Live. Build. Drive.

by Petrol Mum
Ashleigh-Maree The Rod Squad

Growing up, Ashleigh-Maree was immersed in the automotive industry, motorsports, hot rods, classic and muscle cars, car shows and trade shows and everything else automotive that you can imagine. Now as a 30-year-old woman Ashleigh-Maree has a childlike fascination for all things automotive and motorcycle-related. Beyond that, Ashleigh-Maree border-line obsessed by the colour purple, the thrill of travel, and the magical world of Disney.

Having a family obsessed with cars just felt like the usual way of life for Ashleigh-Maree, almost like it was in her DNA. It wasn’t until she got older that Ashleigh-Maree realised not everyone’s family had this kind of intense passion. Cars, car races, and car shows were like second nature to her, apparently, Ashleigh-Maree could even fall asleep during the top fuel drag races as a toddler.

“My journey into the car world started early with a massive Hot Wheels collection, courtesy of my family. I guess you could say that’s where it all began. My mum, being the creative genius she is, used those tiny cars as educational tools, and I absolutely loved it!” Ashleigh-Maree told Driven Women Magazine.

Cool cars became the highlight of going to school for Ashleigh-Maree and her mum was happy to oblige at school drop-off and pick-up. Whether it was something modern and a bit out of the ordinary or a variety of old cars, it always managed to grab the attention of other kids and her mum would park up and let the kids have a look.

As an only child Ashleigh-Maree started learning the ropes of the family business, Engine Master Australia, at a young age, which eventually evolved into a multi-faceted role within that business. She grew up in the business and spent a lot of time there during her childhood or after school and started learning elements of the business very young and was even entering invoices into the accounting software at the age of seven. In Year 9 Ashleigh-Maree left school and pursued home schooling, ultimately achieving Certificate in Business and working part time for the family business.

“At this point we started working through our eBay store more and making it an integral segment of the business. As Engine Master is a small family owned business, my role entails a little bit of everything – from administration, marketing, web design, sales, warranty, dispatch, purchasing, accounting….you name it, it’s a part of my role,” shared Ashleigh-Maree.

Ashleigh-Maree GMC

Ashleigh-Maree has since gone on to open a business of her own ‘The Rod Squad’ that works alongside with Engine Master selling automotive accessories. As part of her role within both businesses Ashleigh-Maree attends a lot of the car shows as a trade stand promoting them.

“My weekdays are all about the automotive scene and getting the right parts to customers ASAP, and come the weekend, you’ll find me surrounded by cars or soaking up atmosphere at car shows. I’m not just a spectator; I’m in the mix, helping out with car show committees, volunteering time and expertise for car clubs, and essentially immersing myself in anything and everything related to the industry. So, whether it’s getting hands-on with engines or soaking in the atmosphere of a car show, count me in,” said Ashleigh-Maree.

It’s a great business to be in with new research from eBay Australia finding that Aussies rank their car as the second-hardest thing to live without after their partner – valued above pets, coffee and social media. The findings show that Aussies really are gassed up about their cars, with 51% of Aussies considering themselves motoring enthusiasts and one in five (18%) admitting they have a unique name for their car, and the most-popular moniker being ‘Betty’ alongside ‘Bertha’ and ‘Baby’.

According to the research, as many as 2.8 million Aussies (11%) consider themselves car collectors and while Aussies are passionate about the pastime, the survey found that 71 per cent of car collectors own a car they no longer use and would consider selling. This indicates that the potential estimated total value of unused cars Aussies would be willing to sell is up to $34.7 billion AUD.

While collecting is a popular pastime for Aussies, according to eBay’s research, undertaking project car builds is even more loved, with almost one in five Australians (17%) participating in the hobby and spending an average of $30,000 on the work last year.

Ashleigh-Maree Chevrolet Bel Air at car show

Throughout her career, Ashleigh-Maree has been privileged to connect with numerous incredible individuals including influential figures in the industry who have fuelled her love for automobiles and many others who have become cherished friends.

