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.
The fabled machinery that ent through his beautiful farm workshops confirms Tony’s standing – both Mercedes 300 SLR coupés, BMW’s Mille Miglia 328, V16 BRM, Vanwall, Maserati V8RI – and there’s a throwaway line about “the many 2900 Alfas we restored”. Quite true, including the Pininfarina car – to my mind perhaps the single most beautiful car ever constructed. Tony raced many of these now-priceless machines and there’s a great shot of him refuelling the Dino in an Angoulême back street among 2CVs.
Nicely presented, the book includes a list of Tony’s travels, races and restorations, some press articles (including by me), and a complete record of every car he worked on, recording every task he did on each as though invoicing the reader. Useful for future owners and historians. I enjoyed reminiscing, though as I say you probably had to be there.
A Life Restoring & Racing Historic Cars
Merrick Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-6069-6
Bugatti: The Twilight Years 1943-1963
There is such a thing as being too close to your subject… A man with hands-on experience of building a 73C and even a 251, the bizarre final F1 fling, Barton has assembled a vast wad of information on post-war Bugattis and the firm’s end, and it’s all in here. Half this hefty book is appendices, letters, articles, documents, and dozens of drawings. It’s good on the grand prix 251 with its daft crossover suspension, and the firm’s flailing attempts to reach new markets. Lots of new material, but too many pictures of wooden casting patterns. GC
Bruno Sacco: Leading Mercedes-Benz Design 1975-1999
As much about early Mercedes design as the Italian designer himself, this diverts into aero experiments, safety testing (they used a Bond-style corkscrew ramp for rollover tests) and biographies of engineers and designers. Sacco moulded the brand visually, making its cars always recognisable, and Greene explains his philosophy as well as his history. In places a bit promotional – “no other brand walks the tightrope between innovation and tradition with such surefootedness” – but a fine tribute to the man who brought us the C111 and the dainty SLK. GC
The Crowood Press
Driverless Cars: On a Road to Nowhere?
Back in 2018, when this book was first published, column inches were filled with the idea that our roads were on the verge of a self-driving revolution. Transport commentator Christian Wolmar is having none of it. Driverless Cars, updated for 2020, sets out a convincing argument why autonomous vehicles will, for some time, remain in the realm of sci-fi. There is a warmth to Wolmar’s writing and his hype-busting common sense ought to be cogitated by Fleet Street hacks who seem only too pleased to spout the shimmering vision of a driverless future laid out on manufacturers’ press releases. LG
London Publishing Partnership