Matthew Pataky: The Natural
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
MOUNTAIN VIEW – For some mechanics, working on cars is just a way to make a living, but for Matthew Pataky, it’s more of a family tradition. It started with his father, Steven, who began his automotive career working on fruit trucks in his native Hungary in the early 1950s. After immigrating to the United States via New York a few years later, Steven eventually made his way to Northern California, where he founded Sunnyvale Foreign Car Service, Inc. in 1962. Matthew says growing up around his father’s shop allowed him to refine his auto repair skills at an early age. “By 14, I was building engines as a master mechanic. I’ve always been mechanically inclined and enjoyed solving the hard problems that come up in this line of work.”
Despite his innate ability to work on cars, Matthew embarked on an entirely different professional path after he graduated high school. “I attended UC Santa Barbara and received a degree in film,” he recounts. “While in school, my focus was on documentary, and later on I got into filming athletic bios and sports documentaries. One of my more memorable films was about the ‘Death Ride,’ which is a 137-mile cycling race over the California Alps that features extreme temperature changes and almost 20,000 feet of climbing.”
Following college, Matthew split his time between video production and working at Sunnyvale Foreign Car Service until the unexpected passing of his father placed him at an important crossroads. “I found myself in a position where my family needed me to step up and take over management of the shop, so that’s what I did,” he says. Today, more than 20 years later, Matthew continues to run the company with the same sense of integrity and family values that has characterized it since the beginning.
A man of varied interests, Matthew appreciates the wealth of opportunities afforded by the rich and diverse landscape of the Bay Area. “You can be at the ocean, in the mountains, in the big city or in the country—it’s all here,” he says. The setting is especially appealing to one as active as Matthew, who, along with his wife, Lauren, is an avid skier and accomplished triathlete. When he’s not skiing, swimming or cycling, he’s likely behind the lens of a camera (he still does video production as a hobby) or spending quality time with Lauren and their son, Jack.
When asked what he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, it becomes clear that Matthew has no intention of slowing down in the next chapter of his life. “I would spend a lot of time with my son, as well as get back into video production on a full-time basis,” he says. “I’d also love to do some more coaching—I’ve coached triathletes in the past, and I’m really interested in the psychology that goes into motivating athletes and bringing out their full potential.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: Do you have a favorite film?
A: I have a lot of favorite movies from a wide spectrum of genres. If I had to pick one, I’d say Out of Africa.
Q: If you could drive any car, what would it be?
A: That’s a tough call, but I’ll go with a Subaru WRX STI.
Q: What were you most known for in high school?
A: Probably being an athlete—I swam and played water polo.
Q: Do you have a favorite sports team?
A: I have a favorite driver. His name is Fernando Alonso, and he drives on the Ferrari Formula 1 team.
Q: What’s the most death-defying feat you’ve ever attempted?
A: Probably skiing off Big Jim’s in Kirkwood. It’s a huge ski jump that’s about 80 feet in the air.
Q: If you could transport yourself to any imaginary world, where would you go?
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A: I would go to a world covered with snow so I could ski in three feet of powder all day long.