The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#134 – Harry Merkel — Krakau Eigenbau – BMW
Grid: 34th / Race: DNQ (Not allowed to start?)

(Source: Merkel Family Archive)
Born: 10th January 1918
Leipzig, Germany
Died: 11th February 1995
Killarney Vale, New South Wales, Australia
Appearances: 1   (1952 German GP)


Merkel was a Munich-based car dealer and journeyman driver. As a dealer of Dyna-Panhards, he took part in one in the 1951 Mille Miglia together with his partner Gunzenhauser. A year later he entered again, now with Fritz Kaspar at his side and in a 750 cc Dyna-Veritas, which had been converted into a Barchetta-style sports car.

He tried to set foot into Formula 2 by hiring himself into the cockpit of a BMW special built and raced by Willi Krakau in the late-1940s for the German Grand Prix, but like the car’s owner, Merkel did not fulfil the qualifying requirements to get into the race.

In the early fifties, a kind of racing community had apparently established itself in Munich around drivers like Fritz Kaspar, Josef Kulzer, Hans Roth, Ludwig Buchberger, Adolf Vianden, Kurt Zeller and others, and Merkel was also part of this group. In loose association members of this circle used to share cars among themselves and to travel to races in community, for example Merkel and Buchberger starting in the 1953 Mille Miglia and Merkel and Vianden in the Nürburgring 1000 km race in Buchberger’s Porsche 356. A preferred destination for them was in nearby Austria, where the competition was not too strong and the organisers were still keen on presenting as many cars as possible to the crowds. Here, Merkel could achieve some success in 1954, driving now an old VW-based special which had been uprated with a Porsche engine. He also used it to make a couple of starts in East Germany, to which, having been born in Leipzig, he still felt a special relationship.

In his later years, Merkel tried to set up a racing series with Formula 3 cars powered by Opel Kadett engines in the Mid-Sixties before he then emigrated to Australia.

1952 German Grand Prix (Practice), Harry Merkel (Source: Revs)

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