A PIONEER of the swaddling days of automobile racing has come back to the scene of his early sporting activities as an official of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
T. E. “Pop” Myers, executive vice-president and general manager of the famous 500 mile auto race, announced the appointment of Charles Merz, well-known Indianapolis engineer and former race driver, as assistant to the general manager.
Merz has acted as chief steward of the race since 1935, representing the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association, succeeding the late Eddie Edenburn.
His thorough knowledge of automobile racing, his engineering ability and his patient and thorough understanding of the human element in the daring but demanding sport has won for him universal acclaim from car owners, drivers, and spectators alike.
“I feel that Charlie Merz is well qualified to assist the Indianapolis Motor Speedway organisation in the conduct of this great international event,” said Mr. Myers, in announcing the appointment. “Charlie was raised within the shadow of the Speedway and raced here in the inaugurating events.
“From 1905 to 1912 he was experimental engineer and race driver for the National Motor Co., an Indianapolis industry, and went with the Stutz Motor Car Company in a similar capacity in 1912, and remained there until 1914. In addition to being one of the leading automotive engineers of America, he has been closely associated with automobile racing since its inception in this country and his services will be extremely valuable not only to the Speedway but will be appreciated by the race lovers of America.
“Although he never won a 500 mile race, Merz’s record as a race driver is impressive. He finished seventh in a National car in the first 500 mile race at Indianapolis in 1911, and was fourth in a Stutz in the 1912 race, the famous event which found Ralph de Palma robbed of the lead in the last few laps by motor trouble, and which Joe Dawson, hometown boy, drove to victory in a home town National racer. Merz was nearest to victory when he finished third in a Stutz car in 1913, but did not finish in his Peugeot car in 1916.
“From 1914 to 1917 Metz was engineer for the Rayfield Carburetter Company, and during the war years of 1917 to 1919 he entered service as a captain and was promoted to major in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Romoratin, France. He is now a lieutenant-colonel in the Reserve U.S. Army Air Corps, assigned to Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio.
“Merz was assistant to the president of the H.C.S. Motor Car Company from 1920 to 1925 and was receiver for the company from 1925 to 1927. In 1927 he organised the Merz Engineering Company and was its president until December 1st, 1939.
“He was the first American holder of the world’s 24-Hour Record, made in November, 1905, at the Indianapolis Fair Grounds, and won the famous Elgin Road Race in August, 1912. He had previously won the Panama-Pacific Road Race in San Francisco in February, 1911.
“The Hoosier engineer has been a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers for ten years, and was president of the Indiana section S.A.E. from 1934 to 1935.
“A resident of Indianapolis, Merz is a member of the Indianapolis Rotary Club, and a former member of the governing board of the Indiana Fish and Game Commission.
“He assumed his duties as assistant to the general manager on January 2nd.”
The one major European power not at war would like to do peaceful, competitive battle in America this year, and the sports-loving public of the United States have already put in their orders for ring-seats.
In the morning of the New Year, January 15th, tickets went on sale over the counter for the annual 500 Mile International Automobile Race, to be held at Indianapolis on Decoration Day, May 30th, with the mail order business showing a definite upward trend over last year, when the greatest mid-week crowd witnessed the event.
Two factors are said to contribute to this early interest. One, for the first time in twenty years, the race was won last year by a foreign-made car, an Italian Maserati, piloted by a local boy, Wilbur Shaw, who hung up his second big-time victory. Two, because of an intense interest among the Italians to send over a team of cars this year to challenge the best that American racing minds can devise to seek the ultimate in sustained speed on the ground.
Word from Italy indicates that the Italians are eager to participate in every major racing competition now that the Germans are out of the picture because of war conditions, and manufacturers of the Alfa-Romeos are honestly concerned about the showing of their Maserati rivals last year.
Last year’s winner, a spanking new Maserati, owned by Mike Boyle, the Chicago racing enthusiast, will definitely return to defend its honours and there is a possibility that Boyle will have a newer Italian car in his usually effective team.
“Mail orders for tickets have been pouring in, and we officially opened the ticket sale on January 15th, with an encouraging gain over last year,” said T. E. “Pop” Myers. “I have no doubt but that the foreign victory, accomplished in such a spectacular fashion, has brought considerable new interest in the automobile race classic at Indianapolis.
“There is another point of interest that many may have missed in the excitement of speed last year, and which again proves that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continues to be the great outdoor laboratory of the automotive industry in America. For years, men have dreamed of a substitute for gasoline as a motor car fuel. It is significant that in last year’s race both the winning car and the car to finish second were powered with pure and unadulterated alcohol. This does not particularly mean that alcohol, as a fuel, is challenging gasoline, but it does mean that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the medium of actual competition last year which demonstrated that this type of fuel would carry racing cars fast and far.