In Memoriam: Frank Colonna, Founder of Triangle Rent A Car

Frank Colonna (1953-2015).
Frank Colonna (1953-2015).

Frank Colonna, founder and president of independent car rental company Triangle Rent A Car, died on March 30.

“It’s a very sad day for all of his former team,” said Shelton Watts, vice president and chief operating officer. “He was a good man with a kind heart.”

Colonna first got started in the car rental business when he moved his family to Raleigh, N.C., in 1979. As a Holiday Rent A Car franchisee, he hung a shingle out of an old gas station with seven cars to rent. In a couple of years, Colonna shed the franchise mantle, renaming the company Triangle Rent A Car.

In those first few years, 14-hour days were the norm, Colonna said during an interview for the Auto Rental News article “Fire, Ready, Aim: How Car Rental Grew in America” (Nov./Dec. 2013). Colonna said he doggedly pursued local contracts and business in his neighborhood. “I finally wore them out until they let me have a few bones. With all the people relocating to the Raleigh area, I felt that I could call on and get at least some [corporate] business, even if they had a contract with the majors.”

In 1981, Colonna opened a second location in Wilmington, which took advantage of North Carolina’s nascent movie production business. In subsequent years, he started managing multiple locations and seeing the fruits of his labor. “I could see it happen and started feeling a little more confident in what I was doing,” he said.

Colonna eventually grew his Triangle Rent A Car business to 29 locations across four states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia). In February 2015, the Triangle brand, locations, websites and most of its fleet were all acquired by Enterprise Holdings.

“As family-owned companies, Enterprise Holdings and Triangle Rent A Car share many of the same values, including our customer service philosophies,” said Colonna, at the time of the sale. “Given Enterprise’s vast resources and strong focus on putting the customer first, I’m confident that our loyal customers, employees and business partners are in good hands with Enterprise.”

Michael Towers of Hawthorne Estimating remembers Colonna as one of his first clients. “When I got in the business, Frank was one of the first people I met. He was tough, knew every aspect of the business and was one of the most complimentary kind-hearted men I knew and above all respected. I can honestly say, a great deal of my company’s success and levels of customer service was a result of wanting to meet the standards Frank expected.”

Colonna served on the American Car Rental Association’s (ACRA) board for many years.

“It was with great sadness we learned of the passing of my dear friend Frank Colonna,” said Bob Barton, former president of ACRA. “Frank fought tirelessly on behalf of the car rental industry on issues of taxation and rallying the industry together through ACRA. He was awarded the Russell J. Bruno Award in 2010 for his outstanding service to the industry.”

“My first impression of Frank Colonna was based on an observation of how passionate he was about legislative issues regarding the car rental industry,” said Sharon Faulkner, executive director of ACRA. “Frank always held his moral ground and expressed his views with intensity and integrity. As one of ACRA’s board of directors, he was a great champion for the industry and he worked very hard to glue the old ACTIF into the new ACRA.”

Randy Harris of Alternative Claims Management recalls his 12-year business relationship with Colonna. “When we started working together, he was always very tough but also very fair and loyal. It led to a 12-year business and personal relationship that was as fine as any I have ever experienced. I am deeply saddened by his passing and our thoughts are with his loving family.”

Jeff Iverson of GE Capital considered Frank a great friend as well as a great customer. “He always, always asked how ‘you’ were doing before he ever talked about himself. He adored his family above all else, and he truly cared about all of his ‘family’ at Triangle.”

“Frank was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met. I will miss him and will always remember him,” said Bob Klyce, an Avis franchisee in Birmingham, Ala.

Colonna is survived by his wife Rebecca and his two children (Catherine and Matthew). A visitation is scheduled for this Friday April 3rd from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Brown Wynne Funeral Home in Raleigh, N.C.


  1. Ken Elder [ April 1, 2015 @ 12:44PM ]

    One of the the industry's best and most respected.

  2. Dave Funston [ April 1, 2015 @ 02:35PM ]

    Frank was one of my earliest customers but I will always remember him as a friend first. Prayers to his immediate family as well as the Triangle family. He will truly be missed.

  3. Mark Hamilton [ April 1, 2015 @ 02:53PM ]

    Frank was truly a friend to everyone in the industry. We could talk on the phone for an hour about boats, fishing, and family and never mention business. A true gentleman who will be sorely missed. Prayers to Rebecca, Catherine and Matthew.

  4. Ned Gonet [ April 1, 2015 @ 04:26PM ]

    I am very sad to hear about the passing of Frank. I have known him 35 years as a friend and was one of his loyal customers. He was truly a wonderful and passionate man, friend and family man. I will miss our many conversations we had throughout the years. My best to his family who he cared deeply for.

  5. Bob Klein [ April 1, 2015 @ 04:54PM ]

    When the car rental industry was facing financial ruin due to the 2008 collapse of the financial markets, Frank stood up for all rental car operators and was the first to put his money where his mouth was to help find alternative funding possibilities. He was a team player for all his fellow rental car operators. Great guy as well.

  6. Travis Tefft [ April 1, 2015 @ 04:57PM ]

    Frank was a tough but fair competetior a good buisness man and always the gentleman. Sorry to get the news.

  7. Myles Lambert [ April 1, 2015 @ 05:33PM ]

    The RAC industry is better today because of Frank's efforts and contributions. We will miss him greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and TRC members.

  8. Dan Ratte' [ April 1, 2015 @ 05:39PM ]

    I was lucky enough to be an employee of Frank's at the corp office in Raleigh for the past 16 years. Frank was a great man who cared deeply for his employees. It was very evident with the amount of time his employees had been with him at TRAC. I knew I was lucky to be there and to be part of his team. Thank you, Frank Colonna, for creating a great company that housed so many great people. We miss you.

