Greg Louganis on His Life in Cars

Written by | Art & Design, Miscellaneous

Olympian Greg Louganis talks to us about his life behind the wheel — from his very first Fiat to the next wheels on his wish list.

By Casey Williams

Greg Louganis in Corvette

Photo courtesy Greg Louganis.

“My first car was a Fiat — one of those box things, the ugliest car, in puke green,” remembers champion swimmer and gay icon Greg Louganis. “I was training for the Olympics, had turned 16, and needed to drive. It wasn’t pretty, but it was pretty reliable.”

It might sound surprising coming from Louganis — who is known for the elegance he’s displayed in his diving, but he’s had his share of inelegant moments behind the wheel. “I remember my cousin trying to teach me to drive a stick shift on a hill in El Cajon,” he recalls. “Trying to teach me not to use the hand brake, not roll back — so frustrating. I said, ‘You take this car, I’m done with this!’”

But eventually he learned to drive stick — and he upgraded from that green Fiat, too. “I was doing some promo work for a Chevrolet-Toyota dealer in Orange County,” Louganis says. “As part of it, they provided a vehicle lease. They really wanted me to be in a Corvette — for whatever reason. A Corvette for me is such a waste because I drive like a grandma, and here I am in this muscle car.”


He didn’t have to worry whether it was the right car for him long, however. His then-partner drove the Corvette without oil and ruined the engine — a story Louganis recounts in his book Breaking the Surface.

Then, there was the 1947 Cadillac convertible that taught him some valuable lessons about the responsibility that comes with maintaining a classic. “I bought it at an auction. It was fun — but if you don’t do the work on the car yourself, it is very costly! I learned that the hard way!”

Louganis’ subsequent choices in cars have tended more towards the ecological and practical — especially since his marriage to Johnny Chaillot in 2013.

“I had this little sport coupe Mini Cooper — loved that car, just sold it this summer,” Louganis says. “My husband can walk to work, so we just have one car — a Honda CR-V. I live out of my car; it’s like a second home. The CR-V is totally reliable — not great on looks, but it’s functional.”

Louganis now thinks there may be an electric car in his future. “I took a look at the BMW i3 — really loved it,” Louganis says. “Electric cars take some getting used to, but it had lots of room and was really comfortable.”


But no matter what he’s driving, Louganis always makes one thing a priority: pet-friendliness. “I had a 40-foot RV — some kind of crazy times,” Louganis remembers. “We traveled up to Canada, from LA to Miami, all over the place. The thing that’s funny: I had 5 Great Danes and a corgi. I’d pull into a truck stop and come out with big huge dogs — then more big huge dogs [laughs]. It was transportation to get to engagements, a way to keep the dogs with me. The Great Danes edged me out of bed and I was sleeping on the couch!”

Today, Louganis still has plenty keeping him hitting the road — including mentoring for the U.S. Olympic diving team and developing a project about his relationship with AIDS education pioneer Ryan White. To learn more about Greg Louganis’ story, see his HBO documentary Back on Board.

Last modified: July 27, 2017