11 women who changed automotive history and the way we drive

Today marks the first day of National Women’s History Month.

To celebrate, we’re celebrating women whose ideas, tenacity and inventions changed automotive history and the way we drive our cars:

Bertha Benz | Brake pads and the first road trip

Let’s start with the woman who put automobiles on the map.

Bertha Benz | Photo from Onmanorama

Bertha Benz | Photo from Onmanorama

Bertha Benz was born in 1894 in Germany when women were denied access to higher education. She married young engineer, Carl Benz, and supported his numerous career paths, emotionally and financially, including the invention of the automobile.

No one was very interested in his motorcar, until Bertha and their sons took a now-famous road trip. Without Carl’s knowledge, Bertha and the boys snuck the car out of Carl’s workshop and took it on the first-long-distance road trip, from Mannheim to Pforzheim.

Ad for Carl and Bertha’s Motorwagen | Photo from Mercedes-Benz

Ad for Carl and Bertha’s Motorwagen | Photo from Mercedes-Benz

It was a rough ride on roads built for horses and carriages. She made several repairs during her journey and even invented the first brake pad, made of leather, when the car’s wooden brakes failed.

Her tenacity and determination created the popularity the Motor Car needed to become the world’s most important modern advancements.

Photo from Museum of American Speed

Photo from Museum of American Speed

Margaret Wilcox | Car heater

Margaret Wilcox was a trailblazer. Born in 1839, she was one of the very few female engineers of the time. In 1893, she received the patent for the interior car heater when she engineered a system that pulled the heat from the engine into the cab.

Wilcox’s work inspired the air heaters found in today’s cars making our cold winter drives more enjoyable.

Mary Anderson and her patent | Photo from EngineerGirl

Mary Anderson and her patent | Photo from EngineerGirl

Mary Anderson & Charlotte Bridgwood |Windshield wiper

We have both Mary Anderson and Charlotte Bridgwood to thank for our windshield wipers that help us to drive safely in rain and snow.

Anderson’s idea for the windshield wiper came to her while riding on a trolley car to New York City in 1903. Due to the snowy weather, she couldn’t look out the window and enjoy the sights, and the driver had to stop constantly to wipe the snow off the windshield.

Charlotte Bridgwood | Photo from USPTO

Charlotte Bridgwood | Photo from USPTO

Inspired by her less-than-ideal road trip, she designed a spring-loaded arm with a rubber blade that would wipe across the windshield and could be activated from inside the car. Building on Anderson’s idea just a few years later, in 1917, Bridgwood upgraded the wiper to be electrically operated, her design used rollers instead of blades to clean a windshield.

Anderson and Bridgwood were too smart for their time because their patents expired after not getting enough attention from automakers. Little did they know windshield wipers would eventually become a standard feature in all cars.

Florence Lawrence | Photo from Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

Florence Lawrence | Photo from Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

Florence Lawrence | Auto signaling arms

At one point in automotive history, brake lights and turn signals didn’t exist – until silent-film actress Florence Lawrence saw the need.

In 1913, Lawrence invented a device called the Auto Signaling Arm that, “when placed on the back of the fender, can be raised or lowered by electrical push buttons,” she described.

When you pressed on the brake, the signaling arm would raise, indicating a stop.

Lawrence never received any patents for her design, but her idea inspired the necessary turn signals and brake lights we have today.

Photo from El Motor

Photo from El Motor

June McCarroll | Road markings

In 1917, while driving her Ford Model T down a California roadway, June McCarroll was inspired to create a safety measure that saves lives to this day:

“My Model T Ford and I found ourselves face to face with a truck on the paved highway,” she explained. “It did not take me long to choose between a sandy berth to the right and a ten-ton truck to the left! Then I had my idea of a white line painted down the center of the highways of the country as a safety measure.”

McCarroll launched a letter-writing campaign that gained so much attention that painted lines became California law in 1924. The rest of the country quickly followed.

Photo from Edison Tech Center Engineer and scientist Katharine Blodgett is who we have to thank for

Photo from Edison Tech Center Engineer and scientist Katharine Blodgett is who we have to thank for

Katharine Blodgett | Nonreflective glass

Engineer and scientist Katharine Blodgett is who we have to thank for creating non-reflective and anti-glare windshields.

Born in Schenectady, New York, in 1898, she obtained her bachelors degree at Bryn Mawr College and her masters at the University of Chicago. In 1926, at age 21, Blodgett was the first woman to receive a PhD in Physics at Cambridge University.

In 1938, she developed a liquid soap that, when 44 layers were spread over glass, would allow 99 percent of light to pass through. Her development paved the way for future engineers to create a more durable coating that wouldn’t wipe off.

