Automotive journalism and motorsports alike suffered a great loss on May 6 when Denise McCluggage passed away at the age of 88. Equal parts writer and racer, Denise was just as successful behind the wheel of a race car as she was behind a keyboard.

She raced professionally in the 1950s and ‘60s, with highlights that include class wins at Sebring in 1961 and Monte Carlo in 1964. I actually first met Denise at the 2011 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. With her a judge and me not wanting to be a bother, I kept the introduction/conversation short, but I bumped into her again later as we both sought a little shade in the media center.

Now, there are plenty of egos mulling about at your typical Concours event, but Denise was not one of them. We talked about Amelia Island, Ferraris and automotive journalism for much longer than I would’ve ever expected, and even when equally distinguished and respected automotive journalist David E. Davis, Jr. sat down next to us, she kept talking rather than abruptly cutting me off. Denise was definitely a class act.

As such, she also received plenty of awards for her writing, including the Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism in 1985 and the Motor Press Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, and this doesn’t even include her racing accolades, including being named to the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2001 and the SCCA Hall of Fame in 2006.

Following her death, I’ve been reading many stories that celebrate her life, and I realize that my limited time with this great woman hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface on how amazing she truly was. She will be missed.


Jeffrey N. Ross
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