Award-winning automotive journalist Gary Witzenburg has been writing about automobiles, auto people and the auto industry for 33 years. A mechanical engineering graduate of Duke University, he is a former U.S. Navy officer, auto engineer, race driver and advanced technology vehicle development manager who has authored eight automotive books. His work has appeared in a wide variety of national magazines, including The Robb Report, Playboy, Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Autoweek, MT Truck Trend, and Automobile Quarterly. He is currently a contributing editor to Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) and Collectible Automobile, a correspondent to WardsAuto, a contributor to Autotrader, SAE Automotive Engineering, DBusiness, HOUR Detroit, Hagerty.com,caranddriver.com and Vintage Motorsport and President of the North American Car, Truck and Utility vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) Awards.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
I currently write about new cars, trucks and SUVs as well as historic autos, auto people and the industry itself. Among my next few assignments are a review of the 2022 Ford Maverick, coverage of the inaugural American Speed Festival at M1 Concourse in Pontiac, MI, a technical story on fuel cell development, a feature on “The Most Powerful and Brutal Racing Corvette ever designed” and profiles of two classic Mercedes owners.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
I have been fortunate to have been able to write about many of my past sports-car racing adventures, and by far the best and most memorable of those has been co-driving the 1979 Nurburgring 24-Hour endurance race with pro drivers Jim Downing and Lyn St. James, a grand adventure that ran last year in Vintage Motorsports magazine. We won our class in that race, and that story won a 2021 first-place Automotive Heritage Journalism award.
What story or stories are you most proud of?
Probably that and other racing adventure stories, followed by a wide variety of people stories I’ve been fortunate to write through the years.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
It should be as informative, engrossing, fun and easy to read and understand as possible.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
As stated in my above bio blurb, I started as an automotive engineer, transitioned to writing, then back to engineering, then back to writing. My writing career has spanned a total of 33 years as of this year.
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …
singing (my life-long hobby), or driving on a racetrack, whether in a race car or in a good street machine.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
Email please! I get too much junk mail and too many phone calls.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
Don’t be pushy. I have worked on and understand the PR side of our business. Attendance at your press function does not guarantee a story, let alone a positive one. Your (and your company’s) job is to make your product or message so interesting and compelling (to our audiences) that it earns good stories.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.)
Pursued math, science and engineering, but paid attention in English class, before transitioning to auto writing. Married, no kids, three dogs. Besides cars, I’m a college football, basketball, music and racing fan and probably a better driver (or was when younger) and singer than writer. But it’s tougher to make even a modest living at those, so they have remained satisfying hobbies.
You might also be interested in: