Frank McGonagle, Automotive Industry Marketer and Brenton Productions Founder, Passes Away

Oct 17, 2019 | Events, Television

Providence, RI – Francis (Frank) McGonagle, age 88, author, automotive industry marketer, and television producer; died peacefully on October 13, 2019, surrounded by his loving family at his home in Providence.

Frank was born in Boston, MA, and raised in Sommerville, MA. After graduating from Boston College in 1952, he served in the U.S. Army for two years during the Korean conflict.

His business career spanned a half-century of advertising and public relations management assignments for Hallmark Cards, Hunt Foods and Honeywell Automotive (Fram, Autolite and Bendix).  Regarded as innovative and visionary, he brought the best out of the teams he led in businesses and other organizations throughout his life.

In the mid 1950s as a young field manager for Hallmark Cards, he saw the impact that television could have on the building of a brand.  With each airing of the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV series, Frank witnessed the increase in sales and activity in greeting card shops throughout his territories. 

Frank put his Hallmark experience into practice as the advertising manager at Fram Filters, where he moved Fram from running magazine-only campaigns to becoming a major television advertiser.  In the mid-1970s he led the development of the “You can pay me now or you can pay me later,” TV commercial campaign for Fram and Autolite that lasted for decades and provided a major influence on the entire oil change industry.

He was ahead of his time; in the late 1980s he shifted some of Fram’s advertising to new and growing cable TV networks such as TNN (The Nashville Network) and TBS, which offered a more targeted and cost-effective reach into the automotive market.

Frank left Fram in 1991 to pursue his vision of creating opportunities for large and small automotive aftermarket products to be featured on television – not just in commercials, but as a key part of the storyline of the show. To realize this vision he founded Brenton Productions and began creating automotive-oriented “how-to” shows, including Shadetree Mechanic, which aired on TNN (now Paramount Network) for many years. Other series followed, including Two Guys Garage, Truck U and Hi Rev Tuners on Speed Channel. 

Read more about Frank’s vision for Brenton Productions and how it got its name.

“Frank was a pioneer in the concepts of product placement and branded TV content,” says David Hall, former President of TNN.  “His vision was, ‘Let’s make TV programming that’s designed for the integration of automotive products and brands into the storyline itself.’ And this was a concept that, at that time, wasn’t really being done on the scale that gave most automotive aftermarket brands the chance to participate.”

Today, Brenton produces six TV series, including Two Guys Garage (18 seasons) Truck U (15 seasons), Car Fix and All Girls Garage (both for 8 seasons); all currently airing on the MotorTrend Network, which is part of Discovery Networks.  In addition, Brenton produced Live, Love, Wrench and the recently debuted FourWheeler for MotorTrend on Demand.

“My father left a legacy of success in business and in life that will be missed by all who he touched,” says Chuck McGonagle, President of Brenton Productions. “Our family, and the Brenton Productions team, are committed to continuing with the pursuit of his vision.”

Frank was very involved in the automotive marketing community.  He participated in numerous organizations and attended many industry events and conferences. 

In addition to his business accomplishments, Frank authored memoirs about his life challenges – not the least of which occurred in 1966 when he lost his wife Charlotte in an automobile accident which left him severely burned. This experience became the basis for Burned Alive, his story about the challenges of severe burns and disfigurement.

As a result, he learned about an international self-help organization, the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.  He served on this organization’s board for over 20 years and became its president in 1993.

He is survived by his wife Arlene of 41 years, plus his five children Charles, Margaret, Peter, Michael, and Timothy, four daughters-in-law and one son-in-law, along with eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 16th 12:00 PM at the First Unitarian Church of Providence, 1 Benevolent Street, Providence, RI 02906 (401) 421-7970,

In lieu of flowers, donations in Frank’s memory can be made to The Hamilton House, 276 Angell St, Providence, RI 02906,, or The Phoenix Society Inc. 525 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503,


1 Comment

  1. Matt Belanger

    I am forever grateful for Mr. McGonagle. I had the great privilege or working for him at Brenton Productions. All who knew Frank will agree that he was a servant and consistently he led extraordinarily well. In every sense, Frank was an example of character and integrity to me professionally and personally. I vividly recall seeing both his wisdom and grace in action on a daily basis. He navigated complex projects and the on-going changes that occurred in the media world as if it were second nature. Always willing to take the time to work on an individual level, Frank was a caring man who’s legacy I will cherish. I remember the times he invested in me and others on staff, often opening his home and personal life – which further endeared his team’s affection and commitment. My thoughts and prayers are with Frank’s family during this very difficult. He is irreplaceable and much loved. May his memories and impact live on and be repeated. I echo the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.”


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