The first Merlyn was a front engined Formula Junior prototype built as a personal project by Selwyn Hayward with encouragement from friend John Lewis. The car’s potential lead to Selwyn designing and marketing the Mk 2, again a front engined Formula Junior. 4 cars were produced with 2 going to the U.S. In line with most Formula Junior designs at that time the next Merlyn, the Mk3, was rear engined. Encouraged by enquiries for a sports car the MK4 was designed, this being very much a widened, two seat version of the MK3. The MK4A incorporated several modifications and the MK4T was intended for road use. The MK5 Junior was a slimmer version of the MK3 initially with inboard front suspension with pushrods and horizontal spring damper units. The Mk6 and Mk6A were stiffer versions of the Mk4 with revised bodywork allowing wider wheels.
These designs were modified and refined throughout the 1960’s resulting in the very popular Mk 10 intended for F3 and F Libre. Merlyn is of course best known for Formula Ford and following close behind Lotus and Alexis, Colchester Racing Developments Ltd introduced a simplified version of their Mk10 F3 as the 1968 MK11 Formula Ford. The enormous success of the Mk 11, particularly that raced by Tim Schenken, was followed by the even greater success of a cosmetically improved version, the Mk 11A.
Although the 70’s saw success with Formula 3 and Atlantic cars and even a pair of oval track midgets for the USA, most of the production was of Formula Fords. Many of the cars went to the USA and quite a large number of school versions of the 17, 20 and 24 went to the Jim Russell schools in the UK and the USA.
The combination of a multitude of factors including Dollar exchange rates, the loss of Chet Kastner, an important customer running his drivers’ school in California, the switching of the Jim Russell business in the U.K. and the prospect of building up the precision engineering business resulted in production of race cars ending with the Mk 31 in 1979.
Colchester Racing Developments retained the drawings, jigs and moulds for most of the cars and can repair or replace chassis as appropriate and supply spares. Many Formula Ford parts are kept in stock including most of the suspension components. Due to the strongly designed Merlyn chassis and the continuity of parts supply a great number of Merlyns have survived to continue to enjoy success in historic races worldwide.