“I have been fortunate enough to travel to some fantastic car shows and trade shows around the world (SEMA, PRI, NK13) it is such an amazing opportunity to see the world, connect with new suppliers and see some really cool cars in the process,” revealed Ashleigh-Maree.

Over the past weekend Ashleigh-Maree was one of the thousands of people who attended the Summernats in Canberra and although she has been many times before this was her first year taking her own vehicle. According to Ashleigh-Maree the Summernats is a lot tamer than it was 10 years ago when she first attended, and even tamer than the stories she heard from years prior.

“There are more women driving around as entrants’ year-on-year which is great to see, it is becoming more of a family-friendly event and more women seem to be attending as spectators or entrants,” said Ashleigh-Maree.

But navigating the automotive industry as a woman still poses its challenges for Ashleigh-Maree. She often receives calls from customers specifically requesting to speak with “one of the boys,” assuming that she may not be able to assist them. And it’s always interesting for Ashleigh-Maree when ‘the boys’ have to transfer the customers back to herself, given that it’s her specialty department.

“Throughout the years, this has become less and less of an issue, however, breaking gender stereotypes in this field is an ongoing process – it is great to see that more women are becoming a part of the industry and I applaud all those that have ventured into the hands-on fields as mechanics, painters, welders (etc)!” expressed Ashleigh-Maree.

Ashleigh-Maree finds an abundance of things to appreciate within the car scene, especially when it comes to the various forms of ‘modified vehicles’ and she has a soft spot for hot rods and classic cars. What really captivates her is the sheer creativity involved.

“Each car is completed with the unique choices people make in putting them together. Whether it’s the wheels, gauges, paint, or engine dress-up, every decision tells a story. It’s truly fascinating to observe vehicles of the same year, make, and model and see just how distinct and individual each one becomes – whether it’s my taste or not, I appreciate the effort and hard work people put into their vehicles,” said Ashleigh-Maree.

There are six cars currently in Ashleigh-Maree’s personal garage and these include a 1950 – GMC Pick-Up with a 400 Chevy Small Block, TH350 Transmission, Full Air-Ride with E-Level, Custom Notch/Chassis, Custom Gauges with my business logo, Patina with Pinstripes and Signwriting. At the other end of the ute era Ashleigh-Maree has a 2011 – HSV Maloo, which is fairly stock with only some engine work on the Cam and Heads (it sounds tough), Custom Exhaust and LOW on Coil Overs.

From the 1960s Ashleigh-Maree has a 1960 – Chevrolet Belair with a 383 Chevy Small Block, TH350 Transmission, Full Air-Ride with E-Level, Lowrider Style Vehicle with 13” 100 Spoke Wheels and a 1963 – Ford Futura Coupe that is stock.

Her favourite among the collection though is the 1950 truck that was custom built from the ground up, tailored specifically to suit Ashleigh-Maree and is packed with her favourite brands and parts from Engine Master, The Rod Squad & Old Cool Customs, which makes this truck a rolling showcase of what they offer.

This ride is a full-blown custom creation, the dream vehicle Ashleigh-Maree always envisioned and Old Cool Customs helped her make this dream a reality. The truck boasts a Chevy 400 engine crafted at Engine Master Australia, an E-Level Air Suspension from Airride Performance, an Ice Ignition System, Custom Classic Instrument Gauges with ‘The Rod Squad’ in the centre and a CVF Serpentine System. It’s not just a truck; it’s a piece of automotive art and her dream come true.

Ashleigh-Maree GMC at night

“This truck is full of little hidden elements, I’ve splashed hints of purple (and glitter) throughout the dash and interior, added an American money-themed roof lining, and retained the original patina on the outside with custom sign-writing and pinstripes (by Links Lines) while introducing patina vibes into the interior,” beamed Ashleigh-Maree.

If you see Ashleigh-Maree at a car event be sure to say “hi” and ask her about what exciting project car she is working on next!

Photographs supplied.

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