A bid farewell to a colleague, a mentor and a friend: FRED MACKERODT, A LIFE WELL-LIVED.
Frederick T. “Fred” Mackerodt died peacefully at home in upstate New York on Christmas Day, December 25, 2023, surrounded by loving friends. Born on September 17, 1938 in Brooklyn, New York, he and his former wife of 35 years, Christy Woods Mackerodt, resided at the Stone House Farm in Chester, New York, and in New York City.
Fred was respected as a creative communicator, founder and president of Fred Mackerodt, Inc. (FMI), an automotive-focused public relations agency with offices in Montvale, NJ and New York City. The agency specialized in media relations/marketing communications and Press Car Fleet Management. Prior to starting FMI in the late-1970s, he was an accomplished writer, photographer and magazine editor. He launched his PR agency with the Honda account, later adding Pontiac and then switching exclusively to General Motors business. Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Saturn and GMC Truck completed his GM portfolio for coverage on the East Coast. FMI would eventually represent all GM brands.
In the 1950s Mackerodt opened his first business, Automotive Obsolete, selling hard-to-find parts to owners, mechanics and restorers of vintage Fords. AO was known nationally for its services to the Ford Model A community.Fred ’s entry into the automotive media field started in April 1965 when he responded to a Help Wanted advertisement in The New York Times for an editorial position at an automotive magazine publisher. He had just left a division of LOOK magazine and was a contributing writer for the U.S. version of the BBC’s satirical TV comedy program – That Was the Week That Was – airing on NBC in 1964-1965.
He was hired as Managing Editor of Hi-Performance CARS Magazine and a few months later appeared in life-size posters throughout New York City. He was the subject of a city-wide campaign: “I got my job through The New York Times.” And under Fred’s smiling face – “Automotive Editor”!
Over the years he wrote for a number of Men’s magazines, including PENTHOUSE, and prototyped publications with his friend Joe Oldham for the publisher of Hi-Performance CARS. They included Supercycle magazine and Supercar Road Test Annual. In 1973 he was named editor of Hi-Performance CARS.
While at Hi-Performance CARS, Mackerodt’s alter ego emerged, Dilbert Horatio Farb, as Humor Editor and tongue-in-cheek road tester. President & Exalted Leader of the Pitkin Avenue Street Racing & Choral Society (PASRCS), Dilbert would road test a working garbage truck, his 32-foot Lobster boat and a fiberglass bed styled like a McLaren Can-Am racecar, replete with racing wheels and tires and authentic sponsor decals! He developed a cult following and his column, “You’re Asking?; I’m Telling!” garnered the most amount of the monthly reader mail!
Fred Mackerodt, Inc. became known in the industry as a training ground for young aspiring PR operatives. Many of his employees went on to work at Fortune 500 companies and hold executive communications positions at domestic and import carmakers. In January 2012, Fred retired and sold FMI to two of his key account executives, Pierre Kanter and Eric Dolis. At the time, the agency had, in addition to GM business, the BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce accounts.
Co-owner Eric Dolis summed up his experience when first joining FMI: “Working for Fred Mackerodt was like taking a masterclass in relationship building – and getting paid! I learned more in one year at FMI than I did in four years of college.”
Kanter and Dolis have since spearheaded the growth of FMI, which is now part of the NAVS network (North American Vehicle Services). They currently represent 15 carmakers.
Fred Mackerodt loved cars and, over the years, owned classic sports cars including an E-Type Jaguar, an Austin-Healey and a Ferrari 308 GT4; but he was truly passionate about flying. He was an instrument-rated fixed-wing (airplane) and rotary (helicopter) pilot and before retiring, he owned a twin-engine Beechcraft Duke.
Like wife Christy, Fred was an animal lover since his teenage years. He realized his dream when they purchased the Stone House Farm, built stables and fenced in pastures for their Quarter, Morgan and Belgium Draft horses. They turned it into a true working farm, producing premium Stone House Farm brand maple syrup. Photo, above, was taken at Stone House Farm during Hi-Performance CARS Reunion with Fred, left, Lynne Kanter, former assistant editor, and Marty Schorr, editor who hired Fred in 1965.
Fred Mackerodt is survived by his former wife, Christy Woods Mackerodt, and nephew, Joe Pianelli. He was predeceased by his sister Marie Pianelli.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Blooming Grove Humane Society (http://www.humanesocietybg.com) or to the German Society of New York, 6 East 87th Street, New York, NY 10128.