Rolls-Royce Merlin alternative uses

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The Rolls-Royce Merlin, although designed as an aero engine, was used in other applications both on land and at sea. A derivative called the Meteor was developed for use in tanks.


Michael Wilcock of Sussex, England, built the Swandean Spitfire Special,[1] 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[2] 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.[citation needed]

The Beast[edit]

The Beast (mk2) at Wings and Wheels in 2014.

In the 1960s, Paul Jameson put a Rolls-Royce Meteor (often mistakenly described as a Merlin) engine into a chassis he built himself.[3] 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. Fibre Glass Repairs in Bromley, Kent, fitted a fibreglass body and the car was named The Beast (mk1)[4] The Beast (mk1) was sponsored by British Petroleum and was extremely popular at car shows all over Europe. The engine is claimed to be a Merlin from a Boulton Paul Balliol training aircraft,[5] 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.[6] 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, based of a Ford Capri.[7] 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.[8][9] Dodd now lives in Spain and still owns the car, occasionally driving it to automotive shows.[8][5]

In the 1970s, Jameson built his first Merlin-engined car, this being a mid-engined six-wheeler.[10][better source needed] The engine of this vehicle was two-stage supercharged and was, in 1988, reportedly in a museum in The Netherlands.[11] His second was fitted in a 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II, now owned by TV presenter Jay Leno in California.[12]

Final Objective[edit]

Recently[when?] 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.[13] The car has an aircraft-themed paint scheme.

Rover SD1[edit]

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 and the stated aim is to achieve 200 mph (320 km/h).[14]

Boat racing[edit]

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.[15]

Some of the most significant Merlin-powered hydroplanes include:[citation needed]

  • 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.


  1. ^ Swandean Spitfire Special Archived 26 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Brighton Speed Trials
  3. ^ Booij 2009, p. 82.
  4. ^ "The Beast"
  5. ^ a b Ollie Marriage (13 November 2008). "evo10 Dream Drives: The Beast". Evo.
  6. ^ Guinness 1975, p. 141.
  7. ^ "The Beast – A 27L V12 Rolls Royce Merlin Engine Street Legal Car". SIA Magazin. 5 May 2008. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  8. ^ a b Booij 2009, p. 83.
  9. ^ Video of Dodd driving The Beast, videotaped and uploaded by his daughter Susan
  10. ^ Photo of Paul Jameson's 6-wheeler
  11. ^ "Supercar Classics" magazine, March 1988
  12. ^ Heatley, Tyler (29 April 2019). "Jay Leno Drives His 1934 Rolls-Royce With V12 Merlin Engine". Motorious. Yahoo News. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  13. ^ [1] Final Objective
  14. ^ Edelstein, Stephen (11 December 2013). "27-Liter Rolls-Royce-Powered Rover SD1 Hits 160 MPH: Video". Motor Authority. Archived from the original on 26 April 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
  15. ^ 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

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