by Mark Dill
An automobile enthusiast since she was 10 years old, Lauren started as what she calls a “tool jockey” for her engineer father who perpetually had a garage full of cars. Her father’s engineering career included stints at all of America’s “Big Three” manufacturers and ensured his daughter became acquainted with an array of automobiles.
A born entrepreneur, Lauren rode her bike to a remote candy store returning to fuel the sugar rush of other neighborhood kids at a profit. This and other such schemes netted her the funds she needed to acquire her own car, a 1976 Camaro, at age 15 – before she had a license. Not satisfied, she later purchased a 1979 Mustang Cobra, which was more competitive.
Her head for business conceived of projects to upgrade cars by putting them up for collateral and negotiating her own bank loans. Working on the Mustang herself, she installed a more powerful 302 Boss engine with a four-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust, and a nine-inch Currie posi-traction rear end. The arc of this woman’s life was clear early on and accelerated like a dragster from there.
She attended a local driving school and quickly picked up the skills she needed to obtain her license just 10 days after turning 16. She started competitive driving Solo I and II that same year in 1980 and autocross the following year.
Also in 1981, as a high school junior, she recognized the opportunity to launch a drum-to-brake disc conversion kit product for her father’s brake remanufacturing business while attending the Shelby American Automobile convention in Detroit. Despite her father’s doubts she bought up all the early Kelsey-Hayes disc brake parts to develop the kit.
The effort earned her certification with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Later she also earned her ASE certification just to prove she could do it, which led to her co-hosting an automotive TV show on the DIY Network with Steve Ford.
During the 1980s her participation in competitive driving expanded as she continued with autocross and then took an interest in SCCA racing. She initially worked timing and scoring and helped manage the pits. Later, she began regional championship racing in 1985.
The following year was a big milestone when a first date to a drag race blossomed into a marriage to Paul Fix, who is now locked in a battle for the Trans Am series’ overall championship. Trans Am is sharing the stage with SVRA at COTA for the fifth and final time this season. Paul was a car enthusiast but it was Lauren’s passion for getting behind the wheel that got him thinking about on-track competition.
Lauren and Paul (ABOVE) founded their “Driving Ambitions” driving school in 1986. The school’s name became the first of three of her automotive books and was published in 1993. Her books reflect what has become much of her life mission – empowering people in purchasing and maintaining their cars as well as enjoying them while staying safe.
The driving school also provided an unexpected by-product for both Lauren and Paul: mastering the art of driving – even racing – in the rain. An added bonus came when Lauren realized what a naturally gifted driver Paul is.
“We’re both very comfortable in the rain,” Lauren says. “I am smooth and fast, but not fast like Paul. He picks things up quickly and doesn’t repeat mistakes. He’s an athlete, and a smart one.”
During this time the two were married and started another business, Classic Tube, which manufactures preformed tubing products for the automotive industry. Paul already had another business, Fix Motorsports, providing customers with restoration and race prep services.
Paul’s natural ability and Lauren’s passion for driving led them to enter vintage racing, most notably with the SVRA in 1988. During the next 10 years both enjoyed a great deal of success, winning frequently enough to amass a box full of trophies and medals – so many that Lauren has lost count. Bottom line she spent a lot of time spraying champagne on the podium.
Simultaneously her impressive automotive credentials, good looks and bursting personality made her a natural fit for television. In 1986 she began regular appearances on the PBS weekly series, “Motorweek.” Other opportunities followed and what kicked this dimension of her life into high gear was an appearance on “Oprah” in the mid-1990s.
Not only did Oprah call her back five more times but Lauren was invited to join Winfrey on her “Live Your Best Life Tour.” Other media outlets took notice and she became and still is a regular commentator on car care and industry issues with such platforms as the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN International, Fox News, 60 Minutes, 20/20 and many more.
“I get as big a rush in front of the camera as I do behind the wheel,” says Lauren, who owns a Buffalo TV production facility with the only satellite uplink capability in town.
Success breeds success as Lauren became a lead facilitator for car dealer training programs from 1996 through 2001, learning much and vastly expanding her valuable industry network. A constantly networking dynamo, she has leveraged a vast number of contacts to extend her reputation into corporate boardrooms as a consultant and a recognized analyst as she has become a sought-after public speaker and seminar host. A member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) judges panel, she has thousands of followers in social media and is an automotive columnist in such publications as Parade magazine.
Along the way Lauren and Paul became parents with daughter Shelby and Paul III. Shelby is following in Mom’s footsteps as “Car Coach 2.0,” and son Paul is finishing college with a bead on a job with – no surprise – a leading automobile manufacturer.
Lauren, a University of Buffalo graduate, has amassed an endless list of awards – enough to fill a catalog. A sample of these accolades includes: the National Women and Transportation Hall of Fame; the Specialty Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (SEMA) Woman of the Year and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) awards for: Consumer Education and Public Relations; Woman of the Year and twice for Communications. She also won the Stevie Award for reporting on flood-damaged cars from Hurricane Katrina.
Lauren’s over-the-top busy schedule doesn’t allow for as much racing as she formerly did but her entry in the SVRA national championships will mark her third event of the year in her Tony Ave-prepared Jaguar (LEFT, Don Crouch photo). A Group 11 class win at the SVRA Sebring weekend early in the year proves she hasn’t lost her competitive edge.
“I never played the pink nails card,” Lauren asserts. “I’m one of the guys. I’m proud of my family and the way I have led my life. I love racing cars, empowering people and anything automobile. You could say I’ve blazed my own trail. I just don’t see any other way.”