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First Lady of Motorsports Linda Vaughn

First Lady of Motorsports Linda Vaughn
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Linda (r) with Mike and Laurie Yager, and George Barris at Corvette Funfest  2010. Linda and George danced up a storm at Mike’s Beetles Impersonators concert.

Last Wednesday we were having lunch with a couple of automotive writers and one of them mentioned he had just discovered that Linda Vaughn-—a lady known as the First Lady of Motor Sports and famous for her Hurst promotions—wasn’t the first Miss Hurst Golden Shifter.

Ron Kowalke was correct. Before Linda Vaughn got the job, it was “Perky” Patty Flannery that the race fans knew as Hurst's Miss Golden Shifter. George Hurst paid Flannery $125 a week plus expenses, travel, food and lodging to push sales of his shifter. Linda Vaughn followed in Patty’s footsteps, except that she kept the job for around 20 years.

Linda’s image was that of a winner’s circle beauty queen, although she had a genuine passion for motor sports and the people involved in motor sports. She actually attended the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving to earn a Sports Car Club of America Competition License.

Linda’s career really took off in the late-1960s and 1970s. After we got professionally involved in the industry in the late 1970s, we would often see Linda signing autographs at car shows. We had no idea who the real Linda was at that time.

In 1997, we attended a car show in St. Ignace, Mich. And ran into an old friend named Dave Doern. Dave was a well-known Pontiac enthusiast whom we had met at the Trans Am Territories at Elkhart Lake back in 1983 or 1984. We had not seen each other for several years and Dave suggested we all go to dinner. The restaurant he chose was nearly empty and dark.

Suddenly, the room was illuminated by Linda Vaughn, who turned out to also be a good friend of Dave’s. We told Linda we would love to do a book about her someday. Her response was very businesslike and we soon learned how intelligent and self confident she was. There was definitely a sharp brain inside that heavenly body. To say we were impressed would be an understatement.

While we had a good dinner, it was far from the start of a real friendship with Linda at that point. But a stronger friendship did begin in 2009 when Dave Doern passed away suddenly. Ironically, news of his death came about a day after Pontiac Motor Div. Announced it would begin phasing out its operations. Dave’s sister, who is an artist, asked us to write an eulogy. We needed some facts about his life to do that and Linda was the one who called with the facts.

At that time she was in an airport and she took the time to call and tell us what we needed to know. From that point on, there has been a big hello each time we see each other. Linda may not wven know who we are, but when we meet in person there’s always a smile, a hug or a laugh. She is a very nice person deep down inside and we consider ourselves lucky to know that.

Linda does nice things for people she doesn’t know, too. We have seen her posing with kids, sharing jokes with the car guys at a party and doing radio interviews to help promote the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals. At that show in Chicago in 2012 she went out of her way to sign the hood of a Trans Am that friends of ours race at Bonneville as part of a college program.

Linda seems to know all of the VIPS and heavy hitters in car circles, but she also makes time for the families and folks who come to car shows just for entertainment. There’s a magic about her personality and those “blonde bombshell” looks that she has kept in “mint condition” since her reign as Miss Hurst Golden Shifter.