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Cool Collections! Dan Wathor Crafted a Well-Weathered Workshop for His Collection

In an old farm town on the outskirts of Sacramento, California rests an unassuming building filled with tons of cool old automotive memorabilia. As you drive down the small-town two-lane road, all you see is a rusted corrugated metal building with a couple run-down gas pumps out front. And if you look really close you may notice an all-original, “pulled from the field” 1930 Model A roadster sitting behind those pumps.

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That unassuming visual is exactly what Dan Wathor was going for when he started building his collection back in 2015. Dan had been collecting old tools, signs, and memorabilia since 2005, but it was a promise his wife made to a family friend’s daughter that escalated the collection to what you see here. That friend’s daughter envisioned her wedding in a rustic setting, and Dan’s garage was the answer.

Dan bought the old wooden 1,600sq. ft. building in 2012 then reinforced and covered the wood exterior with corrugated metal. In 2014 he added a 5,000sq. ft. extension to the back, which is a fully functional workshop. The four walls of the extension are new, but the inner structure was built using reclaimed materials. Specifically, old chicken coop wood from neighboring farms and 4,600 vintage bricks – 600 from old storefronts in Sacramento and 4,000 from a demolished school in Bakersfield that was built in 1904 which included firebricks from the 1800s.


What Dan had collected since 2005 wasn’t enough to fill the building, so he hit eBay in early 2015 to expand his collection and establish a theme in preparation of the October wedding date. What he gathered and assembled is an amazing collection of old tools, signs, gas cans, repair shop manuals, oil cans, hubcaps, and more. Needless to say, the wedding went off in perfect style!

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It swapped hands twice, but Dan tracked it down. This is his father’s toolbox that he made after returning home from WWII and working as a maintenance man for a Bay Area glass company. Many of his father’s tools and handwritten notepads are still inside.

It’s not just old “junk” purchased off eBay on display. There’s a selection of road-worthy rides and a few projects in various stages of completion. They include two rides built by Kenny’s Rod Shop in Idaho – a bitchin’ ’31 Hudson coupe powered by a vintage Hemi topped with a trio of original Stromberg carbs, as well as Dan’s ’37 Ford that won Goodguys America’s Most Beautiful Street Rod in 2016 (it was also a Detroit Great 8 recipient as well as a Top Five finalist for Goodguys Street Rod d’Elegance and Street Rod of the Year the same year).

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Some readers may recall seeing Dan’s KRS-built ’37 Ford on the January 2017 Gazette cover after winning the 2016 America’s Most Beautiful Street Rod title at the West Coast Nationals. As you can see below it had quite the year traveling the show circuit that year!

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Other rides include a ’38 Ford business coupe, which Dan and his father-in-law purchased together and was Dan’s re-introduction to hot rodding in 2005. There’s also a cool ’56 Ford F100 that looks like a perfect Bonneville push truck. Up next for Dan to finish is a ’32 Ford before he dives in to a ’31 Model A coupe build. The ’68 Firebird is his daughter’s car that they plan on starting on soon as well.

dan wathor, dan wathor collection, car collection, cool collections, hot rod, street rod, great 8, kennys rod shop

All that’s left on this ’32 Ford is some interior work and a final decision on wheel/tire combo. Dan has farmed out a couple builds to professional shops, but he also enjoys building cars in his garage.

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This ’31 Coupe is Dan’s next project on-deck and he plans on building it as hot rodders would have in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s going to be unchopped and he plans on boxing the stock frame and building the front and rear suspension. Power is still undecided.

During our visit Dan joked multiple times, “I spent way too much being the highest bidder on eBay buying all this junk.” But what he calls junk, we see as preserved history. Items that were saved from the landfills and recycling centers. Tools that tell a story. And memories he will pass down for generations.

dan wathor, dan wathor collection, car collection, cool collections, hot rod, street rod, great 8, kennys rod shop

 

dan wathor, dan wathor collection, car collection, cool collections, hot rod, street rod, great 8, kennys rod shop

Photos by Steven Bunker

Associate Editor

Steven is the grandson to the legendary Bob Bunker who piloted the green "Folsom Flash" 1955 Chevy from the 70's through the 90's. As a dragstrip kid, Steven started his automotive journalism path by photographing drag racing events and also building drag cars while working in his fathers shop. Since joining our team, Steven has grown leaps and bounds journalistically. He is now artfully crafting stories around the awesome machines at the shows, as well as the men and women behind them. When Steven is not on the road covering events, he spends his downtime out on the water fishing, building his 1962 Chevy Nova, or cruising his 1987 GMC Suburban.