View Full Version : Merlin Powered Car

20th Jul 2004, 07:51
Some years ago I read an article about a car in the UK which had been built around a Rolls Royce Merlin. Talking to a pal over the weekend he seemed to think it still exists and occaisionally appears for demonstration runs.

Anybody got any clues?

20th Jul 2004, 08:19
It was built by a self-publicist called John Dodd who fixed auto transmissions for a living. He made ludicrous claims about its performance that he could never prove, and I seem to recall that Rolls Royce's lawyers forced him to remove the RR radiator grille for trademark reasons.

I have no idea where it is now.

20th Jul 2004, 10:01
I think there were 2 "Beasts", glassfibre bodies on hefty home-made chassis. The first was destroyed when it caught fire and the second was built from the salvageable parts.

In the RR trademark action the car was required for evidence and there was an amusing clip on the ITN news where it was parked outside the Law Courts in the Strand, where it refused to start. Help was given via a jump-start from the ITN camera crew's car, followed by an enormous cloud of smoke and black lines up the road..........

The engine is often quoted as being "from a Spitfire", though some sources quote Mosquito, or even a Balliol - if it makes any difference.

It's still around somewhere, it was featured on Top Gear a few years ago.

Philip Whiteman
20th Jul 2004, 10:28
The 'Beast's engine was actually a R-R Meteor, the down-rated, unsupercharged Merlin derivative that was used in tanks (and built, under licence, by Rover)

I thought it was all very sledgehammer-cracks-a-nut of Rolls-Royce to pursue Dodd: after all, he wasn't trying to sell cars on the R-R name or reputation. SoCal customisers used to do a VW Beetle 'bonnet' with a R-R grill - did R-R (Vickers or whatever, in reality) ever lose their sense of humour over those? And what about all those R-R Continental powered light aircraft that used to sport R-R badges?

A friend of mine got married in NY State, hiring a white 'Rolls-Royce' to be driven away in. Funny body on that car, I thought: and so it proved to be - it was actually an old Austin Princess saloon, faked-up with a Rolls grill. Now that was 'passing off' and deceiving the paying public...

20th Jul 2004, 10:29
John Dodd's 'Beast' (http://www.theminifarm.com/john_dodd.htm)

Peter Barron
20th Jul 2004, 10:51
There was definitely another Merlin powered car other than the one in the picture posted by spekesoftly.

The one I saw was at a Blackbushe airshow in the 1970s.
From what I can remember it was blue and had twin wheels at the back, the merlin was also at the back and I think it had two seats in front.
I have a picture of it somewhere, does anyone else remember seeing this car in the 70s.


henry crun
20th Jul 2004, 11:08
Going back even further to the mid 1950's there was a garage on the northern outskirts of Worthing that had a Spitfire parked outside.

The owner bought it, so the story goes, just to get the Merlin for a car he intended to race at the Brighton speed trials.
He had endless troubles with the clutches burning out and half shafts breaking.

The Spitfire was reputedly the private mount of ACM Robb before his retirement.

20th Jul 2004, 11:11
Have to agree with Peter Barron on this one.

During the fuel crisis in the early 70's late 60's I seem to recall a story (on Blue Peter ???) about the German Police complaining to Rolls Royce that it was inappropriate to be carryning out high speed testing on the german motorways when fuel was in short supply.

Rolls Royce said they were not testing any cars and the German police supplied a photo of the car clealy showing the "flying lady".

It was this that caused RR to track down the owner.

I stand to be corrected but I'm sure this is the car Dipole refers to.


20th Jul 2004, 11:39
There is more then one Merlin powered car.

I have an article written in 1995 for a car magazine showing a pre-war Rolls Royce Phantom, with a merlin V12 installed. It had open 2 seater bodywork, with an under-floor radiator (or two), fuel and oil tanks in the back and the big V12 up front- fed by carburretors as used by Dragster racing cars.

The opening photo shows the car driven along a runway, with (I think) Ray Hanna flying a Spitfire overhead.

20th Jul 2004, 12:04
Weel, a quick 'Google' comes up with:

Some info the foot of this page (http://www.free-definition.com/Merlin-engine.html) .

Reference to a Merlin in a Reliant Robin :eek: is here (http://www.cobraclub.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-6856.html), while this (http://www.theaccelerationarchive.co.uk/alan_currans/odds_and_ends/1-SC-145_6_Wheeler.jpg) could be the 'Jameson Merlin' drag racer.

Back to work. Ho hum...

20th Jul 2004, 13:25
This is the one you want:-




20th Jul 2004, 16:26
Philip Whiteman

At risk of appearing a total anorak , I have to inform you that your pal in N Y state probably wasn't being as ripped off as you think he was.

