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Bradley Hilltopics

Spring 2009 • Volume 15, Issue 2  

Alumni Profiles

MATT DeLORENZO ’76: On the right track | JON AUSTIN ’81: Steward of history | Engineers run in the family | MELISSA MONTLE ’00: Setting an innocent man free | MICHAEL BERLINGER, MBA ’04: Now a knight

 

On the right track

By GAYLE ERWIN McDOWELL ’77

Matt DeLorenzo '76

Road & Track editor MATT DeLORENZO ’76 test drives an Audi R8. He has also written seven books about cars, including Corvette Dynasty and The History of the American Car.

 

MATT DeLORENZO ’76 calls himself “a magazine guy who loves cars.” As editor-in-chief of Road & Track, he has opportunities that could make every car buff exclaim: “I want his job!”

Bradley Hilltopics caught up with Matt DeLorenzo in January between trips to Auto Shows in Detroit and Chicago. With what must be an impressive frequent flyer account, he planned to follow up the North American events with a trip to the Geneva Motor Show in March. Matt also routinely attends international shows in Frankfurt and Tokyo.

“It is a great job. I wouldn’t trade any of it,” says Road & Track’s vice president/editor-in-chief. Travel and previewing the latest concepts from the auto industry are only part of the allure of his career that now spans four decades. He works with top photographers and art directors, and has been able to meet racing champs like the late Phil Hill.

“I’ve always said it’s more of a lifestyle than a career. We’re able to do things that would cost a lot of money to replicate, if you even could.” For example, Matt drove a 1955 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing in a vintage car rally in Italy. “It’s a remarkable thing to be able to do. You drive 1,000 miles from Brescia to Rome and back.”

Perhaps the most enviable perk is the chance to drive different cars — really cool cars — on a daily basis. “I wouldn’t be able to afford anything that would hold a candle to what I drive at work. We test and write about these cars,” explains the Gurnee native. “There’s something different to drive every night,” he explains, shortly after returning from lunch in a 2009 Bentley Continental Flying Spur.

In case you’re wondering what’s parked in his own garage in Huntington Beach, Matt and his wife, fellow journalism major JANE KORANEK DeLORENZO ’77, own a Chrysler PT Cruiser (their second one) and recently bought a Toyota Prius. “Jane wanted a hybrid,” he mentions. Other drivers in the family are their daughter and son, a college senior and a high school junior.

More than great cars

After a brief stint as a reporter at the Journal Star in Peoria, Matt moved to California in 1977, and found his niche reporting on the automotive industry. He worked at Automotive News and, from 1989 to 1996, was editor of AutoWeek. All the while, Matt’s dream was to work for Road & Track, the original magazine for car enthusiasts (circulation: 700,000). Matt landed the job as the magazine’s Detroit editor in 1998. The DeLorenzos returned to Los Angeles from Detroit last summer when he was officially named editor-in-chief.

“Coming out of school, I didn’t know the world of business journalism existed to the extent that it does. You get this tremendous exposure to things going on all over the world.” As much as he enjoys being around the cars, however, Matt’s true love is writing and creating the magazine. He views himself and his staff as “content providers” for both the publication and its vast Web site. Their online efforts account for about 40 percent of their work. Half the Road & Track staff has journalism degrees while the other half has engineering backgrounds. “It’s a good mix. We teach each other a lot.”

Matt credits Bradley professors Dr. Paul Snider and the late Dr. Jack Fought for his solid background in journalism. “Dr. Snider was my mentor and a tremendous inspiration,” he says.

Auto industry insights

Fresh from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Matt expressed guarded optimism for the future of American automakers. “Despite all the doom and gloom, there were some really nice looking cars. Ford is in the least need of help of any of the manufacturers. I think the new Taurus will do well for them.”

He also cited electric cars — the Chevy Volt and Chrysler’s 200C EV — as standouts. “It (the show) showed they do have some products in the pipeline, and it may not be as dire as everybody is painting it.”

With conflicting emotions about the auto industry bailout, Matt points to hard times the industry has seen before. “It’s been a very cyclical business to watch. There have been a lot of changes, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

He concludes, “At the end of the day, you still must have a great-looking design and a compelling story to tell about your product. The ones who are going to succeed are the ones who believe in their product. Cars still say a lot about who you are and what you do. That’s never going to change.”

Visit roadandtrack.com for more on new and future cars.