My world has come full circle. Through the 1970s I made my living in motorsports. It took me two years to persuade Bob Tullius to hire me as the PR guy for his Group 44 Inc. racing team in 1974. I won a Maryland state karting championship in '76, bought Group 44's title-winning MGB race car and moved to Minnesota in the spring of '77 to take the position as PR director for the newly reopened Brainerd International Raceway (BIR). Working for the track allowed me to race the MGB in SCCA national championship racing. Nineteen-eighty turned out to be a very special year as my wife, Jeri, and I won the Sports Car Club of America E-Production National Championship at Road Atlanta — on our honeymoon, no less! I've never had a problem remembering our anniversary.
My job at BIR came to sudden end in 1981. Fortunately, Jeri had a very good job with Honeywell and her income was enough to cover the mortgage and keep us in groceries and gas. Every time I look at my Social Security statements I'm reminded of how tight finances were back then — my total income for 1982 was zero dollars. It was time to change careers!
In late '81 I received a call from the newly appointed program director at KSTP-AM radio to try my hand at hosting a talk show revolving around automobiles. After several trial shows I was offered the opportunity to do weekend talk radio. I called the show "Autotalk" and enjoyed great success helping car owners over the next 29 years. I'm very proud of the feedback from listeners, confirming their trust in my efforts to help them with their vehicles.
As "Autotalk" gained popularity, I could see the need for a newspaper column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, offering the same type of help to readers. In the spring of '83 I pitched my idea with a sample column to then-Managing Editor Tim McGuire. He liked the concept but didn't have a place in the paper for such a column.
A year later — April 1984 — I opened the Saturday paper and found a new cover page for the automotive classifieds. Bingo! I contacted McGuire and pitched my column again. This time he agreed.
And so it began. For 32-plus years I've written a weekly column for the Star Tribune, and for the past decade it has been picked up by several dozen newspapers in North America. That's a total of nearly 1,700 columns addressing car owners' questions and concerns. I take great pride in having helped folks better understand ownership, maintenance and repair of their motor vehicles — all focused on more efficiency, safety, performance and better value for their automotive dollars.
There are so many wonderful people to thank for their help and support along my journey. My wife, Jeri, and our boys — Paul Jr. and Ryan — for putting up with my Saturday and Sunday work schedule for 30 years. The Hubbard family at KSTP, Tim McGuire at the Star Trib and my editors over the years — the late Dennis Branstiter, Casey Common and Bill Hammond — for their help and guidance in producing well-written, error-free columns.
But above all, I want to thank the loyal listeners and readers who asked for my help over the years. I've heard from many of them, thanking me for giving them straight, easy to understand answers to their automotive issues.
So now my life has come full circle. Having retired from radio, TV and now newspapers, I can refocus on what I've loved doing my entire life — my vocation and avocation — motorsports. The year 2017 will be my 34th of teaching race driving for the Skip Barber Racing School. I look forward to continuing to do what I love best — driving race cars. Hopefully there's another checkered flag or two in my future!
Thank you all for a great career!
Paul Brand is the author of "How to Repair Your Car" and "How to Repair Your Truck and SUV," published by Motorbooks.