BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-Standing 5-foot-2 and weighing 105 pounds, Misty Partridge has only one problem with her fellow auto mechanics: Sometimes the guys want to help her too much. ``They don't want me to lift anything they think is too heavy,'' she said.
But the soft-spoken Miss Partridge has proven she can pull her own weight, plus some.
The 21-year-old Dora, Ala., resident recently became the state's first woman certified to work as an auto technician at General Motors Corp. dealerships.
She plans to continue working for a dealer where she served an apprenticeship before fulfilling her true dream.
``I want, in a couple of months, to get back into school and get a degree in mechanical engineering so I can be on a NASCAR pit crew,'' said Miss Partridge.
There may be one roadblock, though. ``They tell me my size is a problem,'' she said.
Still, she won't have any employment worries while waiting for her entry into the world of racing.
``She's got a job here as long as she wants one,'' said Carl Harbison, service manager at Franklin Motor Co. in Jasper, Ala., where Miss Partridge works. ``Misty is super sharp.''
Miss Partridge is the first female graduate of the 10-year-old GM Training Center at Bessemer State Technical College. The school is the home of similar programs for Ford and Toyota dealers, but they have had no female graduates.
As part of her training, Miss Partridge attended classes and worked at Franklin Motor for alternating, five-week periods.
Much of the school work involved high-tech electrical systems and on-board computers, the brains of many of today's vehicles. But there was plenty of good, old-fashioned grease.
``You've got to get your hands dirty to understand how an engine or transmission works,'' said Mike Hobson, training center manager.
Miss Partridge, however, was no stranger to cars. Her father, grandfather and uncles used to race at area short tracks. But it wasn't until she took vocational classes in high school that nursing and flying airplanes were replaced as career choices in favor of working on cars.
While a female mechanic in a garage is unusual, Miss Partridge said her male co-workers have been nothing but supportive. ``None of them seem to have a problem with it,'' she said.
Mr. Harbison, the service manager, said Miss Partridge has all the makings of a topnotch technician. ``She was in the top of the class as far as grades,'' he said. ``She put a lot of the guys to shame.''