  9. Eric B. Simpson [ April 1, 2015 @ 08:40PM ]

    Frank was a Great man. AND I'm happy he has allowed me 13 plus years at TRAC. Triangle rooted my and created the person and businessman I am today. All thanks to Frank and what I call the TRIANGLE way! Frank I am Truly Greatful to have crossed path with you. You will be missed !!

  10. Dave Hydo [ April 2, 2015 @ 04:57AM ]

    you inspired me to keep renting Dave.

  11. Karen Marino Boykin [ April 2, 2015 @ 05:40AM ]

    Wow , where do I start. I want you to know how much I already miss you, and that you were the best boss that I ever had, I want to say thank you for everything you taught me during my 22 years of employment. I want to tell you how much respect I have for you for everything that I have seen you do for your tenants over the years when they were having rough times, I want to laugh one more time because you wore two different color shoes to work one day, and then called us all in to your office to show us what you did, and laugh with us. I want to hear you yell at me one more time with your disappointed fatherly tone, and then apologize to me for yelling at me in your sweet fatherly tone. We all learned a lot from you Frank, and you certainly changed most of our lives in a positive way. You, and all that you stood for, will be missed. Rebecca, Catherine, Matthew, I hope you know my feelings for all of you. I am so sorry, and you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  12. Brad Revels [ April 2, 2015 @ 06:49AM ]

    Frank, after sixteen years of knowing you and servicing Triangle Rent a Car I am truly going to miss you! It is rare to find a successful businessman that is driven by his passion for his family rather than a sole passion for success. As many have said, you were tough but always fair. It has been my pleasure to serve your company and family. Rebecca, I cannot begin to express how sorry I am that you have lost your soul mate. Frank loved you, Catherine and Matthew more than anything and it was evident every time we spoke. He loved to talk cars, but he loved to talk family more. Catherine and Matthew, never doubt your fathers love for you. I never saw him more excited and at peace than when he spoke of you two. When I would ask about you, Frank’s entire demeanor would instantly change from business man to proud father. The mere mention of you always brought a smile to his face. The impact Frank had on the industry that he made his own was great, but the personal impact he had on everyone he touch was much greater. I will remember him as a great businessman, but much more so as a great family man. We will all miss you Frank! Thank you for everything!

  13. Neil [ April 2, 2015 @ 07:03AM ]

    What a terrible shock and loss to his family, friends, and colleagues. Frank was smart, direct, and a fierce competitor, forever maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit of our industry while building a formula for success. He built a team and an independent rental brand which was truly unique in today's world of mega-global systems. My last communications with Frank was on the heels of the sale of Triangle to Enterprise, an eventually that he and I had discussed for years. His passing, especially at this time, stands as another reminder of the irony of life. Rest well Frank - YOU DID GOOD.

  14. Neil Abrams [ April 2, 2015 @ 07:39AM ]

    What a terrible shock and loss to his family, friends, and colleagues. Frank was smart, direct, and a fierce competitor, forever maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit of our industry while building a formula for success. He built a team and an independent rental brand which was truly unique in today's world of mega-global systems. My last communications with Frank was on the heels of the sale of Triangle to Enterprise, an eventually that he and I had discussed for years. His passing, especially at this time, stands as another reminder of the irony of life. Rest well Frank - YOU DID GOOD.

  15. Jim Schalberg [ April 2, 2015 @ 07:53AM ]

    One can only hope that when frank went home he was greeted with a welcoming smile and a big hug. God less you Frank, and my prayers go out to your family.

  16. Linda Silverstein [ April 2, 2015 @ 08:08AM ]

    Frank was a wonderful person and a great business partner. I miss him already. My prayers go out to his family. It's a terrible loss to all of us. May you rest in peace Frank.

  17. Rick Stevens [ April 3, 2015 @ 05:03AM ]

    I am saddened to hear of the passing of Frank.
    He was a true gentleman and someone I looked up to in the auto rental industry. It was an honor to serve with him for many years on the boards of ACTIF and ACRA.
    Frank was a great friend and always provided excellent advice to me, especially during the financial crisis of 2008. Despite the difficulties of the time, he was always positive, had great ideas, and provided inspiration. I consider myself very fortunate to have known him.
    He will be truly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.

  18. Ken Pennington [ April 3, 2015 @ 07:02AM ]

    It's hard to understand how someone who was to begin a new chapter is suddenly gone. Frank and I started in the business during the same period. He was a great friend and we always judged our success on how it compared to Triangle. I will miss him!

  19. Darlene Watson [ April 4, 2015 @ 01:54PM ]

    So sad to here the news...R I P
    Just cant believe it...From:
    (Old)Triangle Employee from the Augusta, Ga Location

  20. carolyn coulter [ May 5, 2015 @ 03:05AM ]

    As a former triangle employee of 6 yrs,frank is truely missed. I stay in Charlotte. Nc. I had the plessure of meeting frank a few times . He always asked how i was doing and what could he do for me.i thought that was crazy , the owner really wants to know what i think and how i am ! He was a very kind man and is greatly missed by his triangle family

  21. Paul Underwood [ March 14, 2016 @ 07:29PM ]

    Amazing man we pulled off 1600 RPU Plus when the new guys thought 900.00 was good ! Thanks for All the lessons and great Talks Sir ! Emp Since 02-01-1988 ! RDU MYB TRY CLT

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