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Folks Of Interest Pat Ganahl, The Hot Rodder Next Door

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by John Starr, Aug 24, 2022.

  1. John Starr
    Joined: Sep 14, 2016
    Posts: 132

    John Starr

    Hello all,

    I never imagined that my first thread on the H.A.M.B. would be something like this. Last week after hearing Pat had passed away, I sat down to write about the years I have enjoyed being his neighbor. The piece below was intended as a personal exercise to help me process Pat's passing. It certainly has helped do that. But now I feel I should share it, along with some of my photos of Pat.

    My heart goes out to Pat's family, friends and everybody whose lives Pat has touched.

    John Starr

    Links to the other threads about Pat's passing:


    The Hot Rodder Next Door

    This morning I realized I had to do something I’d never before considered doing; hanging a picture of Pat Ganahl in my garage. The thought had never occurred before because two doors down from me, lived Pat and Anna Ganahl.

    Ten years ago, my wife and I blindly bought into this neighborhood. It was almost an impulse buy. We were utterly worn down by home shopping in the highly competitive Los Angeles market. It was December 2011, and as we drove into this secluded canyon neighborhood to see this house – just another random listing in a long list – we felt we had slipped back in time to Mayberry USA. Manicured lawns lined the street, chimneys puffed, and Christmas trees glowed behind windows. People walked their dogs, and children played at a nearby, picturesque park. To this day when I talk about buying our house here, I often say “We didn’t buy a house here; we bought an admission ticket to this neighborhood.” Had I known then that Pat and Anna Ganahl came with the neighborhood, I would have grossly overbid on our house.

    By the time we moved in in early February, we had met Pat and Anna. Standing at our door that day with my wife Melissa, I asked Pat what he did for a living. When he said he was a hot rod builder, historian and writer with a garage full of cars, my eyes lit up and my jaw literally dropped.

    Anna quickly said “Uh oh, is that a problem?”
    “Why would that be a problem?” I asked.
    “Well, some folks think hot rodders are just noisy neighbors.” She said.

    I smiled and shook my head in disbelief. “I grew up hot rodding, and I was planning on getting back into it once I got a house. We’re good.”

    Despite spending most of my high school and some college years wrenching on, and cruising in, my souped-up 1970 Pontiac Lemans Sport in the 80s and despite the fact that I had a subscription to Hot Rod and other car magazines where Pat’s work appeared, I did not know who Pat was. I’m sure I read some of his articles back in the day. But like most car-crazed kids my age back then, I was more into pictures and how-to tech articles, not who took the photos or wrote the articles.

    Anna and my wife became fast gardening friends. And soon, Pat was a frequent visitor to my garage, showing interest in the many relics and photos housed inside. From photos of my late father and his fighter jet, my brother and his Navy helicopter, my other brother and the sailboat he crossed the Pacific ocean in, to me and my motorcycles, my hot rod, skydiving days… my garage is a shrine celebrating family and friends for whom the couch was the last place you’d find their asses parked.

    Every so often Pat would bump his head on some low-hanging relic in my garage, and I’d make a joke about how my garage was set up for average height people in my family, not giants. “How tall was your boy Dean at birth?” he said one day after one such exchange. My son Dean was then maybe two years old. “He was average height at birth.” I said.

    “So was I!” Pat said, wagging his finger, chuckling. I still laugh about that exchange. And sweat a little.

    I spent far more time in Pat’s garage then he in mine. Early on Anna had explained to me that the rule was simple; if the garage door was open, come on by. I did that a lot. (And I never bumped my head on anything in Pat’s garage). Other car folks dropped in on Pat, too, and it was through these encounters over the years that I began to fully appreciate Pat’s stature in the world of hot rodding.

    Whether recalling how he wrote one of the first articles about the cars of American Graffiti – “I went to the studio lot, the cars were deteriorating on the back lot, and George Lucas was off in London making some space movie. But even with a clutch problem, I got the Milner coupe running and drove it around the lot.” – or just shooting the bull, Pat’s stories were a component of his garage no other garage could match.

