Overhaulin' Stereotypes

by Julie Clay

Would you ever think you’d find one of 2005’s ‘Most Beautiful Women in the World’ under the hood of a car, talkin’ shop with a bunch of grease monkeys? If it’s Courtney Hansen, the sexy, glamorous host of TLC’s Overhaulin’, the show where they transform beaters into sleek roadsters in record time, you shouldn’t be so surprised. After all, she grew up a pit kid as the daughter of famed SCCA race car driver Jerry Hansen, also the owner of Brainerd International Raceway in Orono, Minnesota. Although Hansen (the dad) never went pro, he did have contact with Hollywood by teaching Paul Newman how to drive. That is, until Courtney got all famous and stuff.

Courtney actually attained some notoriety here in Southwest Florida first. Her family moved here when she was ten; about the same time she began pursuing a modeling career. While in high school, she became a spokesperson for Dodge in Fort Myers, hosting 22 local commercials. After graduating Florida State University with a Marketing degree and spending time as a marketing specialist in the corporate world, her creative roots led her to stops in Miami and Chicago before committing to a career in Hollywood. Three years later Hansen landed a cohost slot on Overhaulin’, seemingly a perfect fit with her automotive past. It’s also a hit show now in its third season.

“They originally were going to have a male host and the female would be a lesser role,” Hansen shares, “They changed it when they found out I had a history in cars.” She not only gets to indulge her love of cars by hanging with the builders, but also gets to be herself and improvise much of her dialogue. She also loves the level playing field between the genders. “I discovered that the guys in the automotive world embrace me as one of them. There’s no chauvinism whatsoever,” she says, “They allow me to be me.”

Although Overhaulin’ is her main focus right now, Courtney was also recently featured in two other TLC programs, a special called Million Dollar Rides and the series Rides. She writes a speed column for FHM magazine, titled ‘Garage Girl’. Courtney also graced the cover of the April issue of Hot Rod magazine and was named one of FHM’s ‘100 Most Beautiful Women in the World’ for 2005.

Hansen recently stretched her acting wings even further with a starring role in Steve Burton’s (also a Floridian) independent film Mercy and Grace. Far from her spunky Overhaulin’ persona, her role in this story of redemption is that of a nine months’ pregnant woman dealing with a series of emotional lows that ends in an intense labor. Courtney relates, “The film is the antithesis of who I am in Overhaulin’. I had to be depressed, very fragile, etc. instead of the more chipper upbeat persona in Overhaulin’. It was a challenge.” Originally slated to be shown during the Marco Island Film Festival, it ended up as part of the Young Filmmakers Festival back in May.

Adding a movie to her resume hasn’t drawn Hansen away from the TV world. “Ultimately I would love to host my own show”, she confides, “I’ve written two of my own shows currently in development. I would be a producer and host,” adding, “I just tested for two major network shows on ABC and CBS. And I’m on an audition for one on NBC as well.” A grueling appearance schedule also keeps her busy, with a visit to almost every city in the country and in Canada just in recent months. It’s that strong Midwestern work ethic that keeps her, well, driven.

“I grew up in the Midwest and believe you should work hard and work long. You have to go after your dream and not allow anything to stand in your way,” Courtney states. To that end, she made a pact with herself when she moved to LA to do at least one thing for her career each day. Within two weeks she had agents and had enrolled in classes with some of the industry’s best. She waited tables to earn money, landed roles in short films, worked as a corporate narrator and became a spokesperson for Rolls-Royce Motor Car, Ltd. “I have very strong values and have done everything the ethical way,” she says, “While most people in LA were out partying I didn’t do it as I was working. Any goal is attainable if you keep your values and strengths, and you move ahead and persevere.”

Hansen is passionate not only about her work, but about tirelessly donating her time to charity involvement. She has been on the board for the March of Dimes, is currently a member of the WNBA Mind, Body & Spirit Team and has volunteered with the Special Olympics, the NBA’s Read to Achieve Program, the Ronald McDonald House and other charities. “I’m very passionate about the cerebral palsy foundation because my aunt has it,” she explains, “I’ve been involved in many charities and it’s a big part of who I am.” One of the most rewarding experiences of her life was being part of a small mission team to Asia, devising marketing plans and providing counsel for an underprivileged society.

Ultimately, though, Hansen’s got cars in the blood. Maybe it’s something about being a kid with grease under your nails and the roar of engines in your head. As a former owner of a ’76 Dodge Dart with more than a few rust holes but an engine that wouldn’t quit, I could more than relate to the Overhaulin’ mission. Hansen’s favorite cars to overhaul on the show so far have been the ’65 and ’70 Fastbacks, as well as a ’67 Nova. Courtney is hopeful for her automotive future, looking forward to the day she is driving her dream car, the F2005 Ford GT, with a color scheme of white with blue racing stripes. The way this girl is going, it shouldn’t be long at all. •

from the July-August 2005 issue

Courtney Hansen, co-host of
The Learning Channel's 'Overhaulin',
began her television career in
high school in southwest Florida.

"They originally were going
to have a male host and the
female would be a lesser role.
They changed it when they
found out I had a history
with cars."