Glendale’s Pat Ganahl changed his major from chemical engineering to English at Loyola University, which launched a writing career that turned him into the definitive expert on the American hot rod.
Ganahl built his first hot rod as a teenager and is still building them at age 63. Along the way, he has written 14 books, including his latest, “Lost Hot Rods.”
“We thought old hot rods were squashed and no longer existed but I found out they were put away in people’s garages,” Ganahl said. “I started searching for these old rods, which were known as barn finds. I called my process Hot Rod Archeology. There are a lot of barns or garages with old, dusty cars that people were going to restore but never got around to it.
“Right in this neighborhood there is a highly collectable Corvette and [Jaguar] SKE,” Ganahl continued. “Hot rods, however, are more interesting than Corvettes or Jaguars. Today hot rods live on but go out of style. Hot rodding is very trend driven. They always have to be updated. Through my help and promotion, people have begun to appreciate old hot rods as classics.”
Hot rods are uniquely California, according to Ganahl. “They were built in suburbia, not in barns in Kansas or Oklahoma,” he said. “They were built in the neighborhood garages and car shops of LA, Pasadena, Glendale and other Southern California communities.”
In the book, Ganahl answers many of the questions about whatever happened to those great hot rods of yesterday. It’s also about his journey to find these cars along with tips on how you can also find them. Ganahl’s search for these hot rods is a ride filled with fun and discovery.
“There are only a couple hundred houses in my Scholl Canyon neighborhood,” Ganahl said, “but I found about 25 old, new or half-built hot rods — or potential hot rods — within a quarter mile of my house.”
One was a pristine 1940 Ford DeLuxe coupe bought new by the person’s mother in Glendale.
Ganahl has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Loyola Marymount University. His wife, Anna has her doctorate from UC Irvine and their 33-year-old son Bill has a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara and a master’s from San Francisco State.
“Bill was going to be a high school teacher but he loved working on cars,” Pat Ganahl said. “He has a shop in south San Francisco. He just built two cars for Eric Clapton.”
Ganahl is the former editor of Hot Rod Magazine, Rod & Custom, Street Rodder and The Rodder’s Journal magazines.
“Pat not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk,” said Greg Sharp, curator at Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum. “He’s done nearly everything he writes about as far as car building, engine building, painting, etc. He’s owned and built drag race cars as well as hot rods and customs. He’s a student of hot rodding history and has contributed to it himself on many levels.”
Readers can watch an interview of Ganahl with Jay Leno at www.jaylenosgarage.com.
“Jay saw my new book at the well-known Autobooks-Aerobooks bookstore in Burbank and called me for an interview on his Website’s Jay’s Book Club,” Ganahl said.
“Pat is an artist in journalism and the photographic world,” said George Barris, who is known as King of the Custom Car. “His contribution to our automotive industry was and is the greatest.”
Ganahl, who is a member of several automotive halls of fame, has never owned a new car. “I built all my own cars,” he said. “I’ve always driven hot rods.”