The automotive industry lost a legend on January 3. Paul Zazarine was born May 28, 1952, and grew up in Takoma Park, Maryland. His introduction to the automobile came courtesy of his father, who instilled in him a passion for American performance cars. One of Zazarine's fondest memories of his father was when they would sit in front of the family home, naming every vehicle that drove past.
Through his youth, Zazarine's enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, cars expanded. Like many Baby Boomers who grew up in the late '50s and early '60s, he spent each September visiting each dealer's showroom, collecting armloads of brochures, then going home to pore over every picture and detail. As a car-crazed teenager, he memorized the engine specifications of muscle cars instead of algebraic algorithms.
While a number of performance cars passed through his hands, none had the impact of the Platinum '66 GTO he purchased in 1977.
"That car literally changed my life," he said. The GTO awakened in him a fascination with the history of the GTO and Pontiac. He began to research and learn as much as he could about the cars built during the now-defunct carmaker's greatest era.
His newfound passion eventually led him to write for Smoke Signals, the Pontiac Oakland Club International's official publication. His GTO column caught the attention of John Gunnell, editor of Old Cars Weekly, who suggested to Zazarine that he write an article for the magazine about the 1981 Pontiac convention in Springfield, Illinois. The article landed him on the magazine's front page and started him on a career in automotive journalism that would span more than a quarter century.
By the early '80s, Zazarine's freelance career was booming. One of the magazines he contributed to was Car Review, published by Dobbs Publishing Group in Lakeland, Florida. In the fall of 1985, Zazarine took over the editorship of Car Review and relocated to Florida. During his 13 years with Dobbs, he edited Musclecar Review, Corvette Fever, and Chevy Truck magazines. He also helped launch Mopar Muscle.
One of Zazarine's most satisfying roles was the one he played in the construction of the National Corvette Museum. "While I was editing Corvette Fever, I was fortunate to be a member of the board of directors of the Museum," he said. "We worked hard as a team under the direction of the late Dan Gale to raise the funds, design the facility and the exhibits, and oversee the construction." The grand opening on Labor Day 1994 drew more than 120,000 people and thousands of Corvettes.
Zazarine also wrote a shelf full of books over the years. His titles include Pontiac's Greatest Decade - 1959-1969: The Widetrack Era, How To Restore Your Musclecar, GTO Buyer's Guide, Camaro Exposed, Barracuda & Challenger, 1964-1967 GTO Color History, and GTO Restoration Guide, which won a Moto Award for the Best Automotive Technical Book of 1985. He also assisted Jim Wangers, the "Godfather of the GTO," in writing Glory Days, which won its own Moto in 1999. Wangers became owner and publisher of Pontiac Enthusiast magazine in 2000 and brought Zazarine aboard as editor. Zazarine went on to launch a series of "Enthusiast" titles for Amos Press, including Musclecar Enthusiast, Mustang Enthusiast, and Corvette Enthusiast.
Zazarine established his own freelance-writing business in 2003 and contributed to more than a dozen magazines, including VETTE, Super Chevy, Popular Hot Rodding, Camaro Performers, Musclecar Review, and Corvette. His other achievements include receiving the Dale Carnegie Graduate and Graduate Assistant Honor, Moto Awards in 1985 and 1986, and Charlie Awards in 1993 and 1994.
More recently, his '97 Corvette formed the basis of VETTE's popular "C5 on a Shoestring" series, which ran from 2006 through 2008.
Paul Zazarine left this life unexpectedly, but his undying passion for the American automobile will live on forever. He leaves behind his loving wife, Alexis Zazarine; daughter, Trina Zazarine-Smith; granddaughters, Gia, Bethany, and Cortney Smith; son, Chris Zazarine; half-brother, Robert Marcheso; pet greyhound and constant companion, Ty; and a host of friends.