People Who Have Made A Difference:
Long before he set a new standard for hot rod magazines with The Rodder's Journal, Steve Coonan was shooting photos and writing for STREET RODDER.
I remember purchasing the premiere issue of STREET RODDER off a newsstand in Wheaton, Maryland. I was in junior high. Little did I know that in just four years time I would move across country to start my first full-time job, as an assistant editor at STREET RODDER magazine.
SR in 1976 was an environment that was nothing like what my high school guidance counselors had prepared me for, populated with a sage and wise cast of characters. Founder Tom McMullen arrived most days in his small-block Chevy-powered Lamborghini often with his pet cougar riding in the passenger seat. Ad director Bill Burke regaled us with stories of early Bonneville, off-color jokes, and the best blown-fuel Hemi noises I've ever heard from the voice of a human. Pat Ganahl would join the bench racing sessions, but spent more time than most sequestered in his office working on the writing that filled SR's 76 pages. Jim Clark served as editorial director, had been a buddy of Tom's since their Navy days, and was working on a Nailhead-powered Deuce highboy. At lunch we were often joined by Truckin' editor Robert K. Smith and art director Bill Tietgen.
Tom would often recruit me to help on whatever project he had going in his home garage. I was tasked with chores that ranged from making wire mesh air filters for the carb stacks on the Moser head-equipped small-block Chevy in his roadster to cleaning the undercarriage of his blown big-block-powered Dodge van-style pickup, or feeding chicken necks to the cougar as well as Tom's other exotic cats.
But it wasn't all fun and games. We worked hard to do the best magazine we could and, more importantly, stay one step ahead of our crosstown rivals at Rod Action.
STREET RODDER was good place for me to learn the craft of magazine writing, photography, and the basics of the magazine business. And in retrospect it's hard not to see my coworkers as mentors who helped a kid from Maryland learn the ropes of automotive publishing. I am grateful.
Tom McMullen's life ended at the relatively young age of 60 in a plane crash, but I would be hard-pressed to think of anyone who packed more living into their time on earth. The rest of us are still around and although I don't see as much of any of the guys who gave me my start at SR as I would like, I am happy to call them all friends.