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Pat Neve’s Lifetime of Love for “Sports and Cars”

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“I’ve had a great life. Amazing really. Thinking back, there were always two constants – sports and cars.”

As early as I can remember, at about the age of 12, I would have my mother sit out front of our house with a stopwatch and time me running around the neighborhood. I loved to challenge myself! In high school, I played football, I wrestled, and I ran track. I also really liked lifting weights with friends after school.

I attended my first year of college at GCC (Glendale Community College) in 1967. I ended up entering the Mr. Arizona bodybuilding contest as a “dare” and took 2nd place. This motivated me to begin some serious training. I didn’t really like the whole experience of posing on stage, but I enjoyed testing myself so much I continued to improve.

“It seemed like I was developing a pattern. I would train for a contest and buy a new car two or three times a year.” 

1967 was a good year for me. I was obsessed with training for a bodybuilding competition called “Battle of the Iron.” I met my future wife Vicki and it was also the year that I bought my first Corvette – a 1964 Stingray convertible. I went on to win Mr. Phoenix and Mr. Arizona (the youngest to ever win at the age of 19 at that time). It seemed like I was developing a pattern. I would train for a contest and buy a new car two or
three times a year. During those early years I bought nine different Corvettes, two Pontiac GTO’s, a Plymouth Roadrunner, two Pontiac Firebird Trans Am’s, and a Chevrolet Chevelle.

In 1971 I married my longtime girlfriend Vicki and went on to have two sons – Patrick Jr. and Michael. I also went on to live out my dream of opening my own gym and named it Pat Neve’s Fitness Center. I began working my way up the bodybuilding ladder toward national level bodybuilding competitions and started to make a name for myself in the industry.

In the preceding years I would go on to win the 1974 Mr. U.S.A., 1975 and 1976 Mr. America, 1977 1st runner-up Mr. World, and 1978 1st runner-up Mr. Universe. When I wasn’t bodybuilding, I was powerlifting on the side. I just really enjoyed pushing myself and lifting weights became a passion of mine. The first powerlifting competition I entered I broke the Arizona state record – which also happened to be the third best in the world in my weight class.

“I was the first man in history weighing under 200 pounds that could bench press over 450.” 

One year later I bought a Pantera, DeLorean, and a Porsche 911 Turbo. That same year I broke the world record in the bench press. At 181 pounds I pressed 468 pounds. I held the record for 10 years. This was a huge accomplishment for me! I was the first man in history weighing under 200 pounds that could bench press over 450.

I was now at a point in my life where I had exceeded my expectations in the world of professional bodybuilding and power lifting and it was time to try something new. I wanted to challenge myself in new ways. I sold my gym and retired from professional bodybuilding. In the meantime, my love for cars continued to grow.

“I remember the transition being very challenging for me. Standing outside on a car lot in 115 degrees was anything but glamorous work, but with determination I eventually made salesman of the month.” 

I knew the owner at a Nissan Dealership in Glendale, AZ named West Valley Nissan. I really liked the Nissan Z and would eventually buy a 240z, 260z, 280z, and a 300z. Being that I knew the owner and wanted to do something with cars, I decided to ask him for a job. It didn’t take long to realize that I was great at sales! I remember the transition being very challenging for me. Standing outside on a car lot in 115 degrees was anything but glamorous work, but with determination I eventually made salesman of the month. I fell in love with the challenging nature of car sales and worked my way up to management in a short time. I worked my way up the ladder to become the general sales manager of the dealership. Then my big break came in 1997 when I had an opportunity to buy the entire dealership with the son of one of the previous owners. This was the beginning of a 10-year working relationship with one of my best friends, David Guida.

“I was able to get on Ferrari’s “list,” which meant that I had first dibs on any new Ferrari models that came out.” 

Ferrari Testarossa 512TRI entered a new era of my life. I was now in a position to set my sights on cars I only once dreamed of. Thus began my love affair with exotic automobiles. I bought my first Ferrari. It was a 512TR (otherwise known as a Testarossa). It’s was in mint condition with only 1500 miles on it. Next on the list of dream cars was a red Lamborghini Diablo. From 1992 to 2009 I was hooked on exotic super cars. I was able to get on Ferrari’s “list,” which meant that I had first dibs on any new Ferrari models that came out. If you weren’t on the list, the wait could be as long as 4 years to get a new model. I went through the flanks of owning a Ferrari 360, F430, and ultimately a $400,000 Ferrari 599. With 614hp and a 0-60 time of 3.3 seconds, it was the fastest car I had ever owned! I went on to buy a few fun-driving Lamborghini Gallardos as well.

