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Sherri Richards, Published June 03 2013

Women behind the wheel: Passion for cars sends area women's hearts racing

FARGO - Kristi Zick fell in love with her husband Ryan’s black ’87 Camaro before she met him.

Kristi and Ryan were set up at a racetrack, which was only natural since Kristi grew up watching her dad, Roger Langlie, serve as crew chief for her uncle’s Super Comp dragster team.

Besides the time at the track, her family went to car shows together. Zick and her dad fixed up an ’86 Corvette, so he could teach her to change oil and do basic repairs.

She and Langlie purchased a quasar blue metallic ’93 Corvette coupe with a removable glass hardtop in April 2002. He died of cancer that December.

“We were planning on sharing it,” says Zick, of Kindred, N.D. “It didn’t work out that way. … It’s nice now, because every time I see it or every time I drive it, it reminds me of him. It’s something we loved to do together.

“I’d say my dad is my heart and soul when it comes to cars,” she says. “To be able to carry out that part of him, it means a lot to me.”

Zick joined the Northern Lights Corvette Club as something fun to do for her dad. She also occasionally drag races the Corvette.

“Racing to me, it’s such an adrenaline rush. It’s something not everybody does, which is fun for me,” she says.

While cars are often considered a male-dominated hobby, plenty of local women have a passion for classic, muscle or luxury cars. They can be found during the summer months at car shows, race tracks or cruise nights.

While Zick says she loves all things cars, racing is her passion. She and Ryan celebrate their anniversary every year at the Brainerd International Races, watching Top Fuel dragsters like John Force, who Zick considers a hero.

She enthuses about the smell of the nitromethane and the rumble of the cars.

“When they race past you and you’re in the stands, you actually can’t talk very well to the person next to you because they shake your vocal chords so much,” she says. “It’s the coolest thing you’ll see or hear.”

She’s hoping to teach her two sons, ages 4 and 17 months, a love of cars as well.

“If they pick it up and enjoy it, that would be a great family thing for us to do as they get older,” she says.

Hotrod memories

Cars were also a family affair for Tanya Robideau of Fargo. For her, they’re a connection to the past – America’s and her own.

She remembers handing wrenches to her dad, Paul Hornbacher, as he fixed up 1930s hotrods.

“My dad would bring home what I would see as a hunk of junk,” Robideau says, recalling the flat tires, blown-out windows and rust.

“Within a couple of years, you’d have a shiny car. It would look like it came off the showroom in 1939,” Robideau says.

Robideau says she’s not a history buff, but is always interested in what she learns about the past from the cars her dad rebuilds.

Right now, he’s working on a 1936 Ford Slant Back. The style is rarer than the more popular trunk back style of that year, she says. A hole in the dash reveals it once housed a clock, a luxury for the time.

Robideau says she helps her dad with the hotrods when she can, but a new business keeps her busy. She and husband Cody own Dakota Chassis Work in north Fargo.

The shop specializes in frame repair, but Tanya also does pinstriping, painting the detail on anything she can get her hands on, including a tricycle and refrigerator.

She and Cody own a ’92 Corvette that he won. Tanya used to have a ’64 Ford Galaxy 500. Last year for their anniversary, her dad bought her mom a ’68 Camaro SS. She says her 9-year-old daughter is a “car nut just like I am.”

Robideau recalls with fondness the family’s hotrod runs/weekend camping trips.

“I can still see them from 20 years ago flying down the road,” she says, rattling off the makes and models. Each pulled a pop-up camper.

“I have what I call my hotrod family. Basically it feels like I’ve got five more sets of parents,” she adds, tearing up.

“The more connected you get into cars, the more people you know and really get to connect with,” she says. “There’s so much history there. Once these cars are gone, the history is gone. It’s sort of like you’re doing your part to keep history.”

High-end, high speed

Brenda Podentz of Fargo credits her husband, Dave, for getting her into high-end German cars. She was driving a Chrysler Sebring convertible when they started dating. He had a 2000 Porsche Boxster S.

“He started to explain to me exactly what the difference was between his car and my car and why his car was so much better,” Podentz says. “And while mine was nice and pretty, it didn’t come close (to his).”

Their courtship conversations turned to performance, handling and agility. They attended Porsche rallies while dating.

“It wasn’t long before I absolutely knew I had to have my own,” she says.

She traded her Sebring in on a 2003 Porsche Boxster S – three years newer than Dave’s with two more horsepower.

“Technically mine would be faster,” she says. “He argues that he’s a better driver than I am.”

Does she agree?

“No,” she says. “I think there are things that he can do quicker than I can, but … he won’t drive as aggressively as I do.”

When they got married, Brenda and Dave owned houses across the street from each other. They figured out who had the bigger property to build a garage with a footprint 6 square feet smaller than the house.

Besides their two Porsches, they own a Mercedes sedan. She jokes they stalk the Valley Imports lot to see whose vehicle is in for service or sale.

“Between Dave and I, we can pretty much inventory all the Porsches owned in Fargo,” Podentz says.

They like to attend downtown Fargo’s Cruise Nights. She says Porsche owners congregate in front of Royal Jewelers, an organic separation from the vintage cruisers.

They belong to the Rough Riders, a casual Porsche group in Fargo, and attend rallies sponsored by the Dakota Region Porsche Club of America.

Podentz says she runs into other women “who are like me and have their own vehicles and have a passion for them.”

And her passion is clear, as she talks about different models, suspension systems and Porsche’s “Doppelkupplung” transmission, with both manual and automatic modes.

“It’s the precision. It’s the detail. They’re absolute perfection,” she says about her love of Porsches.

She notes that each tire needs to be purchased specifically for the spot it’s placed on the car, because of how the suspension is set up. That when the car corners, it gets the exact right amount of fuel to power it around the corner. And she can stop on a dime.

If anyone asks, Podentz insists she’s never gone over the speed limit and has no idea how fast her car goes. Off the record, it’s a different, three-digit answer.

“The maneuverability of it … that’s got to be one of the biggest highs,” she says. “The way you can turn and brake. It takes your breath away. It’s like being in a rocket.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556