This week, we mourn the passing of Gasser drag racing legend, Jack Merkel. Jack Merkel’s racing career began on Long Island when he was 16, behind the wheel of a 1955 Chevy. He racked up many wins the in the D/G class with this car, so many that he opened an engine shop that is still in operation today under the watchful eyes of his two sons Scott and Todd.
Merkel was best known for his Willys coupes, cars that he began looking for in 1962. His first 1939 model was found just down the street from his shop and was built to compete in the B/GS class at Indy. After finishing second that season, he won back-to-back championships in the 1963-’64 seasons.
Jack ditched the ’39 in favor of a steel-bodied 1933 Willys coupe to compete in the A/GS class. In 1965 he took the national title at Indy from the “unbeatable” Ohio George Montgomery. Jack wanted to go faster still and began building cars to compete in AA/GS. This meant some weight needed to be shed.
His iconic fiberglass chopped-roof 1933 AA/GS Willys stood out from the crowd. It sported bright paint, a massive hood scoop, 6-71 blower, and a Hilborn-injected 427 big-block Chevy. This car packed quite a punch and could get after it. The car’s best pass was 8.75 seconds at 160 mph.
After his success in racing, he sold his car to the Albers and Minnick team in 1969 to shift his focus to family and running his business. Jack’s shop Merkel Racing Engines is still in operation today where his legacy will live on in the form of the highest quality powerplants for drag racing. Our most sincere condolences to the Merkel family and their friends.
Source: Hot Rod
6 total views, 1 today