If Marcellus S. Merrill were not entitled to recognition as a noteworthy inventor, engineer, manufacturer, and probably the nation's leading authority on certain aspects of automotive technology, he would deserve it as a free--wheeling individualist, a member of the almost extinct clan who face the world without compromise. He has succeeded in making the automotive world come to him, and the dy-namic wheel aligners which he manufactures at Denver are being exported to virtually all leading auto makers, from Opel, Toyota, and Volvo to General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. His Denver laboratory plant currently is work-ing against a backlog of orders for the ten-ton production line device that can check the alignment of an auto in a matter of seconds.
While Merrill may feud vocally with organized labor, his Merrill Engineering workers are generally enthusiastic about his forty--hour, four-day work-week, which has drawn international attention. He himself has been known to put in 100-hour weeks. In general, though, Merrill says that the successes of many of his high speed production inventions are due to the high cost of American labor compared to less expensive automation.
Merrill was born in Carroll, Nebraska, and reared in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He entered the University of Colorado at the age of nineteen, working to pay his way, and graduated in 1923 with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. After working for the General Electric Company in the twenties, he became a partner with his brother in an automotive wheel and axle business in Denver in 1928. The firm grew into the automotive alignment firm Merrill Axle & Wheel Service, which now has three shops in Denver, and before World War II had shops in Omaha, Des Moines, and California.
Constantly seeking better equipment, Merrill invented an electronic wheel balancer, which for the past 30 years has been licensed to the Stewart Warner Corporation in Chicago. Other companies licensed under some of his patents are the Bendix Automotive Corporation, Bear Manufacturing Company, and Hunter Engineering Company. From these he progressed to the giant production-line units which Merrill Engineering Laboratories builds for auto makers.
Earlier, during World War 11, the Laboratories designed and built precision high production machinery for manufacturing rifle cleaners used by the U.S. Army, as well as airplane propeller and wheel-balancing machines. A skiing enthusiast, Merrill also has presented the Merrill Trophy annually since 1940 at Steamboat Springs. His inventions include ski bindings and ski carriers.
One of his inventions has put his work in orbit. It is a dynamic balancing device used by Ball Brothers Research Corporation to balance a spinning satellite unit. The unit is so sensitive that it detects the effect of an air current from a waving hand.