With the passing of John Athan we lose yet another one of our earliest remaining Hot Rod Pioneers
More sad news in the world of hot rodding…
To all traditional hot rodding fans, historians, or anyone who cares about our hobby and sport as a whole, it is with deep sadness that we ( I ) are having to report the news of John Athan’s passing.
As many know, John is credited with being the first person to mate a ’28/’29 Model A roadster body to a ’32 chassis when he built his second roadster for himself in 1937. He was also among the first people designing and casting speed equipment ( his hi-rise dual carb intake was one of the first ) for the flathead Ford V8 before WW2. These examples are only a few of the things he accomplished that helped shape ( literally ) hot rodding as we know it today. But, too us, his lifelong ownership of the above mentioned ’29 on ’32 roadster that so many people had tried to purchase from him through the years ( Robert Petersen famously offered John over $800,000 for the car when he had decided to open his museum in the early 1990s ) is the thing that places him as one of the most dedicated, passionate, and pure hot rodders we will ever see.
I’m sorry to use the “I” in this writing, but I’m afraid I have to as this one is personal for me. John and a group of fellow hot rod pioneers ( Leslie Long, Nick Arias, and John’s childhood friend, Ed Iskenderian ) have been meeting for lunch at an area diner for years every Wednesday. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to say that I’ve been allowed to crash their party for some time now. Each and every Wednesday that I’ve made this gathering I’ve walked out inspired and amazed by the accomplishments of these men and their complete lack of awareness for the contributions they’ve made to, not just our hobby, but, our culture as a whole. For whatever reason, John was always the guy I was most drawn to. Although he’d been slowing down in recent months, he would still bolt upright when a thought or memory struck him and he couldn’t seem to share it fast enough. Of all the guys in his group that I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with, he was the one ( and I’d have to throw Isky in here too ) that I learned the most from about simply being a human on the dirtball. His manic curiosity for things in life that he was passionate about seemed to almost erase the concept of father time when you were around him. If there has been a gift that I’ve received from getting to be around these nonagenarians, that is it.
I can clearly remember the first time I was sitting at that table with these guys, all in their 90s and incredibly independent, and I realized I needed to learn as much about their secret to a long life as I hoped to learn about their history in the sport I love so much. Well, I did and I have John Athan to thank for a lot of that. It might seem simple and obvious but these guys showed me that if you’re not excited to get out of bed in the morning then you haven’t figured it out yet.
Thanks, John, for being so generous to this younger enthusiast and for everything you gave to our beloved sport.