Paul Brian, 1951-2024

I don’t know if Paul Brian ever actually sold cars, but as he seemed to have done everything else in the automotive industry, I wouldn’t be surprised. At any rate, I imagine he would have been good at it. Paul was persistent.

That was my first impression of him, which came via an email forwarded to me last December. He and his cohost Lauren Fix (who pays tribute to him below) had met with some people at Blaze Media about possible collaboration. Paul was following up, a little bemused by the slowness with which the corporate wheels were turning. Well, he expressed it a bit more memorably:

“We all are more than aware that great ideas need gestation, but we also don’t want to have the chicken sitting on her eggs long enough that they turn up hard-boiled,” he wrote. He returned to the barnyard metaphor once more at the end. “We’ve got the chickens. We’ve got the eggs. We’ve got the end-product consumers who are hungry for the end product. And we’ve got the right farmers. Seems ready for some action to bring them all together.”

I emailed Paul and suggested that he and Lauren might be a good fit for the new lifestyle section I was editing. Paul’s response slyly ignored my cautious “might be.” And that’s how I got into the poultry business.

At first I found Paul’s energy and enthusiasm daunting; I sometimes felt that I was the one 20 years older. But it proved to be transmissible. Zoom calls with Paul and Lauren had a way of expanding from 20-minute logistical chats to 90-minute, freewheeling conversations about everything under the sun.

Even over email, Paul was not one for terse, impersonal communication. Unlike some natural-born raconteurs, Paul had a knack for listening as well. Once I casually mentioned I’d lived in Czechoslovakia; Paul, who had lived in Milan working for Alfa Romeo, wanted to hear all about it. A throwaway comment about a fender-bender in my minivan or local flood warnings would be noted and responded to with genuine concern.

In the short time I knew Paul, I began to understand why Lauren thought of him as an older brother. Paul was opinionated, funny, and passionate. But beneath all of that he was also something else, something harder to come by these days. I’d say he was a gentleman.

I only worked with Paul for half a year or so, and we never met in person. His contributions to Align are a tiny fraction of his legacy, but they paint a surprisingly rich portrait. In them we get a glimpse of the fearless industry contrarian, the world champion chili cook and proud Army veteran, and the lifelong car fanatic who just wasn’t built for the slow lane.

My condolences to Paul’s family and many friends; I’m glad to count myself among the latter. Presumptuous of me, perhaps, but I gather most people he worked with ended up feeling the same way. May he rest in peace.

—Matt Himes

It is with a very heavy heart that I share some sad news. Paul Brian passed away peacefully Tuesday evening at home with his daughter, Lesley Durkan, his granddaughter, Quinn, and his wonderful girlfriend, Pam. We hope God gives him a garage with endless cars.

Paul had an impressive life. For those who never had the pleasure of meeting and knowing Paul as I did, he was more than just my cohost and driving buddy. Everywhere Paul went, he made friends and left an impact.

Paul loved cars. He loved to drive them, talk about them, doodle them on cocktail napkins, and have deliciously fun talks (and sometimes arguments) about them with friends. For most of his life he did just that, and now he joins fellow car friends including Carroll Shelby, who became a 45-year friend and mentor. Paul was also passionate about art, science, food, wine, music, and fashion — because no car was ever built or bought without at least a little of each of those elements.

Paul was regarded as one of our nation’s best-known, respected, and in-demand automotive industry experts. He was the marketing manager on the Alfa Romeo IndyCar team. He was the automotive voice of Chicago for 35-plus years. He headed the communications and marketing team for the Chicago Auto Show and hosted his “Drive Chicago” radio show on WLS Radio for 20 years.

He was an honored juror for the North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards, served as president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, received two Emmy awards, and was inducted into the Legends of Motorsport Guild’s Hall of Fame.

Paul Brian was, to quote himself, “always entertaining and sometimes actually informative.”

Paul Brian was a proud veteran of the U.S. Army, serving as the director of the Armed Forces Radio and Television network while stationed in the Panama Canal Zone during Vietnam in the early 1970s. His love and devotion to the Army lived long after his service to our country. He spent decades serving veterans through philanthropic work and served as a founding member of the Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Veterans Foundation board of directors.

Paul would do anything to help another veteran. In lieu of flowers, Paul wished for donations be given to the Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Veterans Foundation in his name. This was another of his passions: to help other soldiers who sacrificed so much.

Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Veterans Foundation provides grants to those who are engaged in providing educational programs, PTSD assistance, and direct assistance to veterans.

Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Veterans Foundation (501(c)(3) organization)
6615 Grand Ave Ste B PMB 415
Gurnee, IL 60031

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