The Vanden Plas Princess 4 R was powered by a Rolls Royce FB60 Engine. hence the R suffix (an uncle of mine had one, a real tank )




20th Jul 2004, 17:24
This land speed record car is powered by a pair of Merlins


20th Jul 2004, 21:00
You can find a photograph I posted of Paul Jameson's six wheel genuine aero engined Merlin car on this site.


Paul was so incensed with the 'Dodd' publicity with what was I suspect is a Meteor Centurion tank engined vehicle that he decided to build the real thing. The Meteor was a low power derivative of the Merlin with a convenient power take off.


21st Jul 2004, 07:26
The Spitfire mentioned in the 1995 magazine article was probably G-HFIX, David Pennell's MkIX, it was filmed overflying the car at Gloucester...took a couple of attempts to get the positioning right as I recall...

23rd Jul 2004, 08:39
I saw a Merlin-powered car at the Lincolnshire Show in the 70's. It could only run for a few mins at a time because of overheating problems. It looked like a grown up version of the Volvo sports car of 'The Saint' fame (Roger Moore, Simon Templar, etc). It had a massive bonnet ending with a RR radiator.

I believe that eventually Rolls Royce caught on to the potential for good publicity and ended up supporting him.

The autobahn story I believe was that the police stopped him not because he was going at incredible speeds, but that they wanted to have a good look (admire) the car!

Finally, I believe the car caught fire and burned out during a visit to Norway.

Agaricus bisporus
25th Jul 2004, 04:32
FJJP, here is the reality of your car...

I was hugely impressed as a kid reading about Dodds' "Merlin" engined car until I saw it at Epsom racecourse sometime in the early '70s. Close up it was scruffy, badly made, badly fitting fibreglass bodywork with cheap door handles and controls, not quite Morris Marina parts but not far off. The interior trim was incredibly badly done with peeling leatherette and visible evostick everywhere. Even then as a kid I was highly sceptical about the claims for the engine which was the messiest installation imaginable, cables and pipes wandering everywhere tied up with tape and looking thoroughly amateur and unloved. When he drove it the thing smoked abominably and he was clearly pussyfooting it hugely and my impression was that it was on its last legs - it souded like a bag of nails and I felt he didn't dare take it much over idle lest it blew up. I knew nothing about engines then beyond .19 glo-plugs but the impression I got of that car is still vividly with me.

Dodds was subsequently shown to be a total charlatan, the engine was, as related above, a (Merlin based) Rover derivative from a tank (600BHP as new) but this one had been bought timexed from a scrapper with a cracked block anyway. Dodds' claims of 200mph were shown to be pure bullshine, it was probably capable of no more than 90 and anyway self destructed by fire shortly thereafter. The tyres were rated at 130mph max - Avon Turbospeeds (crossply?) if memory serves and utterly unsuitable for the speeds claimed, and the automatic gearbox (Borg Warner?)was good for a max of 300BHP The only RR bit on it was the radiator grille which The Company quite naturally tried to get removed as they had no wish for their good name to be associated with this heap of dross. Whether they succeeded or not I do not know.

I've got the pictures I took of it that day somewhere...

27th Jul 2004, 13:30
Popular Science in the late '50s ran an article on an Allison (Merlin derivative) powered car -- something like 1250 hp.

And the car was driveable and looked quite slick to a ten year old.

9th Aug 2004, 10:37
I took these pictures on Sunday (8th Aug 2004) at Chailey Airshow in Sussex. This car is powered by a merlin engine, I don't know if it is the car you are all referring to but I thought it may be of interest anyway.



Agaricus bisporus
11th Aug 2004, 01:37
Now thats a nice looking car, but those skinny tyres would melt with just 100BHP. Where does the other 1100 go?

henry crun
11th Aug 2004, 02:32
Agreed, it is a very nice looking car, my thoughts were not about the tyres but about the noise, it has a number plate so presumably it is road worthy.

Just two straight exhaust pipes without a muffler in sight might attract the attention of the constabulary. ;)

11th Aug 2004, 06:07
Do you have a piccie of that car with the rear bodywork fitted? It's pretty obvious that it's been removed in the piccies you took.

Perhaps a muffler might be needed for the road - and don't park it in the rain with those down sloping pipes to the engine as water will find its way to the exhaust manifolds!

Love to hear it go!

11th Aug 2004, 08:34

I'm afraid I don't have any more pictures of the car, I'm not sure if it has any rear body work or not. However I can tell you it did sound fantastic, the owner had it fired up several times during the day and it certainly turned heads.