Motortrend loses two cornerstones
Tony Swan, 78, former editor-in-chief of this magazine, died September 27. Then, a month later, former technical editor
Ron Grable, 85, died October 31.
Both were towering personalities in this magazine and automotive journalism at large—and both were highly competitive race car drivers, from SCCA club racing to F5000, Trans Am, even NASCAR. They used their racing prowess to bring knowledge, depth, and kinetic energy to their stories.
Of many qualities imbued in Tony and Ron, it was their shared contempt for bull that distinguished them. Swan countered with an acerbic wit that could roil with the wrath of a Viking; Grable, tall and quiet, would fix offenders in a Clint Eastwood gaze so icy you could see his breath. Both, however, were compassionate teachers and unhesitant mentors who inspired the very best in us.
Swan won three SCCA Divisional crowns and drove dozens of 24-hour races. I was privileged to co-drive with him at the 24 Hours of Nelson Ledges one year. In a diverse career, Swan was editor-in-chief here, chief auto critic at the Detroit Free Press, a longtime top-tier freelance writer and editor, and executive editor at Car and Driver.
Grable was extraordinarily talented— no one called him Ron, just Grable or RG. It’s no hyperbole to admit the staff in that era idolized him. Whether he was writing a tech piece, offering story ideas in a staff meeting, or leading our extralegal conga line through the mountains for Car of the Year, we followed him literally and figuratively.
In 1993, Grable experienced permanent injuries when he fell off a mountainside while on a motorcycle test. It was determined that he probably sustained a micro-blackout, likely brought on by years of g-forces in his aerobatic Pitts S-2 biplane. It occurred at the worst possible moment.
We visited for years after he left the magazine, always powering down sushi and getting caught up on cars and people. As he grappled with and dominated his injuries from the bike crash, I witnessed firsthand the kind of personal resolve and fortitude to which we all can only aspire.
For such a quiet man, he was a force of nature. I’m reminded of the Rumi quote that says, “When I am silent, I have thunder hidden inside.”
We send our deepest condolences to Grable’s and Swan’s families, friends, and colleagues—and mourn the loss to us all.
Ron Gable, far left, and Tony Swan, above, made major contributions to Motortrend and automotive journalism writ large.