(Editor’s note: Jodi Lai is the Editor-in-Chief for AutoTrader.ca and knows her way around the business as well as anyone we know. She’s also a Porsche fan. While the world turns toward electrification, the modern car enthusiast is different. But the excitement and enthusiasm is all the same. We want this site, and the Porsche community as a whole, to be open to all enthusiasts, even if they don’t know the technical ins and outs of chassis codes or the technical details of why something is one way or another. We’re all enthusiasts, and gatekeeping hurts all us all. We asked Jodi to tell her Porsche story — which has been a part of her life since literal birth — so we can all be reminded how important these cars can be to so many people.)
Full disclosure: I don’t know the engine or chassis codes for every single Porsche ever made, I don’t really know the difference between a 924 and a 944, and I suck at heel-toe shifting.
But driving my dream car literally made me cry tears of happiness and if that doesn’t qualify me as a “true car enthusiast,” I’m not sure what does.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed about driving a manual Porsche 911, specifically a Turbo or a GT3. My parents brought me home from the hospital when I was born in a manual 911, which I think kick-started my lifelong obsession with cars. Growing up, I had 911 posters and magazine cutouts in my bedroom and my locker at school. I was obsessed.
When I figured out that I could combine my degree in journalism with my love of cars, automotive journalism sounded like the perfect career for me, so I hustled my way to where I am today, the editor-in-chief of AutoTrader, the biggest online automotive marketplace in Canada and a top-tier automotive publication here.
But being a woman of color in the very white and very male-dominated world of cars, my journey here has been full of hurdles. The gatekeeping I’ve experienced in the automotive world is wild. The racist and sexist aggressions casually hurled at me throughout my career are enough to make anyone just give up. But I persist.
Showing up to automotive events happy to be surrounded by cool cars, men would look me up and down, instantly judging me and trying to figure out why I was there.
“Whose girlfriend are you?” they’d ask.
“I’m an automotive journalist,” I’d reply, trying to sound confident and preparing myself to be grilled.
“OK, but do you even know how to drive stick?” they’d retort as if there was a checklist of stuff that qualified people to be there.
This is one reason why it was so important for my dream 911 to be manual. It turns out I really love proving people wrong, and I weirdly always thought being able to drive stick would legitimize me somehow. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
As part of my job, I also used to do a lot of video coverage of auto shows and YouTube commenters would berate me for taking jobs away from “qualified people.” Why did they assume I wasn’t qualified? I knew everything about the car and was dressed smartly (not that it matters), but it usually comes down to the fact that I don’t look like a “typical automotive enthusiast.” To constantly be reminded that I don’t belong here despite my obvious passion or career accomplishments is frustrating, to say the least.
So when I found myself sitting in a deceptively subtle Gentian Blue Metallic six-speed manual 2022 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring, its fixed carbon fiber bucket seats perfectly hugging my small frame, I was absolutely beaming.
I’ve been fortunate to drive all sorts of exotic cars, but nothing has ever hit me as hard as this 911 GT3 Touring. After my first 15-minute drive with this literal dream machine, I pulled into work and parked the car. I burst into happy tears. I sat in those carbon fiber seats, in this 502-horsepower supercar hysterically laugh crying because as something I’d dreamed about my whole life, it felt like everything I’d ever done had led up to this. It felt like a transgressive moment where I got to achieve my dream despite all the people who insinuated I wasn’t worthy. Experiencing your dreams come true is a religious experience.
But even with this level of passion and at this point in my career, there will be people who tell me I’m not a “real car enthusiast” because I can’t quote every Fast & Furious movie or because I can’t do my own oil changes. None of this matters.
Let me make this very clear: The only requirement needed to call yourself an automotive enthusiast is to like cars. That’s literally it. You don’t need to know how to drive stick. Hell, you don’t even need to know how to drive to be a car enthusiast. I’ve been a car enthusiast from the day I was born and I don’t care about proving it anymore. The 911 GT3 helped me realize that.
Jodi Lai is the Editor-in-chief of AutoTrader.ca and has been covering the automotive industry for over a dozen years. She’s a lifelong car-crazed person based in Toronto, Canada.
Photo credits: Jodi Lai (unless otherwise marked)