In 2007 I sold my car dealership and committed to some long-overdue knee surgeries. I wasn’t driving my exotics as much anymore so I decided to sell them and try something more luxurious for a while. I bought a black on black Bently GTC convertible and threw some 22’s on it and played with that for a while. I also tried out a Mercedes 550 and E350 coupe for a while. For the next couple of years my wife and I began to travel again all over the world.

“I began looking for something new. Something that would excite me again.”

In 2013, after traveling to many of the destinations we’ve dreamed of over the years, my wife and I began to feel the boredom of early retirement setting in. I began looking for something new. Something that would excite me again. My son Michael opened a clothing store named Legends Clothing in Glendale, AZ. He would have classic car and rat rod gatherings and events on the weekends and I began to become interested in the classics again.

I was stimulated by these old classics and thought it would be something fun to share with my sons. I began researching these old classics online and fell in love with most of them. I was really attracted to 1949-1951 Mercury lead sleds. To me, these cars represent the good ol’ days. The nostalgic era.

“ … It was really exciting. Meeting all the down-to-earth friendly people was
a breath of fresh air.”

purple-merc_3I bought my first 1951 Mercury from an owner in Connecticut. It was a purple lead sled that had won over 100 trophies on the east coast. It was unique is many ways. It had AC, power-steering, a 1967 Cadillac rear clip welded on with perfect fit and finish. My son Mike named it “Grimace.” The first show my son and I entered it in we won 1st place for “best paint.” It was really exciting. Meeting all the down-to-earth friendly people was a breath of fresh air. It was fun, and I knew it wouldn’t belong before I purchased another one!

I began my search for a second Mercury and ended up finding the perfect one in Pennsylvania. This 51′ Merc was a national winner. It won the Motorama East Coast two consecutive years and earned the “coolest custom” title in the Eastern Goodguys Nationals. The previous owner had invested nearly $200,000 into this beauty. The 3-stage paint job was $30,000 alone! It has 350 hp with 400 lb of torque, custom Lincoln interior, a custom undercarriage, and air suspension. This car has a look that demands attention.

all-three_1I would have never embarked on this journey of classic cars had I not run into my long-time friend Ron Hernandez (pinstriper extraordinaire) who also owns a beautiful show-winning Mercury. He generously shared his knowledge and passion with the classic car scene out here and most importantly, he connected me with his talented mechanic (Troy Wait) of Hot Rod Alley.

Last but not least, My wife and I needed an everyday driver so we bought a 2014 Jaguar XJ and put some 22″ Lexani wheels on it.

I’m getting ready for the next Goodguys Nationals coming this spring. I also plan on launching my new website (www.therealpatneve.com) in April, which will include much more detail on the history of my bodybuilding legacy and car collections.

So, as my friend Don would say:

“Let’s roll.”

Story and photos submitted by Pat Neve and Patrick Neve Jr.

Thanks for sharing an awesome story!

Scroll down to check out some more photos of Pat’s rides over the years.

2 Comments

  1. Kevin O'Brien says:

    Hello Pat,

    I’m an old follower / fan of your bodybuilding career back in the early 80’s. Competed at Alhambra HS in the 83′ and 85′ Mr. Phoenix. I still train and remain in semi-contest shape throughout the year at 55… Anyway, I was trying to see if you have stayed in touch with Steve Ryder, Larry Pines, Mike Hassin or Todd McGee (although I heard Todd may have passed) In any case, you inspired a lot of us guys in town back then and to this day… I grew up in Glendale, went to GHS and proud to have been a part of your competitions.

  2. Great story, shows that hard work and a driven attitude pay off! I feel like I’ve seen the green and yellow one before (maybe @ Goodguys?). Great story and beautiful cars, hope that I get the opportunity to shoot them at local shows or that I can hook up with Pat for a photo shoot sometime!

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