Maker Faire Detroit: The Girl Who Plays with Fieros Interview

Two years ago, when Kathryn DiMaria was at the wise age of 12, she made her parents an interesting proposal: she had saved her babysitting money and wanted to buy a cheap, used Pontiac Fiero to restore herself. Her goal was to have her project completed by her 16th birthday. Spoiler alert: she’s right on track and halfway there.

With the help of her father, Jerry, she found one for sale on Craigslist for $600 that fit the criteria she was after, and they drove over to check it out. After she decided she wanted it, it was up to her to negotiate with the seller, and she talked him down to $450, not bad considering it made the 40-mile drive home. Jerry thought they would wait a few weeks before getting started, but before he knew it, Kathryn was out there pulling apart the interior. On the Fiero forum, where they’ve been documenting the project, Jerry writes, “As she disconnected wires and switches she labeled the wire and the switch with the tape, and placed the screws in an individual ziplock and labeled that as well as what they came from…..Man I love that girl!”

Kathryn is one of the inspirational makers who will be at Maker Faire Detroit this upcoming weekend, July 28 and 29, at The Henry Ford. We chatted with her to get some insight into what drives her.

1. When you were 12, you made your parents an offer they couldn’t refuse. Tell us about it, and what inspired you.
When I was 12 I was inspired to start a project, any project, and recently I had been to a few car shows. So I decided to rebuild a car, and I fell in love with the Fiero. I gave my parents several reasons towards getting a car, some of which were: I would pay for it all myself, it was reasonably cheap, I would learn a lot, and the Fiero got reasonably cheap gas mileage.

2. What is it about Fieros specifically that interests you?
The things about Fieros that interest me are that they are small — a small car that would be easier to build rather than a larger one — and I really like the way they look. They are just so smooth, and they are made mostly of curved lines; there are no straight lines on a Fiero.

3. How did you get interested in restoring cars? What kind of reactions have you gotten from your peers?
I got interested by working on my own project. Before that I really wasn’t that interested in cars — it just kind of crept up on me. The reactions I have received vary depending on the peer. My friends closer to my age don’t really understand, so they react more in the way that they think I’m slightly strange. Others that are older adults can really appreciate what I’m doing and have different reactions, so it really depends on the person.

4. Tell us about the Fiero you bought.
My Fiero is an 86 SE Fiero. Also, it used to have a 2.8-liter engine that will be replaced by an 3.4-liter engine from a Camaro.

5. What have you redone on the car so far, and what has your learning process been like? How much work is left to do?
I have completely redone my interior and I have been working on my engine and the structure (like the frame rails, etc.) and on my body panels. My learning process has been steady and I have already learned so much and I continue to learn every time I work in the shop. Also I am about right on schedule to have it done on my 16th birthday so I am about halfway done.

6. How has the experience of collaborating on such a big project with your father been?
It has been wonderful to work on such an amazing project with both my Dad and my Mom. Working with everyone has been great. It has taught me that this world is a wonderful place and not evil like we tend to think.

7. The thread about your project is currently 18-pages long on Pennock’s Fiero Forum. How has being part of the online community helped your project?Being a part of www.fiero.nl has been great. I have been able to record my progress while getting feedback, suggestions, and support. Everyone in the community has been wonderful and good to me, and I have loved every minute of it.

8. You’ve had a very specific color scheme in mind for the paint and interior. What is it?
My colors are black and yellow so all of my interior is black with yellow accents and my exterior will be black with yellow racing stripes.

9. How did you hear about Maker Faire and why did you decide to participate?
I was invited to participate in the Maker Faire and that is how I learned to do it and also how I decided to participate in it.

10. What advice would you give to the young makers out there who are inspired by your project?
I would say that you need to follow your dreams and spend time with those you love, because you never know when your dreams might come true or when you might run out of time to be with your family.

To read all about Kathryn’s Fiero build, check out the forum posting, and to get all the information you need to go to Maker Faire Detroit, head to the site!

60 thoughts on “Maker Faire Detroit: The Girl Who Plays with Fieros Interview

  1. “I got interested by working on my own project. Before that I really wasn’t that interested in cars — it just kind of crept up on me”

    Yep, that’s how it starts. The ‘problem’ with restoring old cars is once you start, it’s hard to stop! Good for her! It’s a very rewarding pastime.

  2. The problem I have always found with building/restoring cars is that you then have such an intimate knowledge of the car that every little sound the car makes immediately puts you into diagnostic mode – even at highway speeds.

    A friend once closed the seatbelt in the door of my newly finished car. The resulting sound of the end of the seatbelt dragging on the ground had me mentally disassembling the drive train trying to figure out what had come unbolted.

    The up side is that once you have built the car that you are driving you are your own master mechanic – you will be able to repair any part of the car.

    1. I know, right? It’s not like her dad helped her, or the taxes paid for the road she’s going to drive on, or she went to a school paid by city taxes. Totally on her own. Like a sound clip needs nothing to stand on but its own merit and careful editing.

    2. No of course she didn’t build it herself. She had the support of her parents, the help of a good education program, and was working to a design and plan made on the labour of others. Like every endeavour, she has benefitted from the broad help of the rest of society, and this underlines, as it should always underline, the need to maintain such systems and institutions and connections between people that allow everyone, together, to flourish.

    3. Sorry, I don’t want to feed the trolls, but I can’t resist. Not only did she not build it herself, but GM, who made the Fiero, would be non-existent today without Obama. GM is alive and Osama bin Laden is dead. Thanks, Obama. Double burn!

      1. Actually, GM would be alive today (not well, but alive) without Obama. They’d have filed bankruptcy (like any other company with financial woes). So, instead of billions of taxpayer dollars being dumped into the company . . . they would have restructured and moved along. What happens when the company starts to fail again (estimated to be in the next 2-3 years)? Dump billions of taxpayer dollars into it again – and again – and again? And, please, don’t make it sound like Obama pulled the trigger on Osama himself . . . he did nothing brave in ok’ing the assualt that killed OBL – any president would have made the same choice.

    4. Quote mining is a lie wrapped in a truth. I can say with certainty that Obama never said that. That’s not his full quote. Stop being willfully ignorant. If you’re going to blame Obama for something, blame him for what he has actually said and/or done, if you can.

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

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