Photo from Wednesday’s Women

Photo from Wednesday’s Women

Hedy Lamarr | Bluetooth

You might recognize Hedy Lamarr from the World War II film The Conspirators, but Lamarr was more than an actress – she was the inventor who created the technology in car’s Bluetooth features.

In the 1940s, Lamarr invented a device that blocked enemy ships from interrupting torpedo guidance signals. The device would take the torpedo signals and make them jump from frequency to frequency, making it near impossible for an enemy to locate the message.

It’s this ‘frequency jumping’ technology we find in the Bluetooth features in our car letting us talk on the phone hands-free or stream our favorite music.

Her technology can also be found in cell-phones, Wi-Fi and GPS.

Photo from Smithsonian

Photo from Smithsonian

Stephanie Kwolek | Kevlar tires and reinforced brake pads

In 1964 chemist Stephanie Kwolek discovered the synthetic fiber, Kevlar. This polymer fiber is five times stronger than steel but lighter than fiberglass. It’s even bulletproof.

Her discovery has saved countless lives as Kevlar is now used to make bulletproof vests and armor.

Today, we can find Kevlar in our tires and in reinforced brake pads.

Photo from Ford Motor Company Archives

Photo from Ford Motor Company Archives

Mimi Vandermolen | Ergonomic controls

In 1970, Ford’s Design Studio welcomed Mimi Vandermolen to the team as one of the first full-time female designers.

After her first project working on the 1974 Mustang II, she led the design team for the 1986 Taurus interior.

In the Taurus, Vandermolen created ergonomic controls, dials for climate function, buttons with raised bumps, and a curved dash to make it easier to reach controls. Her work made the car more accessible and accommodating to drivers.

She went on to lead all of Ford’s North American small-car designs and the styling of the 1993 Probe, inside and out.

Photo from U.S. Navy

Photo from U.S. Navy

Gladys Mae West | GPS

As a mathematician who worked for the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, Glady Mae West was the project manager for SEASAT, the first earth-orbiting satellite measuring ocean depths.

The work on the 1978 SEASAT project helped West and her team build the GEOSAT satellite creating computer simulations of earth’s surfaces.

Her calculations and work on the SEASAT and GEOSAT helped make the GPS systems in our cars – we’d be lost without her.

This article, written by Racheal Colbert, was originally published on ClassicCars.com, an editorial partner of Motor Authority.



Packing a meaty supercharged V8 and a unique manual gearbox swap, Dale Masterman’s classic racer-inspired modified Jaguar S-Type R is the tastiest way to tear up the tarmac!

Feature taken from Fast Car magazine. Words: Dan Sherwood. Photos: Swallows Racing

When you think of tyre-shredding performance saloons most of us get images of brutish Bavarian autobahn blasters springing to mind. Cars like BMW’s brawny M5 or Mercedes understated yet ballistic E55 AMG. But the obvious kraut cruisers aren’t the only options for obliterating the national speed limit or scorching the asphalt of your favourite circuit – for the more discerning hoonigans out there, such as Dale Masterman, the marketing mogul of detailing gurus Meguiar’s, there is another, more elegant choice, one that hails from our own green and pleasant shores.

“To many people, the Jaguar S-Type is seen as a bit of an old man’s car,” laughs 32-year-old Dale. “The sort of thing you see wafting around the countryside on a sunny weekend with a grey-haired driver clad in string-backed gloves and a flat cap behind the wheel.”

Modified Jaguar S-Type R

And, in a way, he’s right. The S-Type was designed to hark back to the Mk2 of the sixties. It’s bold curves, central oval grille and quad headlights were all elements lifted straight from its swinging forebear. However, where the original was a coveted performance saloon, favoured by both the criminal underworld and police force alike – the former for its ability to effortlessly whisk a crafty tea-leaf and up to four other balaclava-clad henchmen away from the scene of the crime, the latter for its speed and poise to try and catch them – the S-Type has never really enjoyed such a desirable reputation, especially in its more mundane powerplant options.

“I’d always loved the look of the sixties’ original and felt that the S-Type was a great modern equivalent that could look awesome with a bit more attitude,” says Dale. “So when the big bosses at Meguiar’s tasked my colleague Tom and I to compete in another project car build-off, I knew exactly what car to choose.”

Modified Jaguar S-Type R

For those that have been living under a rock the last year or so, the original Tom Vs Dale modified showdown saw the pair of Meguiar’s marketing bods lock horns in an epic battle of the builds. Tom’s steed was a Skeete-kitted Renault 5 GT Turbo, while Dale’s weapon of choice was an air-slammed Mercedes Benz 220.

“The Merc ticked all the boxes for me and was modified to be low and slow with tonnes of retro cool,” Dale remembers. “That’s always been my style really, but with the latest competition I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and focus much more on performance.”

