Let’s Restore A Merlyn Formula Ford with Eric Dean

VSCDA Racer and occasional Chicane contributor Eric Dean is no stranger to stunning Formula Ford and Formula Vee restorations. For his most recent project, Eric has virtually opened up his garage and cracked a few Stroh’s so we can build a 1969 Merlyn Mk11A Formula Ford along with him.

You can really see the level of effort that goes in to making even a simple racing car this well prepared. Whenever I see these time lapse videos, I’m pulled in two directions at once. Part of me looks at these, and thinks, “There. That doesn’t look impossible. This guy is practically doing it by himself.” But time lapse is deceptive. If we slowed this video down and watched even a single afternoon of restoration in real-time, we would start to realize the hundreds of hours of meticulous work that is really behind these restorations.

Television audiences have come to expect that gorgeous automotive restorations can get done in 5 days. I think that devalues the real artistry, engineering, and skill that goes into shaving decades off a car’s age. Making a car as good as it was the day it left the workshop—or better—is no small task. It’s almost an insult to think that anything of this level of quality can be carelessly rushed.

That racers like Eric take on these projects is admirable. That they can then get in the pilot’s seat and put thoughts of the hundreds or thousands of hours of effort out of their minds while they squeeze a few more tenths out of a lap in high traffic… Well, that’s something else. I must be foolish to think that it’s not the risk to life and limb, but the risk of sacrificing all this effort that is some additional bravery.

Congratulations Eric, she’s gorgeous.

Available in Minnesota: 1969 Merlyn 11A Formula Ford

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that friend-of-the-blog, Rich Stadther, is parting with his 1969 Merlyn 11A Formula Ford. She’s a lovely machine to be sure and, more importantly, it offers you entry into what I consider to be one of the most fun and challenging series in vintage racing.

It’s not just the series that I’m attracted to though. Maybe it’s just the time I’ve spent helping my buddy Eric with his, but there’s something in particular about the Merlyns that I really love. Granted, I’ve not been exposed to as many Titans or Alexis (Alexese?) or Hawkes, but the lines and mechanicals of the Merlyns have really struck a chord with me. The fact that Colchester Racing Developments is still alive and kicking and supplying many of the parts for it doesn’t hurt either.

The price is definitely right for a ready-to-race Formula Ford. I know plenty of people that have spent more than that to get their cars ready for “more affordable” classes. I’d race her as-is for a few years until you’ve got a feel for her before diving in to a rebuild or restoration. Knowing Rich’s work though, she probably won’t need either.

More information on Rich’s site. Need more? Check out this video of her wiggling through the chicane at a recent running of the Waumandee Hillclimb.

Eric’s Brilliant Merlyn Formula Ford Restoration

Eric's Merlyn: Finished.
My dear friend Eric Dean spent his winter restoring his Merlyn Formula Ford and it looks absolutely marvelous. The car wasn’t in desperate need of the full restoration job either, and I swear I left it in as good a shape as I got it when he graciously let me squeeze behind the wheel for a few laps of Road America last fall. Compare the photo from my post on that weekend with the series of photos below. They tell the tale better than I ever could of the quality of his craftsmanship in a restoration project that saw every hole in the frame patched and ground down, powdercoated, supplied with new hardware from nose to tail, and meticulously prepared. I must admit I was nervous about his livery choice until I saw these photos of the tremendous quality of the paint, which looks much more like a perfectly preserved 30-year-old paint job than it does a new respray.

Enough of my rambling, I’ll let the photos tell the story. I think it’s absolutely perfect. Something tells me Eric won’t be so quick to hand over the wheel this year, nor should he. Congratulations, Eric, on a job very well done.

(click on each for a larger view)
Merlyn Restoration: Ready for DisassemblyMerlyn Restoration: and the Jigsaw Puzzle BeginsMerlyn Restoration: Frame Powdercoated and a New FloorMerlyn Restoration: Recovered Dash. The story of sifting through thrift-store leather jackets to match the color of the old dash is a funny one.Merlyn Restoration: Front Suspension ReassembledMerlyn Restoration: The paint looks well worn, even though it's fresh.Merlyn Restoration: The black wheels look perfect with the new livery.Merlyn Restoration: Here's the Garage Envy shot, ready for her debut.

’68 Lotus Formula 2 available

Lotus 51A Frame

Symbolic Motors in La Jolla, CA is offering this extremely photogenic Lotus 51A. Originally a Formula Ford, this monoposto racer has been uprated to dual overhead cam Cosworth powered Formula 2. There are dozens of wonderful photos of this slippery Lotus in various stages of undress.

Sitting in its bare form, you start to see how deceptively simple these cars really looked. When you see a sixties formula car without the body panels, you get a flash of what it must have been like to set out to join in the fray of Formula racing. What would be the absolute folly today to start building a formula car was once an attainable goal for a small group of dedicated gearheads.

Naturally, this is all radically understating the sophistication that lies within these steel and aluminum chassis members. But that’s the appeal, isn’t it? You can look at these chassis and think to yourself, “I could build that.” I say this not to belittle the tremendous effort that these small racecar manufacturers put into their cars, but to celebrate the spark of creativity, hope, and courage that makes us as laymen think it’s within our reach. This might be the single biggest heartbreak of modern racing, that it’s become so technical that you may as well try to build a space shuttle at home.

So drink in the pure joy of this humble tubular frame. And maybe pick up a welder.

Thanks, Eric.

VSCDA and Monoposto Group driver and very, very dear friend Eric Dean was kind enough to let me take his ’72 Merlyn 20 Formula Ford for a spin at Road America this weekend during the Sunday touring session. Eric has been trying for ages to get me to buy a formula car to run alongside him in the FF or Formula Vee race groups. After this weekend’s run, I’m more tempted than ever to take his advice. Also, as this photo he took shows, It looks like it suits me—don’t you think?

I’ll have more photos and tales from last weekend’s Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival in the next few days. There were some outstanding cars, some excellent drives, and many, many Spotted Cows enjoyed at the Siebkens bar.