    Somebody would point to a rusty thing on Pat’s wall and ask what it was. Pat would give you not only an answer, but an excellent schooling about where in hot rodding history that thing belonged. And his lessons sunk in.

    I learned that I did not “hot rod” in the 80s; my car back then was not a hot rod. It was a muscle car. In Pat’s presence, my self-applied label of a former hot rodder shriveled to “car enthusiast”. But Pat never said that, and he never treated me like that. He knew I was searching for a project car and gladly discussed the pros and cons of the various builds and cars I was considering.

    In fact, I was utterly indecisive about what my next project should be. That all changed the day that a man named Peter Vincent parked his freshly trailered trophy car between mine and Pat’s houses.

    “You might want to see what just pulled up at Pat’s house,” my wife said that day. I looked out the window, said “Holy shit!”, grabbed my camera, ran out and shamelessly intruded on Pat and Peter. After snapping a bunch of photos I looked at Pat and said, “That’s the kind of car I want, what is it?”

    Pat busted out laughing and said, “You have expensive taste!” He then launched into a condensed history of Pete’s new pride and joy; the infamous vintage dragster known as The 15 oz Fuel Coupe. It was quite a story. But I must confess; Pat had me at “chopped 1934 five window coupe”. The search was on.

    Pat was not only a willing participant in my search, but an eager one as well. He wasn’t big on phone calling, so when he had something to tell me he’d just knock on my door. “Hey John, you got a minute? I wanted to show you something.” We’d huddle around my dining room table pouring over a Good Guys Gazette, or Rodder’s Journal, with Pat showing me photos, explaining things I should know, learn, consider, or avoid.

    Eventually Pat’s son Bill was drawn into the search and, very long story short, soon he helped broker a deal with a customer’s ’34 drag coupe build Bill had just rejected. The car was a heavily stripped-down former runner that Bill had determined, for various reasons, was not a good starting point for his customer’s show quality build, but would be a great starting point for somebody like me who wanted a rough knock-off inspired by the 15 oz coupe.

    I did not know it at the time, but the day Pat helped push this project car into my garage he was already doubting that I had the skills and motivation to get this battle-torn, supercharged, cheater-slicked coupe roller driving. But I never got any indication of that. All I know is that as the years passed, Pat never stopped enthusiastically helping me. I filled his email inbox and wore his ears out. And the help kept coming. In fact, Pat is the only person I’ve ever known who happily reciprocated my windy emails. He was a great pen pal.

    When I bought a welder, he gave me scrap metal to practice on and some welding tips as well. Over the years his advice was mostly technical but often aesthetic -- like the time he told me not to use any angle iron on the build, and my flex radiator hose had to go. “No hot rod uses flex hose, John.”

    There were friendly taunts along the way. One day as he was leaving for his Sunday cruise in his ’32 roadster, he saw me sitting on my front steps having my morning coffee. Revving his engine, he stopped and stared me down. Leaning on the steering wheel he said, “I guess I should be happy you’re taking so long on that build, because the day you get it running, I’m finished.” With that he smoked his tires with a respectable launch and sped off smiling. Moments like these I’d often share with his son Bill. That day I texted him photos of the tire marks Pat left in front of my house and joked about reigning his dad in. Bill always had a witty reply. We all know that talent runs in the Ganahl family. Well, so does wit.

    When Pat took me for a drive one day in the ‘32, I joked with Bill that my property value ticks up a notch when Pat parks the roadster in my driveway. Bill joked “Good, that should make up for all the ways he decreases your property value!”

    “Nonsense,” I told him. “I love the smell of auto paint in the morning. Smells like… inspiration.”