Which brings us back around to that slightly strange choice of motor. If he wanted a speedy saloon, why not pick a M car, or revisit his Mercedes roots?

Modified Jaguar S-Type R

“As well as having cool retro looks, Jaguar also built a version of the S-Type which came with a supercharged 4.2-litre V8,” Dale grins. “Called the S-Type R it packs 409bhp straight out of the box and was a genuine rival for anything that came out of Germany at the time.”

Needless to say, that is the very car that ended up in Dale’s possession and has been transformed into the bonkers creation you see here.

Originally a completely stock 2002 model in grey, Dale’s vision was to build a car that took inspiration from the classic Jaguar race cars that he’d seen blasting around the track at the Goodwood revival. And he knew exactly the place that could help him achieve his vision…

“Swallows Racing in Bristol are one of the country’s top Jaguar specialists that not only sell cars, but are also involved in numerous Jaguar race series competing with both modern and historic machinery,” Dale reveals. “So it was a no brainer to hook up with them to build the Jaguar S-Type R.”

Working closely with Swallows’ main man Tom Robinson,  Dale concocted a recipe to add more than a hint of spice and a whole heap of race-inspired aggression to the Jag, and first on the list was sorting the suspension.

“My usual choice of suspension is to just slam the body as low as possible on air ride,” Dale confesses. “But as this was going to be a track car for the road, we went to suspension maestros Bilstein to see what they could do,” Dale says.

A custom set of two-way coilovers using uprated Eibach springs was created and means that the Jag can sit low enough to satisfy Dale’s tastes, yet also benefit from a wide range of damping adjustability to ensure it can tackle any track.

“The seats were next,” says Dale. “We needed more supportive seats for when the car will be driven on the limit on a circuit, and to also give the car a more race-inspired look and feel, so we went to Cobra to develop our own racing bucket seats.”

Based on Cobra’s FIA-approved Sebring fixed bucket design, Dale opted for black cloth with red accents and custom embroidery including his name on the driver’s seat and ‘Barry’ on the passenger seat, in honour of Meguiar’s president Barry Meguiar.

“With the Scroth harnesses the seats really hold you in place and, combined with the Motamec suede-rimmed steering wheel and the wild bolt-in custom rollcage made by Caged Laser Engineering, it really feels like you’re strapped into a thoroughbred racer,” reckons Dale.

But the car’s opulent leather and wood grain interior wasn’t the only standard part that found its way into the bin, as the stock 19in wheels were also due for an upgrade.

“I wanted a set of rims that evoked the feel of the classic racing wheels of the Jaguar D-Type speedster,” says Dale. “And to achieve this we designed a custom set with Midlands-based wheel experts Image.”

Measuring a girthy 9x19in at the front and 10x19in at the rear and shod with sticky Nankang AR1 semi-slick tyres, the new rims, complete with period knock-off hub nut spinners, allow for a much bigger footprint at each corner to give Dale maximum grip in the twisties. However, they were anything but a straightforward fit.

“We knew that the wider rims would never fit under the stock rear arches, so the car went off to bodywork specialists The Motor Works in Gloucester for a set of custom rear arches and a full respray in glorious British Racing Green with extra green pearl,” he remembers.

Looking at the pictures, it’s hard to tell that there’s been much in the way of body modifications to the Jag, as the finished product has been executed so well that it could’ve easily come from the factory that way, but they also add up to give a much cleaner and more menacing feel.

As well as the custom wider rear aches, which were made by grafting on the flared lips of a spare set of OEM front wings, the other subtle body mods include deleting the rear door handles, smoothing the bumpers, de-badging the front grille and removing the stock rear spoiler.

“I wanted to keep a classic feel for the bodywork and let the paintwork and the original lines do the talking,” Dale says. “Combined with the fatter wheels and the classic racing touches like the taped headlights, numbered grille and door roundel, I think it really works well.”

Modified Jaguar S-Type R

With the interior and exterior makeovers complete the Jag could be returned to Swallows where the team could work their magic giving this big cat some bigger, sharper claws.

“Being supercharged from the factory means performance gains can be made fairly simply by fitting a smaller supercharger pulley to gain more boost,” Dale smiles. “However, a remap of the ECU is also needed to ensure the fueling can be increased to match.”

As well as the pulley upgrade, Swallows also added a custom hardpipe induction kit with Pipercross cone filter, a set of racing injectors, a custom stainless steel exhaust system and a fully integrated racing ECU, mapped by The Tuning Shed.

“The result of the engine tweaks is a meaty 500bhp and 500lb ft of torque,” Dale confirms. “It’s a proper beast now and I can’t wait to be able to unleash it on the track!”

Modified Jaguar S-Type R

But even with 500bhp on tap, how much fun can you have in an sloppy-shifting automatic?

