Modified Girls is a Facebook group that started four years ago by Sophie Williams. It’s a community where female car enthusiasts can discuss all aspects of motoring, free from male interference.
The group seeks to welcome women who were perhaps intimidated or unaware of the car scene before, where they will not be patronised or shouted down by men.
Modified cars are the main topic of conversation within the group, however, you do not need a modified car to be in the group. The aim is not to discriminate against those who might not yet have the knowledge or finances to modify their car, but rather to educate and support each other.
Despite the stereotype behind ‘women drivers’, studies by Brake, the road safety charity, show that “in Britain, men account for 74% road traffic deaths, 70% of serious injuries and 59% slight injuries on the roads.”“Initially I did it by accident,” tells Modified Girls owner Sophie Williams. “I’d met two girls on the car scene online who had amazing builds. I thought wow, I want to meet more girls like this.” There are similar male-dominated groups on Facebook, such as East Coast Cruisers, with 2,623 members. However, there was a gap in the market for a female only group.
With 12,000 likes on Facebook, Modified Girls now competes with some of the larger modified car groups online. “I didn’t know that it would end up being as big and popular,” says Sophie. Prior to making the group, it was difficult to tell how many girls were interested in modified cars.
The group’s success and notoriety have enabled people to understand the female modified car community, “to begin with, we had a few people thinking that we were being sexist, but now we’re quite well known and people are fine with it,” Sophie explains. Being visible at car shows has earned the group the respect it deserves within the modified car community, bridging the gap between men and women.
Without social media Modified Girls would never have been able to exist. “The reason why I don’t do meets is because we’re all spread out,” Sophie explains. Due to the niche of female car modification, the members are all spread out across the UK. In fact, the group has members worldwide. The online platform has enabled girls to connect through cars despite living hundreds of miles from each other. There’s a lot of people that I know, that I would be best mates with if we just lived a bit closer to one another,” says Sophie.
“It isn’t just me, you see,” says Sophie, the team of volunteers behind Modified Girls are what keep the group going. Sophie still works a full-time job alongside managing the group, so without the help of the admins, maintaining a group this size would be challenging.
Keeping the social media moderated in such a large group is not an easy task, however, Sophie admits that “Some group pages have to ban people all the time, we hardly have to ban anybody.” The team relying almost entirely on volunteers “run the Instagram,” and they “organise and run most of my shows,” says Sophie, the camaraderie amongst the girls is what keeps the group alive.
Weekly car meets would be unrealistic for many of the members, instead, they opt for larger shows attracting bigger audiences. This allows them to showcase their cars and meet like-minded enthusiasts. These car shows attract interest from a variety of people male and female “we have a whole load of guys that regularly come with us on the stand,” says Sophie.
Her objective was never to exclude men entirely, there are a few men in the Facebook group who are considered part of the team and come along to help with shows. Allowing men into the stands opens up conversations, increasing inclusiveness and understanding for female car enthusiasts.
[pullquote align=”right”]“I used to go without food to pay for car parts. I’d live off beans on toast for six months.”
Sophie Williams[/pullquote]Another reason that Sophie chooses to do larger car shows is the negative connotation that comes with car meets. “A lot of these meets are tarnished with a brush, you get the odd idiot who does burnouts down the road and ends up running somebody over,” says Sophie.
The association with street racing and reckless driving is what gives other car cultures a bad name. In 2016 the Birmingham Mail found that Police are dealing with more than 750 calls about street racing and cruises a month – making it the second biggest drain on resources.
When Sophie realised the group was growing in popularity she decided to use the platform to set up a business. “I started thinking, there’s loads of gaps in the market. When you go to car shows, it’s really hard to find a nice top or hoodie that isn’t just a man’s hoodie,” says Sophie. Turning Modified Girls into a brand allowed the group to gain greater recognition in the car scene.Despite being business motivated Sophie does not run the group for profit “this doesn’t really make a lot of money, any money that I do make, I put it back into the club,” she says. Putting money back into the club ensures the members have a better experience “We give all the members discounts off massive brand names,” says Sophie.
“A lot of people suffer really badly from things like anxiety,” explains Sophie. “Our admins work really tirelessly to make sure we put everyone into a Facebook chat for the show,” she continues. The main message of the club is more about inclusivity than modified cars.
There is a sense of belonging that makes the Modified Girls community what it is: “Even though we’re called Modified Girls, we actually welcome everybody,” says Sophie enthusiastically. Not everyone in the group owns a modified car, often they are just taking an interest in the scene “a lot of it comes down to having time and the money,” Sophie continues.
Sophie’s own interest in cars started at an early age. She recalls driving past the Corvette garage on the way to school, knowing that one day she would own a car of her own.
Her passion has not dulled throughout her life “I used to go without food to pay for car parts. I’d live off beans on toast for six months,” she admits. Sophie talks about many members of the group preferring to spend their money on car parts rather than wasting it down the pub. She confesses that she has spent “nearly £30,000” on her own car, a turbocharged Honda S2000.
[pullquote align=”right”] There’s girls I know that have pulled up at a petrol station and the guy behind the kiosk has said ‘is that your boyfriend’s car?’”
Sophie Williams[/pullquote]Sophie hopes that through the group she can inspire women to take interest in modified cars that perhaps might not have done. “One of my friends never liked her ex-boyfriend’s car, he had a really loud, obnoxious Mitsubishi Evo,” says Sophie. “I made her realise that she could go and buy a car and modify it how she wanted to,” she continues.
“There’s girls I know that have pulled up at a petrol station and the guy behind the kiosk has said ‘is that your boyfriend’s car?’” says Sophie. Since running the group Sophie says, “You learn not to take it personally.”
The ways in which you can modify a car are numerous from stance to track day or show car look. People modify their car for many different reasons from physical modifications to performance, it is often personal to the owner. Sophie talks about this by saying “it’s all down to each individual and their personality, I don’t think it’s anything to do with sex.” She adds: “However, you get the odd girl who’s into putting pink on absolutely everything.”
As well as inspiring women, Sophie is inspired by women in the modified car scene and other branches in motoring. “There’s quite a few up and coming girls in the drift world and that’s really competitive with men,” says Sophie. “There’s another lady who does something called motorsport women, she deals with girls who race professionally,”
She goes on to say. It’s these women, like Sophie, who are paving the way for women in motoring. Most of all Sophie says the “people that I know all inspire me.”
Featured image by Ed Keating Photography via Modified Girls on Facebook