The passing of Richard F Merritt on 12th March is not only most sad for his family and many friends but is also a loss of yet one more of the few remaining great Historic Ferrari experts.
Dick, as we all knew him, was there when all those great Ferrari things were happening at such a fast pace in the 50s and 60s. Soaking up and keeping accurate notes of all he saw.
Dick was a great collector of Ferrari parts especially engines from four-cylinder Ferraris and when I purchased a crashed 750 Monza from Sweden in 1978 we started swapping letters. Dick was a prolific letter writer and corresponded with fellow enthusiasts worldwide always ready to freely share his vast knowledge. It was not about the money for Dick but was about the cars, the events, the drivers, and the friendship of the current owners. We first met each other around 1981 at Pierre Bardinon`s Mas De Clos circuit track at Aubusson in France we were attending a French Ferrari owners club gathering organised by our other late great Ferrari friend Jess Pourret.
The meeting was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Phil Hill winning the Formula One championship in 1961. Kate and I were attending with our freshly restored 340MM as was of course Phil Hill. Following that event we frequently spent much time together, me making Ferrari hunting trip to the States at least twice a year, and Dick coming to various events throughout Europe. We even had a couple of holidays together based around West Palm Beach visiting of course numerous Ferrari owners as far afield as New England. The attached photo shows one happy day when we were together with the mega enthusiastic, by then aged, Jim Kimberly (" Gentleman Jim" ) one-time big Ferrari race car owner and driver of numerous cars including 375MM.
Dick was always full of great stories and was forever gleefully announcing in a loud voice, as we came upon the particular car, " Gee that’s my old car!" ; he had in fact owned numerous special cars such as 340MM,375MM,250TR,500TRC,250SWB,196S Dino,etc.
We once owned and restored together 500TRC 0686 MD TR and on that occasion, I found the original engine and Dick the car which had been virtually lost.
Way back then Dick realised the importance of matching engines with their cars when others were happy to fit any old engine to a historic racer, frequently V8 Chevrolet! Dick always noted in his little notebook nestled in his shirt top pocket just where the cars and engines were and purchased the engines, if separated from the cars, whenever he could.
In the sixties, the definitive Ferrari book which he co-authored with Fitzgerald was responsible for fuelling my enthusiasm for 50s and 60s Ferraris. I got to know every car in the book way before I saw virtually any of them and in fact I still 50 years on frequently refer to that book.
We will really miss you Dick,
David & Kate Cottingham
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