    Another day, much to the delight of my little boy, Pat took his famed Ike Iacono dragster for a spin around the neighborhood. Out of respect for our sleepy neighborhood, he did no tire-smoking launches and kept to the speed limit. But once back in his long driveway, the pedal came down as he did two impressive launches into the garage. Twenty minutes later, unbeknownst to Pat, a police cruiser stopped by. The officer leaned out of the window, smiled, waved to my wife and little boy, said “Good afternoon, ma'am”, then drove off. Somebody in Mayberry USA had called in Barney Fife. The next day when I told Pat about this he glowed with pride, celebrating his notoriety like a high schooler busted for TP’ing the principals car.

    Not long after this, Pat knocked on my door saying he needed to do a near full-speed test with the dragster, which meant making some outlaw passes on an empty road somewhere nearby.

    “Would you be comfortable driving push truck for me?” Pat asked.
    “Hell no, I don’t want to drive push truck for an outlaw run!” I told him. “But I’ll film it!”

    Pat drafted his friend and fellow hot rodding neighbor Paul Chamberlain as the push truck driver. Pat trailered the dragster, and off we three went to an industrial section of Burbank where Pat had reconnoitered a suitable street the week before.

    While this was ostensibly a technical endeavor with real problem-solving objectives for Pat’s dragster (fuel pressure gremlins), we were three kids sneaking out on a Sunday afternoon to have some fun. My job was to watch for traffic and keep the street clear and safe. And I did. I also managed to video the entire episode. Lots of noise, lots of giggles and several passes later, we’d trailered the beast and beat a retreat.

    Back home, I instinctively looked out of the window to see if any cops had followed us. All clear. Paul and Pat are 20 years older than me. But not that day. I think we all felt like we’d just gotten back from playing ding-dong-dash, and as we sat down to dinner were hoping our moms would not ask what we had been up to.

    Meanwhile my career and being a new dad gobbled up more time away from my ’34. Surface rust encroached, and my son was getting old enough to understand what this “cool car”, as he called it, really was. So I started finding time to work on it.

    Four and a half years after Pat helped push it into my garage, it was ready for a test drive. I did not call on Pat to come over and witness it. Honestly, I was just too nervous. Thankfully, my wife and boy -- now six years old -- heard me idling down the driveway came to the door and witnessed my maiden voyage as I did two cautious laps up and down the street. They cheered.

    I felt bad that I had not called Pat, but the next day I got an email from him talking about the wonderful “dream” he had about my car starting up and taking a successful test drive up and down the street. Turns out, he and Anna had witnessed the entire event from their living room window.

    In the days that followed, we celebrated the milestone, and had some garage time working bugs out of my car – a process of car building Pat calls “fumigation”.

    Pat seemed unusually ecstatic about my success at getting it driving, and confessed to me one day “John, no offense but I never thought you’d finish this thing. I was really starting to wonder.” He explained that many of these kinds of projects stall forever in the garage, and he simply had no reason to believe mine was any different, especially given my level of experience.

    I laughed, then said “You sound like my mother the day I dumped a filthy 1969 GTO 400 engine on the floor of our garage, saying I was going to rebuild it and stuff it into my Lemans!” That GTO engine did not stay on the floor long. I got it rebuilt and running hard in my Lemans in short order. Over the years I have taken pride in finishing what I begin, and under Pat’s scrutiny I dared not veer from that course.

    Pat’s recollections of my coupe’s maiden voyage later became the subject of one of his last blog entries “The Reject.” I was floored, flattered and initially at a loss to understand why he took such strong interest in my very humble project. Indeed, Pat seemed more excited about its “escape from the garage” as I called it, than I did. Maybe he was relieved that the hot rodder next door wasn’t going to embarrass the other hot rodder next door. Or maybe he rejoiced in being able to witness a tiny little bit of his and hot rodding’s past repeating itself in my garage. Maybe both.

