Rolls-Royce Merlin alternative uses
The Rolls Royce Merlin, although designed as an aero engine, was used in other applications both on land and at sea.
Michael Wilcock of Sussex, England, built the Swandean Spitfire Special, using a Merlin XXV engine acquired from a scrap yard for one hundred and forty pounds. The engine was installed in a home-brewed chassis confected from two Daimler Dingo scout car chassis. The car was run in the Brighton Speed Trials in 1953, and was sold to James Duffy of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1956. As of 2005, the vehicle is still in St. Louis, where it is undergoing restoration.
In the 1960s, Paul Jameson put a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine into a chassis he built himself. He did not get around to building a body, and sold the car to Epsom automatic transmission specialist John Dodd, who had supplied the automatic gearbox, Fiber Glass Repairs in Bromley, Kent fitted a fibreglass body and the car was named The Beast (mk1) The Beast (mk1) was sponsored by British Petroleum and was extremely popular at car shows all over Europe. (The engine is alleged to have come from a Boulton Paul Balliol training aircraft, and drives a General Motors TH400 automatic transmission) It was once listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most powerful road car. Unfortunately the first Beast (mk1) caught fire on the way back from a car show in Stockholm after meeting the King, John Dodd tried frantically to extinguish the fire but failed and The Beast was reduced to a burnt wreck. The Beast has used two different fibreglass bodies during its life; the first (mk1) a saloon shape in dark red and the second current existing Beast (mk2) a 2-door estate car in beige. In both incarnations the car used Rolls-Royce grilles, badges, and hood ornaments, none of which were authorized by the company.
The Beast was brought to the attention of Rolls-Royce, who took Dodd to court after he refused to remove their radiator grille, badges, and Spirit of Ecstasy mascot. Dodd lost the court battle and the Rolls-Royce trademarked features were removed and the grille was replaced with one bearing Dodd's "JD" initials. Dodd now lives in Spain and still owns the car, occasionally driving it to automotive shows.
In the 1970s, Jameson built his first Merlin-engined car, this being a mid-engined six-wheeler. The engine of this vehicle was two-stage supercharged and was, in 1988, reportedly in a museum in The Netherlands. His second was fitted in a 1920s Rolls Royce Phantom, now owned by TV presenter Jay Leno in California.
Recently in Australia, Rod Hadfield, of the Castlemaine Rod Shop, used the Merlin engine in a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air sports coupe, which was named Final Objective. The car has an aircraft-themed paint scheme.
A Rover SD1 was substantially modified by Charlie Broomfield using a Rover Meteor tank derivative of the Merlin. A car mechanic in the UK, he now gives input as a technical guru for Practical Performance Magazine. The car is matte black with PPC sign writing, it is loud and blisteringly quick, with the stated aim to achieve 200 mph.
In the mid-1940s early 1950s, aviation engines gained in popularity as powerplants of choice for unlimited hydroplane racing given their relatively high power-to-weight ratio, reliability, and availability. Starting with the Miss Windsor raceboat at Detroit in 1946, several ever-more-powerful variants of the Merlin were so used, over the next decades, in a heated battle against the equally popular Allison V-1710. In unlimited hydroplane racing, both were eventually supplanted by gas turbine engines, which exhibit even more favourable power-to-size and power-to-weight ratios.
Some of the most significant Merlin-powered hydroplanes include:
- Slo-mo-shun V (from 1954 on, 1954 Gold Cup winner, first for Merlin power)
- Miss Thriftway (converted in 1957, 1957 Gold Cup winner)
- Hawaii Kai III (1958 Gold Cup and National Champion, first Merlin powered National Championship)
- Miss Thriftway/Miss Century 21 (Gold Cup 1961-1962, National Champion 1960-1962)
- Miss Bardahl (Gold Cup and National Champion 1963-1965, 1967-1968)
- Miss Budweiser (Gold Cup 1969-1970 and 1973, National Champion 1969-1972, 1977)
- Atlas Van Lines (Gold Cup 1972, 1977-1979, 1982-1984, National Champion 1972, 1976, 1978- 1979, 1982-1983
- Pay 'n Pak (Gold Cup 1974-1975, National Champion 1973-1975).
The Meteor was a tank engine developed from the Merlin in World War II. It was detuned, did not have a supercharger, and ran on lower-octane pool petrol (as did the early Merlins). Manufacture was transferred from Rolls-Royce to Rover, who developed the smaller Meteorite V-8 engine from it.
- Swandean Spitfire Special
- Brighton Speed Trials
- Booij 2009, p. 82.
- "The Beast"
- Guinness 1975, p. 141.
- Booij 2009, p. 83.
- Video of Dodd driving The Beast, videotaped and uploaded by his daughter Susan
- Photo of Paul Jameson's 6-wheeler
- "Supercar Classics" magazine, March 1988
-  Final Objective
- The Packard Merlin in Hydroplanes and raceboats Retrieved: 8 April 2008
- Booij, Jereon. "27 Litres, nine court cases, 268 mph (in theory), one jail sentence: meet The Beast and the man who unleashed it." (Article and images) Classic Cars Issue 428, March 2009.
- Mc Whirter, Norris (editor.) . Guinness Book of World Records 22nd edition, 1975. Enfield, UK: Guinness Superlatives Ltd, 1975. ISBN
- Swandean Spitfire Special
- John Dodd RR-Merlin engined car
- The Beast, BBC Top Gear on YouTube
- Spitfire's Brighton Speed Trials
- Final Objective
- The Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum
- the Packard Merlin in Hydroplanes and Raceboats
- Hadfield's machine on Youtube ex. 'Dream Car Garage'
- Haldyne Special on Youtube