When I was asked to interview Courtney Hansen I honestly did not know what to expect. Sure I know her face and have seen her countless times on TV; but as I began my research I learned that not only is she far more complex than she appears; she is a true gear gal!
What is your favorite classic car?
1957 T-bird. I have a 2004 T-bird. I think it looks much better lowered. Chip lowered mine 3”. It sits low down and sexier. My dad is driving it now because we have been traveling so much.
What was your first car?
An IROC Z28 Camaro. It was fast! My dad said I had to get the Camaro.
Do you find that some men are intimidated by you?
I have found that men, surprisingly, are not intimidated. I feel like they embrace my knowledge and embrace my love of the car world. I feel very comfortable among men. I don’t feel like there is any chauvinistic thing going on.
Growing up traveling so much with your father (27 time SCCA champion Jerry Hansen), do you feel like that childhood experience prepared you for your life as you are now with television, press, media, and just how busy you are in general?
Totally. We were always traveling in our family motor home from race track to race track, getting to know different types of people. We were always on the road. I think that really did pave the way for where I am now. Nobody has ever asked me that, but I do feel comfortable on the road. People ask “are you comfortable traveling that much and being away from home that much?” I really do, it is the lifestyle that I love so it is probably because it is what I’ve known since I was little.
You really put a lot of work into preparing for your career. When you were studying mountains of car books and car magazines did anyone ask you why on earth you were reading so many car books?
Oh yeah. There was one time I was at the book store and I bought all of the car magazines on the rack. I had all of these magazines in my hands and this guy asked, “What the heck are you doing with all of these automotive magazines?” Even on the Overhaulin’ set I would always subscribe to Hot Rod, Motortrend, and Road & Track so I would have the magazines laying around with my name and address on them. All of the guys would say, “That is so cool that you subscribe to all these magazines,” because they were expecting Vogue or Mademoiselle. People definitely raised an eyebrow. I’d be on the beach or in the coffee shop reading, and I’d read something like “Auto Repair For Dummies”. It would catch people’s eye because it was a bright yellow book and they would ask, “Why are you reading that?” It was fun to be able to say that I’m trying to absorb as much as I can so I can participate on Overhaulin’ and the other shows I do, as well as write a book for women.
Was there ever a moment in your early career that you thought, “Maybe I made the wrong decision?”
I don’t think there was ever a time that I thought this wasn’t a good idea. I knew I wanted to be a host. I’m a very determined person so I’m going to do that. When it did happen to converge with the automotive world I thought, “This is really cool because this is my life, this is my background, where I come from.” I saw it also as an opportunity as a businesswoman to brand myself, to have a niche that I was passionate about and completely enjoyed but also happened to be a cool marketing/branding business opportunity. So I don’t think there was ever a time where I thought “Uh oh, I don’t know about this” but I never wanted to pigeonhole myself so I try to be as well rounded as possible and dive into other interests and passions. That is why I’ve done travel adventure and stuff with fashion. I love car space and so I’ve embraced it since day one.
As one of the power women in the automotive media, are there any women you credit with being an inspiration to you in the industry?
Danica Patrick comes to mind. She hosted PowerBlock and I took over for her and I appreciate her being this tenacious, ambitious woman in the automotive space; being a pioneer among women and really inspiring other women out there who have an interest in the automotive space. So I would definitely say Danica in a huge way.
And then, actually, my mom because my mom was always so incredibly supportive of my dad and his racing. A lot of wives might be freaking out, or not happy with the idea of their husband being behind the wheel in a race car going 200mph with little kids at home. But she was always very supportive and very trusting, we were always decked out in our orange & blue colors at the track, supporting my dad, sitting on top of the motor home watching the races. I feel that my mom was a huge inspiration to me.
In addition to your father’s racing career your family also owned a race track. What was it like growing up with, quite possibly, the most amazing playground ever?
It was killer. That was my playground, that was my jungle gym. It was so neat to be exposed to racing, to be able to go into the garages and watch the mechanics at work, to be able to watch our dad race, and then to be able to drive anything with an engine since I was a little kid. I’ve literally been driving go-karts, motorcycles, golf carts, snowmobiles, boats, cars, motorhomes, everything since I could hold the wheel. So here I was 2-years old sitting on my dad’s lap driving. It was really cool to build our confidence in that way and to be exposed to all those fun adventurous motorsports. I loved it. I don’t think there is any better playground than a race track.
I broke my arm though one time. My dad once told me never get on the back of anything with anyone else. Never get on the back of a motorcycle or snowmobile or anything. You may know how to drive but this person might not. Unless it is Mario Andretti or Paul Newman, do not get on the back of anything with anyone. I went against his advice and I got on the back of a motorcycle when I was 13. This girl didn’t know how to drive and was going way too fast the wrong way around the race track so the embankments were wrong. There are only a few good female drivers out there and we wrecked badly. Thankfully I only broke my arm in six places but it could have been a whole lot worse. That was the one story of the race track that was not fun but the rest of the memories are all wonderful.
Is there any advice you would like to give to all the young people out there who want to follow in your footsteps?
Follow your passion. Follow your genuine passion whatever it is. If you want to be a movie star, a mechanic, a teacher, whatever it is that drives you go for it but you have to be 100% committed. You have to be devoted. There were times I sacrificed a lot of fun so that I could be taking my classes, getting my rest so I can look nice for my audition or photoshoot the next day. To make it look like I was already a TV host I would go out and fake footage, to make a demo reel, when I didn’t have a show. I poured everything I had into making it happen. I’d say that you have to be ready to be 100% devoted but if you are and you follow your passion you can do anything you want to do. There were times when I was getting rejections and people were saying “No, no, no,” but I was saying “Yes, yes, yes,” I’m going to make this happen despite losing out on 150 auditions. I was still determined to make it happen and believed in myself. You really have to believe in yourself. Stay strong, stay determined. Don’t ever let anyone tell you “No”. They can tell you ,“No,” but you’re going to keep working towards “Yes.”
What do you want your automotive legacy to be?
I would love to be remembered as someone who inspired women. I’d love to be remembered for having written a book that catered to women and hopefully empowers them. I would love to be remembered as a woman who was low maintenance, not afraid to get in there and get dirty like participating in the builds on OverHaulin’ or any of the shows I’ve done. Not fearless but confident in this world that has always been dominated by men. I would love to inspire just one person, but hopefully many more than that!
Who has more tools, you or your husband?
Me. I have more tools. I know more about cars. I know more about engines. But he’s actually surprised me. He lived in New York prior to meeting me and he grew up in communist Russia. His family was on waiting list until his dad was 42 before they could even get a car, and the car was a Lada which is worth like $500. It is the infamous most horrible car you can have on the planet. So he didn’t grow up knowing a lot about cars or being exposed to cars, and living in New York he never had a car. It surprises me how much he knows maybe because he has been passionate in recent days, reading all the magazines, checking what’s out there. I definitely have more tools and definitely work more on cars than he does. But he is growing every day; he’s getting more and more passionate and acclimated to the automotive world.