- Pat Ganahl was the former editor (and frequent contributor to) Street Rodder, Hot Rod, and especially) Stem and Custom magazines, central figure of Rodder’s Diary, and the author of numerous books on hot rodding, customs and drag cars.
- “He was in the Iacono dragster when it happened. He never lifted and went into the woods at the end of the track. We think he had a medical issue in the car, possibly a seizure heart,” wrote her friend and colleague Anna Marco. .
- Pat can be credited with popularizing the nostalgic drag racing movement of the 80s. He recently posted that at 75 he still had “a lot of stories to tell”.
Highly respected hot rod and rod and custom author Pat Ganahl was killed last weekend driving his vintage dragster on the 1/8e-mile Riverdale Drag Strip at a club event outside of Portland, Oregon. He was 75 years old.
I myself had just spoken to Ganahl just a few weeks ago on the Petersen Automotive Museum Tribute to the 90s cruiseeanniversary of the ’32 Ford. I asked him about the Deuce. He said that wasn’t really his specialty, that he was more of a rod and a custom guy, and then he provided more details about the 32 Fords than my digital audio recorder could handle.
At the time, he looked happy, healthy and very, very tall. Reports say he was 6ft 10in tall. They called him “Too Tall Ganahl”. He looked like he had many years of rods and customs ahead of him at the time.
“Pat Ganahl died yesterday in a drag racing accident at the Estranged Car Club show,” said Anna Marco, a former longtime staff member of Stem and Custom magazine that worked under Pat Ganahl for many years. “He was in the Iacono dragster when it happened. He never lifted and went into the woods at the end of the track. We think he had a medical issue in the car, possibly a seizure He said he didn’t feel well and wanted one more run His wife Anna was there and said he died doing what he loved because he wasn’t the type to live in a retirement home.
As the news spread, tributes started pouring in on the internet.
“Pat was the former editor (and frequent contributor to) Street Rodder, Hot Rod, and especially) Stem and Custom magazines, central figure of Rodder’s Diary, and the author of more books on hot rodding, customs and drag racing than I can count,” said Ron Thums of Great Lakes Dragway in Union Grove, Wisconsin. “Pat drove the historic Ike Iacono dragster, a car he restored many years ago. – on an 1/8th mile track when he apparently suffered a medical emergency and crashed. Initial reports indicate that there was no attempt to stop or brake the vehicle.
“It’s impossible to overstate the place Pat Ganahl holds in the firmament of hot rod/car culture. If you grew up (and aged) like many of us, reading – consuming – the monthly automotive magazines, his name is familiar to you. Pat was both a hot rod historian and a car enthusiast who brought a unique humanity to everything he wrote. Even if you didn’t know him, you felt like you knew him.
“RIP Pat Ganahl. You made our world a better place.”
“Like many, I heard the news that Pat Ganahl had died in a racing accident while driving his beloved dragster Ike Iacono,” wrote Chad Reynolds, publisher of bangshift.com. “I say all things because he loved this dragster, and for good reason, he was best known in the hot rod world for hot rods, not race cars. He was knowledgeable, passionate, informative and opinionated. when it came to what mattered, and he’s earned the right to be through the years to be a voice for the hot-rodding world like no other. Rodder Street magazines and Rodder’s Diaryas well as a short passage to hot rod earned him tons of respect and admiration from his colleagues, but it was his readers who held him in high esteem.”
“The worst,” said David Freiburger, editor of hot rod magazines and hot rod garage. “Pat Ganahl passed away today (and) with Pat went an irreplaceable spirit loaded with facts and contacts from the history of rods and customs. In the world of magazines, Pat was part of the first team of Rodder Street and became the editor. He worked for Sunset mag, then was hired on hot rod where he eventually became the publisher with the second-shortest tenure, and he later relaunched Stem and Custom magazine before directing Rodder’s Diary. He’s written many independent books and stories about our hobby, and he’s maintained a huge inventory of vintage photos.
“Pat can be credited with popularizing the nostalgic drag racing movement of the 80s. He was the first person I personally knew who painted his own cars – well. He restored the dragster and built some number of VWs, big Chevys, drag cars, and hot rods, including the Nitti-inspired roadster. He drove the yellow F1 everywhere. As far as I know, he only drove old cars. He told me inspired before I knew it, but now I have more Ganahl posting stories than will fit in this space. Here is the one that impacted my life the most. In 1991, I had a job interview with Jeff Smith and Pat Ganahl simultaneously, Jeff for hot rod and Pat for Stem and Custom. Pat later said he told Jeff, “If you don’t hire him, I will.” Jeff did it, and so did my entire career. Ganahl mentored me the whole way and liked to get me in some trouble. I am one of hundreds of thousands of people who have gathered knowledge, entertainment and inspiration from Pat Ganahl. Good luck.”
“Pat has been a hot rod buddy for YEARS,” said Bonneville collector, rodder and racer Bruce Meyer. “A sad day for hot rodding and with Pat decades of history…”
Ganahl was officially retired, but still blogged when he felt like it. A fairly recent entry read:
As for me, yes I am really retired. After 45 years, no more articles, no more books, no more deadlines, no more pay. There is a refreshing freedom there. I will therefore make these columns when I want to at. No one will tell me what I can or cannot say.
But I realized that there were still a lot of stories to tell; there are literally thousands of photos that have not been seen; and there are new things happening all the time with fewer and fewer outlets to tell about them. I want to share what I have. So let’s try this new medium.
Tell me what you think.
If you have any memories or tributes to share about Pat Ganahlplease comment below.