Pilchuck Hot Rod Academy opens in Smokey Point

Dave Grinnell, left, and Marcus Hansen hope to see more visitors to the Pilchuck Hot Rod Academy as it gears up to serve students. - Kirk Boxleitner
Dave Grinnell, left, and Marcus Hansen hope to see more visitors to the Pilchuck Hot Rod Academy as it gears up to serve students.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

SMOKEY POINT — No matter how much Dave Grinnell struggled with his studies growing up, he could always find solace in his enthusiasm for automobiles.

When Grinnell was told that he could no longer pursue his previous career in construction due to the wear and tear that it had put on his body, he thought back to his youthful love of classic cars and souped-up rigs, and realized that he had an opportunity to help out the kids of today who face scholastic challenges similar to those he overcame.

The Pilchuck Hot Rod Academy is still getting itself organized and underway, but Grinnell and his partners, Marcus Hansen and Kate Otey, believe it can create confident and productive workers in the future by assisting students now in graduating from high school or obtaining their GEDs, as well as by enlisting businesses and community volunteers to mentor those prospective workers in trade skills.

“My dad was a maintenance man at a steel fabrication shop, so I grew up around dozens of cars,” Grinnell said. “He was always helping other people out with their cars, but he never found time to finish his own.”

While Grinnell inherited his father’s passion for cars, the Pilchuck Hot Rod Academy is intended to serve much more than his own nostalgic interests.

“The hot rods are just the candy to attract the kids,” Grinnell said. “What really matters is giving them a comfortable place where they can receive positive feedback. We’re about counseling them as much as anything else.”

“A lot of kids aren’t necessarily getting that sort of positive environment at home or in school,” Otey said. “By giving these kids opportunities to work with local employers and other folks in the community, it elevates their potential and what they expect from themselves.”

“This is for the kids who might not hang out at school,” Grinnell said. “There’s no reason to put yourself into debt with student loans to go to college if that’s not where your passions lie. We have such talent in the automotive field just in this local area.”

Grinnell has already recruited a number of businesses and individuals with expertise in this field to provide lectures and demonstrations, but he’s always looking for more. He’s also built up a library of thousands of automotive publications and films of car races through donations from the community, including hot rod magazines from 1955 through 1981 dropped off by Jim Wharton.

At the same time that Grinnell accepts helping hands from the community, he’ll also be expecting his students to help themselves, by answering phones and performing other clerical tasks for the Pilchuck Hot Rod Academy.

“We want this to be the place where education meets the street,” Grinnell said. “It can be frustrating when you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job. If you come here and invest some time and effort, you can get some references and network with employers without it costing you an arm and a leg.”

“We want to catch these kids before they fall through the cracks,” Hansen said.

The Pilchuck Hot Rod Academy is located at 16319 Smokey Point Blvd. in Marysville and will eventually be open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. In the meantime, Grinnell has invited community members to attend open house cookouts at the academy on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more information, call 360-658-3891 or 425-268-0693, email or log onto


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