Tony Swan, veteran automotive journalist and former Motor Trend editor-in-chief, has passed away at age 78.
Born in Minnesota, Swan began his career in journalism as a writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, bringing auto racing to the paper’s sports coverage. He joined Motor Trend in 1975, serving as features editor and later as international editor and executive editor. It wouldn’t be long until he rose the ranks to editor-in-chief, a role he held through 1985. During his career, he also wrote articles for the Detroit Free Press, Autoweek, Cycle World, Popular Mechanics, the New York Times, and most recently Car and Driver, serving as executive editor there through 2006.
He was a founding member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards, serving on the jury for around 25 years. In 2004, he won the Ken Purdy award from the International Motor Press Association, which is considered one of the highest achievements in automotive journalism.
Swan was not only a very talented writer, but also an avid race car driver. For decades, he competed in amateur and semi-professional races, holding a Sports Car Club of America National Competition license. He won three SCCA Divisional championships and participated in 35 24-hour races.
The self-proclaimed “Old Boy Racer” will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with the Swan family during this difficult time.
Here are a few anecdotes about Tony from our staff:
“The last time I saw Tony we were both waiting in line outside the Jacksonville airport to pick up cars for [the] Amelia Island [Concours d’Elegance]. This was probably three years ago, maybe four. I can’t remember what he wound up driving, but I had a full pimp-spec Maybach S600. Leagues swankier than whatever he was in…I made some comment about how it’s only right that MT gets a finer car than Car & Driver. I remember he shot me a look that said, ‘Bull****,’ then said, ‘Enjoy it while it lasts, kid.’ Best advice there is. RIP, Tony.” – Jonny Lieberman
“I’ve actually known Tony’s better half Mary for longer than I’ve known Tony, and although Tony and I shared many experiences during the decades since we worked together at Car and Driver, my fondest Tony memories are of time spent creating Top Chef-style gourmet dinners together as a foursome. We’d gather around Tony and Mary’s big kitchen island where, instead of being the experts in the room as we usually were in work-related settings, Tony and I were the ‘civilians.’ As such, we humbly accepted all the grunt tasks—slicing, dicing, chopping, stirring, and cleaning things up as our creative culinary genius spouses worked their magic and continually steered the conversation away from car-biz minutiae or journalist war stories. No problem, pull Tony’s string and he was equally happy chatting about music, Minnesota, football, and plenty of other topics. Bon appetite, old friend!” – Frank Markus
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