Spotlight: 1963 -1965 Ford Rallye Competition Manager

George Merwin (1922-1993)

  Wolfgang Kohrn/www.ponysite.de - January 7th, 2015



George Merwin was born in 1922 in Michigan and worked for most of his entire career at Ford and Shelby.

He earned a degree at the Chicago American Art Academy in the late 40ies, followed by his time as an WWII Air Force fighter flight inspector.

In 1948 he joined Ford as a staff artist and worked there until 1980, when he took an early retirement.
Actually he helped a young "hotblood" to make a perfect presentation at a meeting. That one was Lee Iacocca.

In 1958 George met Carroll Shelby in Florida and they became close friends.

In 1963 George became Rallye Competition Manager i in the Total Performance program. With him were Jaques Passino and Henri Carlini
His first assignment in that role was the Falcon rally program and getting them homologated.

The attention getting milestone was already the Monte Carlo 1963 with 3 Falcons entered, prepared at Holman-Moody in Charlotte/NC and maintained at Alan Mann/Byfleet/UK.

JeJeff Uren (SA) as the UK team manager then hired 3 teams for the Falcons. They were driven by Bo Ljungfeldt/Gunnar Haggboom (#221)Peter Jobb/Trant Jarmann (#223) and Anne Hall and Margret McKenzie(#207).
A fourth was entered from Ford France with Henri Greder.

Out of the 299 entrants at least 163 finished in time.
Ford made at least place 37 and 43, the ladies team being eliminated due to delays, but George promised to come back better prepared.
   



BTW - the 1963 Falcons were later modified into 1964 livery.


Note: These pics here may have to be ordered different, so bear with me.
The February Midnight Sun Rallye 1963 and  Alpine Rallye (Chamonix to Marseille) on the 20th - 25th June 1963 and many other european rallyes followed.
George enjoyed those events with his team comrades a lot.



   
The Monte Carlo rallye 1964 followed with 8 Falcons entered, amongst them driver Bo Ljungfeldt/ Fergus Sager (#49), Peter Harper, Graham Hill/Ian Walker, Jo Schlesser, Peter Jobb/Bertot, Henry Greder/Martial Delalande plus Anne Hall and Denise McCluggage (#204) in the women team.



George also endeavoured the fighting with the FIA organisation about the many performance products used on the Falcons.

The Alan Mann transporter in Monte Carlo 64 (Picture David Campion)
   
When the Mustangs were available the first attempt to homologate them in the US from Ford failed in terms of proper paperwork and was denied subsequently from the ACCUS.

Alan Mann got the job to make that happen more professionally and finally succeeded with Merwins and Passinos signatures on the Ford confirmation papers mid July 1964. The paper states that enough cars (1000) had been built in time to get the car approved according to Appendix J.
When talking to Alan Mann and later Bernard Cahier, George Merwin was very often mentioned to me by both gentlemen as one of the driving forces and liaison manager to anything "rallye". If it was availale overseas George made it happen to be in Europe in time.



He was also engaged in the GT40 program. Numerous PR shots are in his archive starting at FAV and on through the various stages. Mostly known however from other sources meanwhile, so we don't touch those here.
   
But prior to the TDF there was also the 1964 Liege-Sofia-Liege rally.
2 Alan Mann prepared Mustangs were entered licenced DPG3B and DPJ8B.

Unfortunately the drivers had bad luck. Bo Ljungfeldts car had an electrical failure and ran during the night for a short period without lights...and got sidetracked down a ramp and into a wood.

Bo survived, the car was heavily damaged as you can see in the pictures which I got from the Merwin archive. It was written off according to John Grant, ex-mechanic.


DPJ8B survived the Liege rallye and was later driven by Alan Mann in the delayed Boxing Day event.



Bo Ljungfeldt driven DPG3B was heavily damaged. A miracle that Bo survived in this car. His codriver literally "flew" out of the car before it crashed.

   

A major milestone however was the 1-2 win of the two1964 Mustangs DPK7B and DPK6B in their class at the Tour de France 1964, though there were previous Mustang rallye efforts elsewhere in the world.

DPK5B did not make it to the checkered flag.

 

 

 

 



George Merwin could receive the TDF diplome on behalf of Ford with pride.
The ceremony took place in Monaco and George is pictured in the back with the white shirt, seen with Bo Ljungfeldt on right, then Peter Procter next to him and Alan Mann far left in this picture.



In his archive of 16 boxes, George kept a huge number of memorabilias.
We browsed some of them only so far.
A lot is about airo- and seanautics related and only a few boxes relate to the Total Performance era.




   
  By late 1965 George was also the liason manager with Shelby American and dealt with Chuck Cantwell on the homologation of the Shelby as well as most of the administration of budgets and bills. In November 1965 he got the job of the Sales and Marketing Director from Carroll Shelby.

He was also engaged in the early Trans Am racing program at least until 1967. There are only a few pictures, mostly PR photos that are known.

George collaborated with Ray Geddes also on the "Green Hornet" EXP500 Shelby hardtop. Yet we did not find anything so far that isn't known.

BTW - In an interview in the 80ies George recalled that Carroll Shelby indeed had a line to Henry Ford, that he could get anything he wanted for his Cobras and early Mustangs.
   
Later George Merwin became Ford PR Manager and was responsible for the De Tomaso business in North America. A lot of pics are in his De Tomaso boxes for enthusiasts with that segment interest.

In 1986 he became Vice President at Shelby Automobiles.

   
  George lived in Cleveland, Ohio as far as we could find out... in a nice mansion. But that maybe also the poets Merwin house. Any confirmation appreciated.
 
George Merwin died in 1993. We wish we had done an interview back then with him.
 
   

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