    Since day one, I have truly valued Pat’s friendship and help. I told him that often. One of the last times I said that to him I also asked what I could do to return the favors. Standing in my driveway that day, beaming that trademark Ganahl smile, he said “You’ve already done more than a lot of people do; you said thanks. We’re good, John.”

    After somebody is gone, you fill the hole with memories. I’m thankful to have many of those with Pat, but my favorite Ganahl memory happened the first time we met on our doorstep over ten years ago when he and Anna knocked on our door and did something so incredibly quaint and touching, that thinking of it still warms mine and my wife’s hearts. With broad smiles on their faces, they said “Hi. We’re the Ganahls, your neighbors.” Anna then reached out and handed us a bowl of cookies she had baked and said “Welcome to the neighborhood!”



    Local hot rodders shooting the bull with Pat in front of his house, and in his garage.


    A typical scene in Pat's garage; hot rod history lessons.

    The mighty 15 oz Fuel Coupe on the day Peter Vincent stopped by Pat's with it in tow.




    Pat, the car-carrier driver and I pushing my newly acquired '34 roller into my garage.


    My first ride in the roadster.


    Pat and my son the day Pat took the Ike Iacono dragster for a spin in the neighborhood. Note the straight, lightly inclined street; Pat told me that in the 1950s our street was used for soap box derbies.


    Burned rubber in Pat's driveway on the same day.


    Video frame grabs from the Burbank shenanigans...



    Pat on the day he gave me the vintage plates off of his '33 to use on my '34. DMV cleared them, and they now reside on my coupe.


    Pat and I backing out of my driveway on July 4th, for his first and only ride in my coupe, "The Reject" as he dubbed it, on the day he did the photo shoot for his blog.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading his blog post about your coupe… and every other post for that matter.
    rpm56, drdave, Uncle Ronn and 8 others like this.
  3. Hotrodderman
    Joined: Jun 18, 2006
    Posts: 134


    John, you left a lump in my throat after reading your post. Very well written. He will be missed.
  4. Jalopy Joker
    Joined: Sep 3, 2006
    Posts: 29,574

    Jalopy Joker

    Very Cool, Thanks
    Uncle Ronn, 49ratfink, lowrd and 2 others like this.

  5. okiedokie
    Joined: Jul 5, 2005
    Posts: 4,655

    from Ok

    Thank you so much for allowing us to know Pat better thru your experience. Pretty sure Pat would be impressed with your telling of the story. Thanks again.
  6. jim snow
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 1,672

    jim snow

    Great story. Thanks for sharing. Snowman ⛄️
  7. Rckt98
    Joined: Jun 7, 2005
    Posts: 1,117


    What a well written story. I wish we all had neighbors like Pat. I too enjoyed reading his blog about your coupe.
  8. Jeff Norwell
    Joined: Aug 20, 2003
    Posts: 14,339

    Jeff Norwell
    Staff Member

    Probably thee VERY BEST first post I have ever read… being here a near 20 years.
    Welcome…. And an outstanding tribute.
    Please stick around.
    Silva, deadbeat, HEMI32 and 46 others like this.
  9. tombstone
    Joined: Jan 15, 2006
    Posts: 447

    from sk.canada

    Wonderful memories and tribute .....
  10. 28rpu
    Joined: Mar 6, 2001
    Posts: 355


    I enjoyed Pat's blog about The Reject and appreciate the story you just wrote. Thanks. RIP Pat
  11. ronzmtrwrx
    Joined: Sep 9, 2008
    Posts: 971


    Thanks so much for sharing your priceless memories. You are a very fortunate man to have experienced all you have, being Pat’s friend and neighbor.
    drdave, Uncle Ronn, alanp561 and 5 others like this.
  12. The 39 guy
    Joined: Nov 5, 2010
    Posts: 3,349

