Our Stella motoring expert Elise Elliott is a triple threat: Journalist, mum — and surfer! Her media career has spanned more than twenty-five years across TV, radio and print.
Elise has been a political correspondent in Canberra, a national current affairs reporter, TV presenter and writer before recreating herself as one of the country’s leading women motoring journalists. This means she spends her day’s test driving the hottest latest release cars or cruising in the coolest classics. She currently works for WhichCar, having starred on its recent TV series. She is motoring editor at Belle and House and Garden Magazines as well as MC at major car events and launches. Elise is also a regular host on the House of Wellness on Nine Radio, as well as a fill-in host at 3AW.
When not behind a wheel you’ll find Elise on a board out on the waves indulging her other passion – surfing with her husband and daughter.
Elise was the perfect fit for our Stella Expert Series. Aside from being a game-changer in the motoring world, Elise is the epitome of a Stella Woman: She’s driven (excuse the pun), a master in her field and just an all-round legend.
We sat down with Elise to chat about her career, balancing motherhood and her favourite car career moments thus far.
With a title like rev head, surfer and mum – you’re clearly a go-getter! What gives you purpose and motivation?
You get one shot at this. No one sits in the rocking chair in their twilight years and laments having lived a fulfilling life. Regrets are always about the coulda/shoulda/woulda missed opportunities. I believe in taking (calculated) risks. I saw an opening for women in motoring and went for it. It was the perfect opportunity to use my experience in media and my passion for cars.
I’m also motivated, yet kept grounded, by my funny, loving family (who fills my heart) and surfing (which fills my soul).
Where did your love of all things motoring come from?
Growing up, Dad drove a 1970 Holden Monaro GTS. Even as a kid I remember thinking this car was special, its look, its sounds, the attention it garnered at the lights.
I’ve always appreciated cars — yes, even the odd former boyfriend’s dodgy broken down car that I’ve had to push on a date!
What have been your favourite test-driving experiences?
Every week I have the pleasure of test driving or experiencing a new vehicle: From a ‘76 V8 Holden Sandman ute to a one-million-dollar Rolls-Royce Ghost; from a ‘65 Mercedes-Benz 230SL Pagoda to an Aston Martin DB11 Volante.
Two experiences, however, stand out. First, fanging a magnificent McLaren GT around the F1 Belgian Grand Prix Circuit — the Spa Francorchamps — in pre-COVID days. And second, partaking in some dusty circle work inside a clapped-out ute at the Deni Ute Muster. I even wore a blue singlet for that event. Classy!
Motoring generally is very male-dominated. Do you think being a female has helped or hindered your career?
I’m always staggered how under-represented women are in motoring journalism — despite the fact fifty per cent of drivers are women, and they are involved in up to eighty per cent of car buying decisions. I was at a car launch recently, and the organiser welcomed us with “Good Evening Lady (singular) and Gentlemen”!
Curiously, the fact I am a woman has worked to my advantage. Many car companies want to appeal to a broader demographic and what better way than by engaging a woman who can torque the talk! Being a Mum helps, too. There are some practical parental topics that often get overlooked. Does a pram fit in that boot? Where are the booster seat ISOFIX points? And how in the hell am I supposed to park that massive car at school drop-off?
That’s not to say I dumb down my reviews; gender should not affect knowledge base. I just add a different perspective.
What’s the best advice you can give to women who are managing a career with motherhood?
Uugghh the eternal struggle. Managing career and motherhood requires a little letting go — and a lot of support.
Having an encouraging partner is an immense help. Sharing the loving load makes working life easier. If you’re lucky enough to have spritely parents, a nanny or babysitter on hand to help that’s also a bonus. An understanding boss is essential. There are times when you just have to nick out from work to attend the school concert/first aid emergency/cross country race.
I won’t lie; interstate or overseas work trips are military operations in our household, involving an army of support and extensive pre-planning. I’m fond of writing a list and this helps.
What’s the biggest misconception when it comes to females in motoring?
That women have no idea. I still find men are stunned when I know the specs of a certain model or can have a coherent conversation about car comparisons. It’s always a lovely surprise seeing the astonished look on their faces. This would have been a handy skill when I was single!
What are the biggest challenges women face when it comes to cars? And what’s your advice to women with these?
Knowledge is power. I don’t think everyone is expected to understand the kilowatts and torque of every latest car, but it pays to know your car. Read the manual cover-to-cover. Educate yourself about how to correctly change a wheel, inflate the tyres, check the oil and water and replace the windscreen wipers and washers. Know when services are due and keep them up to date. Understand what’s gone on in your most recent service.
What’s been your biggest lesson / failure with a car?
My late ‘80s VW Golf Cabriolet in cherry red. It looked hot, sure. But I was never quite sure I would make it to my destination. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time waiting on the side of the road for it to be fixed. And my annual services cost more than what I paid for the set of wheels in the first place!
The lessons I learnt? Always check the history of a car. Don’t buy a classic unless you’re a mechanic or have one on speed dial. And sometimes, just sometimes, function before fashion is a good thing.
We hate to toot our own horn but what is it about Stella you love most?
Stella is the epitome of everything I stand for and respect. It’s a bold, brave business shaking up the stereotype while educating and empowering women. And it’s run by creative, innovative pioneers.
To keep up to speed with Elise you can follow her Instagram here @eliseeliott_media