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by Bill Ganahl

Sacramento, California is an under-appreciated city.  Besides being one of those state capitals that many people don’t even know is the state capital, it is the unsung home of a few of our hobby’s great namesakes.  Sam Barris called Sacramento home, as well as Dick Bertolucci, who still lives and works there, and, arguably one of the best known early pioneers of custom car culture, Harry Westergard was a Sacramentan.

Paul Garland is also from Sacramento, born and raised.  And I mention this because it is very important to him.  It’s a point of pride.  He has worked for numerous shops in the area over the years, and when he was offered a cushy job at a shop out of state, he opted instead to take the greater risk of opening his own shop in the city that he grew up in, appropriately naming it Garland’s Sacramento.  Paul lives in the house that his grandparents bought there in 1940.  You might say he belongs there.

Paul’s initiation into automotive customizing was gradual.  Like many of us, he was into all things mechanical as a kid, but he had a brief and unfortunate romance with muscle cars before reaching full enlightenment and embracing early customs.  He is a guy who brings a certain intensity to anything he deems worthy though, and traditional hotrod and custom cars have been the focus of Paul’s attention for the past twenty years.  Paul is one of those builders who appreciates our antecedents and draws inspiration from the pages of early custom car books and magazines.  He is studied.

The philosophy of Garland’s Sacramento is reflected in the projects you see in the shop.  He takes on traditional style builds, and works towards simplifying and refining the lines of any given car.  Quality and Style are two words that seem to get repeated when Paul talks about his shop.  In literal terms, Paul describes his philosophy best in his own words: “I don’t approach a car from the standpoint of adding to it.  It’s more like, when I see something that’s not what I want, I cut it away.”  Paul is a metal man at heart, who builds custom cars and hotrods with what I would describe as a restrained and refined approach.

Garland’s personal means of transportation for the past seven years is the ’48 Ford pictured on these pages.  The first thing to say about this car is that it’s nearly perfect.  It’s one of those cars that literally feels like it came from another era.  And I only say “nearly” perfect because it’s not finished.  And that’s not a slight on Paul.  He emphatically states, “I hate that I can’t finish it.”  This is a case of the cobbler’s own shoes.  Builders don’t have either the time or the money to put into their own projects.  Ask me how I know.  But Paul intends to finish this car.

Paul bought the ’48 as a garage-restored, bone-stocker.  Everything was there, and everything worked.  Paul drove it the few hours home, and hasn’t stopped driving it since, through all of the modifications he’s made.  As he puts it, “It has always been a driving car.  It wanted to stay on the road.”  He points out that the car had a soul when he bought it, and he has been careful to preserve the integrity and originality of the car even as he modified it.

Paul’s intention in choosing this particular year Ford was to build a car that not many people have gotten right.  It’s a challenge to chop a ’41-’48 Ford, as history has shown, and he wanted to take on the challenge.  His inspirations include the Hank Griffith ’42 built by the Ayala Brothers, and the Barris-built Jesse Lopez ’41 Ford.  I would say Paul utilized his inspiration well.  Take a look and judge for yourself.

The second thing to mention about this car is what it says about Paul.  It’s a rolling manifestation of his ethos.  Every part of the car has been rebuilt, but it’s all original, quite literally, down to the 6 volt ignition system.  Paul quips, “the fun of having an old car is the old car.”  He is quick to point out that he doesn’t quite agree with people’s instinct to “upgrade” the mechanics of old cars.  And while it’s slightly easier to feel that way when you live in temperate California, he’s not afraid to put his philosophy to work; Paul has driven the ’48 on a 1600 plus mile round trip between Sacramento and Spokane, WA for a flathead reliability run.

There are a few things about Garland that I can’t convey.  I’ve tried to incorporate a few quotes here, carefully, because he has a knack for memorable one-liners that cut to the chase.  And I won’t even try to translate his intensity; this is a man who cares about what he’s talking about, and how he’s saying it.  But this is also a pictorial piece.  Check out Tim’s photography; these photos tell a better story.  Catch a glimpse of Garland’s Sacramento soul.

“Perfect doesn’t seem absurd, perfect just seems perfect.”

“If you care, I think you strive to get better”

“I’ve never owned a convertible in my life, and that seems wrong”

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