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Hagerty Employee

Dick Merritt: Remembering car enthusiasts' true friend at NHTSA | Hagerty Media

Richard F. "Dick" Merritt passed away in March 2021 at the age of 90. If you are into cars, especially exotic cars, you should know his name. Dick was one of the Founders of the Ferrari Club of America, an early supporter of the brand, and owned many Ferraris now worth in the multiple millions when they were worth a few thousand.
Intermediate Driver

What a fascinating life story. I have worked at USDOT for a decade, and I am saddened to know that I missed the opportunity to meet Mr. Merritt.
Intermediate Driver

Dick told me that he was Product Planning at Ford then later at GM.

Warren Fitzgerald was a designer at GM.

Advanced Driver

This is interesting to me because I knew a different side of Dick in the late '70s. At the time, I ran People & Energy, an energy activist's rag, and Dick was a big proponent of alcohol fuels. But I was not the car nut that I've been since the early '90s, so alas, I mostly missed this side of him, although I think I was aware of the Edsel connection (I vaguely remember that he was into Ferraris, with emphasis on the adjective). He was definitely a great guy. Sad to hear that he's gone.
Advanced Driver

That is a great story about his finding the early Ferrari generator at Hershey!
Intermediate Driver

I don't remember if I actually met Dick, but he did speak at a small Ferrari gathering at FAF in Atlanta in the 80s. Very interesting stories, especially the cars he'd owned before the Ferrari Gold Rush in 1989-90. He also told of 2 959s in a warehouse in SF trying to get into the country....... At that time he just said he knew where they were. I did eventually wind up owning a 308.
He said one thing I've never forgotten because it applied to me. He said, " I can't afford any Ferrari now, that I want to drive." Same here. I was reaching for a 550 Maranello when they doubled in price, literally overnight.
Do I still appreciate them? Absolutely. Buy one? See above.
This article however did inspire to buy the book. Thanks for reminding me about Dick.

Intermediate Driver

I was just looking at a BaT auction for a 1998 Subaru STi that was brought into the US as a "show and display". Now I know that I have Dick Merritt to thank for it. And I have the background history to a man whose name I have seen show up in multiple magazines, and I think have seen in a few episodes of some of my favorite car shows, over the years. Thank you for the great article, Dave.
Advanced Driver

Dick used to say, “I’m the only bureaucrat that actually wants to help people”, and perhaps that was true.

Intermediate Driver

I spoke with Dick in his official capacity a few times many years ago. At that time I had no idea of his expertise and status within the collector car community. To me he was just that really nice, helpful fellow that worked at the NHTSA. He talked to me as if he had known me for years and was a call-me-anytime type of guy. He really went the extra mile to help me navigate the importation minefield. Over the course of our first conversation it appeared to me that he wanted me to get this particular car as much as I did! The next time I called him, he recalled our prior conversation as if it had been yesterday and asked me if I was enjoying my "new" car. God Bless you Dick. You will be missed.
Pit Crew

What a life!

I was going to purchase an EVO 7, which had a title, and a reassigned vin from the federal government. Which was odd, due to it not being on any list for import legally.

After research, I found Dick’s contact info with the DOT and reached out. I had a lovely hour long phone call with him (you could tell he was an enthusiast) and a multi week length email thread. He discovered the car was in fact illegal, and was brought in by a guy who served jail time for such activities. He said one day customs would come knocking for that car, and instructed me to run far away. He saved me from lighting $20,000+ on fire!

Rip sir
New Driver

Dick used to say, “I’m the only bureaucrat that actually wants to help people”.

I knew of him from "the bible" and ended up talking to him about aspects of importing an interesting car. He was incredibly helpful to someone he didn't know. During our conversation I began to realize whom I was speaking to! I think he was embarrassed when I forgot myself and gushed over his willingness to help regular guy enthusiasts. RIP
New Driver

I got to know Dick a bit beginning back in the 1980's and he did have foresight with respect to Ferraris but he also had foresight with Bizzarinnis which he recognized as great styling and I believe he bought a couple with his son which became very good investments. He really did believe that he should do as much as he could to help guide those who wanted to bring cars to the US and gave them guidance and a helping hand as if they were friends. What a humble and decent guy - he will be missed.
New Driver

I've known Dick since 2002 when I started here at NHTSA and participated with him on the Show and Display committee. He even gave me a few 1st Edition Copies of his Ferrari book (as highlighted in this article) and signed them for me.

I like old British sportscars and have a few, and Dick used to tell me a lesson he learned.

Back when he first started collecting cars, he used to buy hot rods. Everyone loved the cars, but he always had a hard time selling them. Then he got a Jaguar XK-120 MC. When he advertised to sell it, there was a bidding war from people all over the Country to buy it. Dick said he didn't understand why all these years no one wanted to buy any of his hot rods, but people were fighting over the 120.

Then his wise friend told him, "The people that want the hot rods, don't have the money, and the people that want the Jag have plenty of money." That's when I learned to collect Ferraris.

So have fun with your British sports cars, but if you want to start a serious collection and make money on them, you need to move up to the cars that the wealthy people want. Otherwise, you'll just collect cars, which the people that want them, can't afford them, and the people that can afford them, don't want them!

It's been over a year, since Dick has passed, but I still think of him when ever I see a Ferrari.