A Life Restoring & Racing Historic Cars book review | Reviews in brief

For 40 years Tony Merrick seemed to be omnipresent on the historic-racing scene. Gordon Cruickshank was there, too, and reviews his book, A Life Restoring & Racing Historic Cars

Tony Merrick in his Dino Ferrari

Tony Merrick in his Dino Ferrari — a familiar sight in years past

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Anyone who watched vintage racing from the 1960s to the 1990s will know Tony Merrick, racer of ERAs, a Ferrari 246 Dino and dozens more. This memoir covers his career in the old-car business from school to his final retirement from racing, outlining an admirable parallel life as a restorer/preparer of prime cars. There’s barely a significant historic racer he hasn’t worked on or personality he didn’t meet, and if you were in any way involved with vintage racing in his time you will, like me, leaf through this saying ‘I remember him’ or ‘I saw that’. Though as it’s 20 years since he retired, you probably need to be of an age… He’s still an HGPCA vice-president, although he says “grass cutting is more of a priority”.

As he tells it, he practically stepped into a racing car from school: there’s lots of “then I met…” as he slides smoothly from an ancient Vauxhall to racing ERAs in about five minutes flat. Of course the VSCC world was a small one and enthusiasm cements these connections.

Very quickly he became linked with Tom Wheatcroft and Neil Corner, and his memories of such central figures illuminate the book – for example castle-dwelling Keith Schellenberg for whom the phrase larger-than-life just isn’t big enough; Terry Cohn, whom I recall arriving at Silverstone towing a trailer with his Monza Alfa; or Raymond Mays, with whom Tony drove to Italy to meet Contessa Maggi and various ancient pilotes. Not to mention his frustrating and fruitless attempts to buy a Grand Prix Mercedes from Romania.