost his life. I remember two of my dad’s dearest friends were both stuntmen. Bill Hickman doubled for Steve McQueen in Bullett and drove the epic chase scene in the French Connection. The other guy was Hal Needham who actually was Burt Reynolds stunt double and his prowess behind the wheel of anything with a motor made him one of Hollywood’s most sought after stuntmen and coordinator. You may remember him from the Smokey and the Bandit Films!

I grew up around cars and then when I was old enough to drive I bought a ’72 El Camino and really only hung out with car people.

When I was 17 I met Greg, my husband and as luck would have it, he was totally into cars and his folks owned an upholstery shop. Our first bonafide outing was the NHRA Winter Nationals! Gear heads for life!

Was the automotive industry always your passion?

I can safely say that cars and the automotive industry have always been a passion. Maybe because the people I grew up around were doing incredible things with cars and boats. Always custom, always cool!

How many years have you been in the industry?

After Greg and I married we decided to open our own shop. He was quite accomplished at body and glass work along with upholstery. He spent a couple years being the guy in the Valley who installed the T-Tops in the 3rd Gen Camaros for the Chevy dealerships. It seemed like the next best step was to open our own shop. We’ve been in business for 30 years now and our specialty is Restomod Corvettes. We’ve built close to 50 of them with a couple of them hitting Barrett Jackson and Mecum auctions and selling for $200K plus. The coolest part of that was how Bob Varsha literally gushed over the car, Greg and the shop!

What are you most proud of?  Your biggest achievement?

Proudest moment in my life - my kids!! Proudest moment in racing – securing K&N as a sponsor and everything that has come with that including writing for their brands! I work very hard to be a shining example of what women can do after their babies leave the nest. Winning is great, but teaching and inspiring women to become drivers or to move past their comfort zone and recognize their only limitations come from how they see themselves. That is truly the greatest thing that has come from performance driving and teaching. I’ve only been doing this for just shy of 4 years, but I’m a quick study!

What inspires you?

My favorite question to ask the drivers and professionals is and always has been “What inspires you”? So thank you for asking me. I am inspired by many things. I’m easily inspired by my kids! Or rather young people because they have a way of seeing things with such different eyes and in many case they haven’t been jaded by the “no’s” of the world. They still see challenges as opportunities to break from convention, to dream to be hopeless romantics! They definitely inspire me. What I believe inspires me the most? Someone saying, “You can’t do that”. I’ve never been one to take to sitting quietly and accepting the status quo. I’ve always rooted for the underdog and accepted a challenge for what it was.

If you had one piece of advice to pass on, what would it be?

The advice I would love to share with anyone who will listen? Always, Always trust your gut regardless of gender, economic status, geography and the like. Be a rule breaker. Stand for something, anything, just STAND UP and most of all, approach every day with a grateful heart. People who are grateful are ALWAYS happy!

What does SEMA/SBN/She Is mean to you?

To have the honor of being involved with such an influential group of women seriously gives me chills! I have such a great respect for women that make the choice to break from tradition and live from a place of passion.

What level of involvement do you have in SEMA/SBN?

At this time I would like to be more involved in the SEMA Business Women's Network. I honestly did not know much until I got the call from Camee and Jessi with regards to the She Is campaign. 

In a nut shell what does this mean to me? Wow - where to start. How about this - Strong Women - Know One, Be One, RAISE one! 

I have always been interested in equal and women's rights. I actually have a very strong opinion about both. In my professional life I have worked as a fitness instructor and educator, mentor and now performance driving instructor. As well I periodically work as a precision driver for film and television. Having been exposed to a professional world that has been primarily dominated by men, I feel a great sense of responsibility to not just break the glass ceiling but teach others how to achieve that goal.

What benefit do you receive that is valuable?        

As a 6'1" tall female I have the ability to command attention when I enter a room. With fifty plus years of life experience under my belt I believe I have some wisdom that can benefit other women coming up through the ranks, not just in the automotive world, but really in most any arena. I have overcome for the most part the insecurity that I felt in my teen years and have taken control of my perception of self. My dream would be to share the tricks I learned along the way to anyone who has come up against challenges. In being a part of a professional organization that lifts women up, the benefit becomes ten fold. Not simply for the individual who seeks assistance, but for those affiliated like a mentor, the individuals family, the individuals co-workers and industry, and so on.

 

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