“That was precisely what Tom at Swallows was thinking too,” laughs Dale. “So to remedy the situation he and the guys decided to carry out a manual gearbox conversion.”

Unlike many other cars where swapping auto for manual is a regular occurrence, this particular conversion had never been carried out on a road legal S-Type before, so Swallows were breaking new ground.

The swap began by removing the stock auto ‘box along with the power-sapping torque converter before replacing them with a six-speed ZF manual gearbox from a diesel S-Type and a custom billet clutch and flywheel. The pedal box from the manual diesel S-Type was also used and modified to suit the new application, before programming the racing ECU to work with the new transmission parts.

“The Maxx racing ECU was an essential component for the manual swap,” says Dale. “The factory ECU is very dated now and would put the engine into low power limp mode if it didn’t detect the stock gearbox. But being fully customisable, the new ECU can run with the new parts no problem, however it was quite a challenge to get all the electronics to work together seamlessly and retain all the functions needed for road use too.”

And the result is simply awesome. Combined with the bespoke bodywork, the track-inspired interior and the muscular engine, the slick-shifting manual has transformed Dale’s Jag from an automotive aristocrat into a dapper street and circuit scrapper that turns heads wherever it goes, and that’s something to relish!

Tech Spec: Modified Jaguar S-Type R


4.2-litre, 8-cyl, 32v supercharged V8, custom hardpipe induction kit with Pipercross cone filter, uprated injectors, custom stainless steel exhaust system, Maxx racing ECU


500bhp+ 500lb ft+


6-speed ZF manual gearbox conversion from a diesel S-Type, custom billet clutch and flywheel


Two-way custom racing suspension developed by Bilstein UK with Eibach springs


Standard calipers with uprated Tarox F2000 discs and pads

Wheels & Tyres:

9x19in (front) and 10x19in (rear) custom Image wheels with 265/35/19 Nankang AR1 tyres (front) and 275/35/19 Nankang AR1 tyres (rear)


Full respray in British Racing Green with additional green pearl, gloss black mirrors, rear spoiler delete, badge delete, smooth bumpers, racing number in grill, custom rear arches using wider front wings, rear door handle delete, red tinted rear light clusters, custom racing graphics


Fully stripped, painted black with custom red bolt-in rollcage, Cobra Sebring bucket seat, Scroth harnesses, JVC KW-M565DBT double-din head unit and speaker system with slimline subwoofer, racing fire extinguisher, alloy footplates, retro Sparco crash helmet


Meguiarsuk for giving me the opportunity to build the car. Massive thank you to Swallows Racing for their huge contribution to the management and execution of the build. @thereal_patch for documenting the build! @sycographix, @themotorworks, @swallowsracing, @jaguarenthusiastsclub, @imagewheelsofficial, @tarox_brakes, @forgemotorsport, @cobraseats, @bilsteinuk, @theinstallcompany, @jvc_uk, @nankangtyreuk, @powerflexbushes, @fastcarmagazine, @clifford_uk, @cagedlaser, @players_shows, @EIBACH_SPRINGS_UK. @funkies_sihn_and_lines, @demontweeksperformance, @tuningshed, @lil_amy89


How to protect everything with paint protection film

If you want to keep your car’s paint looking new, paint protection film is a great option. The name is pretty self-explanatory, but this video from Ammo NYC founder and car-detailing evangelist Larry Kosilla shows just how versatile this material can be.

It turns out you can use paint protection film on more than just cars. Kosilla starts out with the cabinet tops in his garage, which are prone to damage from regular use. This first step is to dust and measure the surface. Kosilla uses Xpel, which makes pre-cut kits for everything from cars to iPhones, but also sells material by the foot and in non-standard sizes.

The film adheres to surface with an application gel, while a top-surface “slip agent” and a squeegee are used to get it into position and iron out lumps. While the surface is still wet, it’s also possible to remove any dust that you might have missed before. That’s important, as any leftover particles will create bumps in the film.

Ammo NYC paint protection film video screenshot

Ammo NYC paint protection film video screenshot

When applying the film, it’s a good idea to have some extra material in case of mistakes, Kosilla said. That excess material will have to be trimmed away, and the best way to do that is to score the cut line with a razor blade, and then peel the material away like a zipper, he added. Scoring rather than cutting straight through avoids disfiguring the material.

You can apply these basic techniques to all kinds of surfaces, Kosilla said. For example, Xpel makes a kit for the Porsche Macan that covers not only exterior surfaces, but also interior lights, the trim piece that surrounds the shifter, door and dashboard trim, and even the face of the clock on Sport Chrono Package models.

If you’re car-detailing perfectionist, Kosilla has plenty of other how-to videos, from small jobs like removing scratches from door handles and interior trim, to installing a vinyl wrap.