    The 39 guy

    Well written, thanks for sharing and sorry for your loss.
  13. Thanks for your first thread. I just reread "The Reject" blog last night. Now I've heard the story from both sides.
  14. DDDenny
    Joined: Feb 6, 2015
    Posts: 17,191

    from oregon

    Wow, so well written and I've only read the first sentence.
    I don't know you, but I really think you, like Pat Ganahl are a friend to us all, well written. I will finish reading it after dinner.
    RIP Pat Ganahl.
  15. vtx1800
    Joined: Oct 4, 2009
    Posts: 1,542


    I can't add a thing to what the previous posters wrote, it brought a tear to my eye and I, too, remember when he did the blog on "the Reject". We all need a neighbor like Pat (and I guess we also need to be "that neighbor Pat")

    Well Written!!
  16. Thanks for the excellent first post, and for the personal stories of your neighbor and friend Pat Ganahl.
  17. stuart in mn
    Joined: Nov 22, 2007
    Posts: 2,276

    stuart in mn

    Thanks for posting - I remember reading what Pat wrote about you and your car as well.
    Your neighborhood sounds like a great place to live. :)
  18. 31Apickup
    Joined: Nov 8, 2005
    Posts: 3,151


    What an incredible first thread, and a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing and Welcome to the HAMB!
  19. Johnny99
    Joined: Nov 5, 2006
    Posts: 1,003


    That was wonderful! Thank you so much.
  20. SPEC
    Joined: Feb 1, 2021
    Posts: 681


  21. lumpy 63
    Joined: Aug 2, 2010
    Posts: 1,673

    lumpy 63

  22. williebill
    Joined: Mar 1, 2004
    Posts: 3,096


  23. primed34
    Joined: Feb 3, 2007
    Posts: 1,330


  24. Rickybop
    Joined: May 23, 2008
    Posts: 8,675

    from Michigan

    Thank you.
    It's very thoughtful of you to come here and share this with us.
  25. badshifter
    Joined: Apr 28, 2006
    Posts: 3,483


    Thanks so much for sharing a story that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. The loss is less painful because of stories like yours.
    alanp561, Cosmo49, John Starr and 3 others like this.
  26. Nads
    Joined: Mar 5, 2001
    Posts: 11,828

    from Hypocrisy

    That was beautiful.
    Silva, John Starr, alanp561 and 3 others like this.
  27. 54delray
    Joined: Dec 18, 2004
    Posts: 1,587

    from Fremont NE

    People have said about Pat, he was more than a writer, he was a storyteller. You sir, have certainly got a knack for it, too. I'm sitting in my basement office, laughing so loud, my wife had to holler down "What's so funny?"

    Thank you so much for giving us that little bit of joy, something to smile about when we maybe just don't feel like smiling.

    John, please, you and your neighbors keep a lookout to make sure Mrs Ganahl is OK, especially months and even years from now. And give her a hug from the HAMBers.

    All the best to you and your family ...
    USMercUte, drdave, stanlow69 and 13 others like this.
  28. snupy32
    Joined: Feb 28, 2010
    Posts: 5


    I may have missed this, but Everyone knows about Pats penchant for sedans (didn’t we most all start out in family sedans). But no ones mentioned Pat’s 32 5window with a big Olds engine..(.I may have missed any reference) if so, I enjoyed following his repairing, updating, & improving over his ownership.....until the engine’s fire, when he replaced it with
    “Gasp” a Chevy............Fear Not: it was a 32 CHEVY 5W, and predictable , in went an IN-LINE Chev 6!.......(Being a “graybeard” I’ve luckily retained SOME gray cells). LAST, I’d also like to give A special accolade to his son ...who fell very close to the tree, & is a true craftsman doing some beautifully inspired craftsmanship (Beppie have some special memories & keepsakes on your 32 3W). Family, please know peoples lives have been enriched by Pats ability to reach out and connect & inspire people beyond his touch. God Bless , Sam Feagin
  29. Interesting, articulate and genuine, thanks for sharing, you are the neighbour everyone hopes to have.
    34 5W Paul, alanp561, Cosmo49 and 4 others like this.

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